Community Church, two blocks over from yours, is sending yet another team to Guatemala. Some in your congregation are on the edge of jealousy, wishing that your church did that too. Others are quite critical: Why go all the way to Guatemala when the mission field exists right here in our own town?
It’s true, the mission field does exist in your own town. It also exists in Guatemala. Most churches that send a mission team to a far-away field continue to do so year after year. The process includes a growing number of people.
Why is it that Barbara, who complains when her hot shower at home turns lukewarm — yet on a mission trip, goes three days without a shower, sleeps on a floor, lives with bugs, and eats strange food—can’t wait to go back next year? What is that?
Focus on these issues:
- There is something unique about being far away, with no cell phone, in a different culture, surrounded by a different language, and feeling a little bit of “culture shock.”
- Leaving all the comforts of home make you more vulnerable, open to the Holy Spirit.
- Experiencing poverty in most countries outside of the western world infuses an appreciation for “home.”
- Serving other people in a 24-hour-a-day mode is different than a half-hour visit to the nursing home. It affects your spiritual posture in a way that is invigorating.
- When Barbara teams up with Jane, a camaraderie of teamwork is formed.
- It’s amazing how many people on a mission trip spend ten times the amount of time per day in prayer, Scripture reading, and worship than they do at home.
- The way most of these trips are structured, the people have to raise their own travel support from others. The humility of asking others and the joy of receiving the trust from others is unparalleled in the every-day experience back home.
- When the short-term mission tripper gets home, they are responsible to report to those people who supported them—a perfect mechanism for them to share their exceptional enthusiasm.
- In our experience as consultants, it takes most churches about 3-5 years of promoting short-term mission trips to gain critical mass—a percentage of the congregation with a new level of mission-mindedness from these short-term mission trips. When that happens, the church becomes a different church.
If there was an easier or cheaper way to experientially transform the mission mentality of the people in your church, I’d gladly recommend it. But there’s something about being there, touching it, feeling it, smelling it—that God uses to change people from the inside out. Like everyone says, “We went to that mission field to give to those poor people and we got so much more back!” When that happens in a congregation, it changes the mission outreach of that church locally.
What is your experience with short-term mission trips? We welcome your comments below.
Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.