Who hasn’t heard or said this at some point? Short-term missions are incredibly prevalent in the western church, and there are very few congregations that have not participated in this expression of compassion. In the last decade, however, there has been a call for followers of Jesus to take a closer look at the long term implications of these kinds of trips.
Many go-to activities for short term mission trips — such as building projects and handing out school supplies — end up disempowering communities, leading to unhealthy cycles of codependency. In addition to this concern, the constant parade of new people (who often don’t understand their host culture and rarely have any stake in the reputation of long-term workers) through a community can deeply damage the long-term work being done. When you stop to consider how many churches from the U.S. alone are sending groups out year after year for a short-term missions experience, you can’t help but imagine what negative impact may have on the communities we so desperately desire to serve. But does that mean we immediately cancel all short-term missions trips because there is the possibility of doing more harm than good?
We don’t think so. Here at GFM, we believe that short-term missions trips can both positively impact the lives of participants while simultaneously maintaining the dignity of people in the communities they visit.
So what if we re-imagine what short-term missions look like?
One of the most reliable long-term ways to impact the physical needs of a community is through creating jobs. Work creates dignity by giving people the opportunity to meet the needs of their family on their own. Each of our trips supports several local refugee and immigrant owned businesses. We love the fact that we can make a long-term impact on the health of our community by investing in the local economy!
Ultimately, the biggest need of every human is to know Christ and be in right-relationship with God, and we believe that prayer is a crucial part of engaging with the spiritual reality of unreached people. Due to this, we prioritize intentional intercession during our short-term trips. We also recognize that the best discipler is a consistent one, so rather than relying on short-term trip participants to disciple people in our community, we seek to support the ongoing work of our full-time missionaries through our short-term trip participants.
We believe that one of the best ways for people to understand God’s heart for the nations is through experiencing different cultures firsthand. Through visits to various places of worship (such as Mosques or Hindu Temples), hearing directly from immigrant and refugee speakers, enjoying new flavors through eating ethnic food, and worshiping with a congregation of foreign-born believers, we expose short-term trip participants to the beauty and value within cultures that God desires to redeem.
A recent Barna study showed that 51% of regular churchgoers in the U.S. do not know what the Great Commission is. Our trips are designed to expose followers of Jesus to the Biblical basis of missions, explore the current state of our world, and encourage participants to begin engaging with the very practical ways that they can step into their role and help see the Great Commission fulfilled.
The truth is, most people come away from a short-term trip and never use what they learned to make Jesus known among those who don’t yet know Him. We don’t want anyone to leave our community thinking it’s the only place they can minister to the refugees, immigrants, or international students, so we have carefully crafted each of our teachings and activities to empower participants to discover and engage the foreign-born communities in their own backyard.
We love the heart so many churches have to use their short-term trips as a way to give back and express the compassion of Christ. Since our short-term trips look a little different than many others, we recognize that it can be hard to see what impact your time with us is having on the nations. For this reason, we have created an Unreached People Group Fund, where 20% of all fees for Global Mission Tours and Global Mission Journeys are given to this fund to support church planting efforts among the least reached people in the world.
We are proud accredited members of Standards Of Excellence in Short Term Mission. This guarantees that our short-term missions programs have been evaluated by other missions organizations and have met the seven standards of excellence in short-term missions:
A few books that have greatly influenced our philosophy for short-term mission trips are “When Helping Hurts” by Corbett and Fikkert and “Cross Cultural Servanthood” by Duane Elmer and “Charity Detox” by Bob Lupton. We highly recommend these resources for any individual or church wanting to get involved in missions.
One day (8 hr) tour that includes visiting a Mosque or Temple, eating at an ethnic restaurant, and learning about different ways to get involved locally and globally.
Three night (Thursday-Sunday) short-term mission trip designed for cross-cultural exposure and training perfect for groups wanting to learn how to engage in missions together.