There are many different philosophies floating around in the Christian world concerning short-term mission trips. Mentalities range all the way from “I’m going to make myself feel good” to “I’m going to save the world.” Obviously, both extremes are unhealthy, and neither of these attitudes has a place on the field.
Focus Outward – Expect to be Changed
A short-term mission trip can accomplish many things for everyone involved, but I can say one thing with absolute certainty, if your focus is on those you are going to serve, the result will change you.
Take special care to evaluate yourself and your motivations before even signing up to go on that mission trip. If you only want that “spiritual high,” you’re wasting time, money, and effort. Stay home and dig into the Word of God instead. If you want to feel good about yourself for whatever reason, stay home and volunteer at your church. If you think you’re going to single-handedly change the world, stay home, take a nap, and keep dreaming.
However, your attitude should be that of a humble servant (sound like anyone we know?). After going on dozens of mission trips all across the world and hosting dozens of mission trips here in Thailand, nothing makes a team better than a group of humble servants. I’ve worked with the “I have all the answers” type, and they’re annoying and useless on the field. I’ve worked with the “I’ll just read my Bible by myself while my team plans for an outreach or plays with kids” kind of folks, and while they are usually low maintenance, they are also useless. Participate by serving those you went to serve!
The ones who get and give the most out of a mission trip are the ones who submit fully to the needs of those around them. The full-time missionaries need your help. Empty yourself spiritually, emotionally, and physically for their sake, otherwise you will regret not giving it, and they of all people need your encouragement! The people you serve need to hear the gospel. Check your fear at the door and put on the courage God gave you to deliver his Gospel. Your teammates need your leadership, and you can be the leader that shapes the attitudes of your team.
Things to Consider
While you are being this humble servant to these people, be thinking about a few things:
- What’s different about this culture compared to my own? And how is that difference affecting people’s faith?
- What is inhibiting the spread of the gospel in this culture? This question will take years of observation and study to understand, so ask those who have been there. Don’t be tempted to draw your own misinformed conclusions without even having adjusted to jet lag yet.
- How can I help take down that barrier after I go home? Ask the long-term missionaries on the field what you can do to help. Again, don’t rely exclusively on your own conclusions. Your effort might actually be having a negative affect.
- How will I be involved in missions in the future? Be careful with this question. Don’t be tempted to think that if you send $50 a month to a missionary that you’re off the hook. Sending means more than money! Cash is certainly needed, but sending involves emotional and spiritual support as well. You’ll also need to consider the possibility that you belong on the field yourself.
Whether local, global, sending, or going YOU were called as a disciple of Christ to participate in making his name known, so consider your own identity, skills, and giftings to effectively contribute to the mission.
“Send, Go, or Disobey.” -John Piper
A mission trip should be a blessing to everyone involved. You can expect to connect with the people you went to serve, to lighten the burden of the full-time missionaries or help carry their ministry forward, and to grow in unbelievable ways. Remember to have the attitude of a humble servant, and everything else will fall into place.