Successful Short Term Missions (STM) is not simply a matter of signing up 10 to 15 people to go to an exotic location to share the Gospel. Unfortunately, this is the way it has been done for many years.
Today, many churches and leaders are asking, “Is there a better way?” The book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert has shown some of the pitfalls of doing Short Term Missions the old way. It has inspired church leaders to want to do STM differently, to make sure they are having a positive, strategic impact for the Gospel.
Part of helping instead of hurting involves four principles. When these are implemented well, your church will develop a dynamic STM program.
The First Principle is to make sure that STM, both local and international, is an integral part of the overall strategy of your church ministry. STM needs to be seen, not as something that a church tries to do once a year, but as an extension of the ministry of the church that starts right where you stand (your neighborhood) and extends in some way to the “ends of the earth,” all year long.
The true mission of the church is far more exciting and varied than what most churches portray. Acts 1:8 expresses this in a nutshell: “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost ends of the earth.” Every Christian has the responsibility to take the Gospel from where they stand all the way to the ends of the earth. Is STM integrated this way into the overall vision and mission for your church?
With this vision, it is possible to get everyone engaged in ways that will help them be a witness in word and deed locally and internationally. The ways a church can provide touchpoints varies from becoming prayer partners for missionaries, sponsoring children for schooling, helping with feeding programs, participating in local ministries and many other opportunities in between. When STM is a normal part of your church vision, you will find most of your people being engaged in some type of ministry.
With STM being a part of your church’s DNA, a natural transition will be to seek out Principle Two, which is Long-Term Partnerships. If your church is looking for true ministry impact, then it has to be for the long-term. As you engage your people, you will need to focus on long-term partnerships that complement your church’s make-up, interests and resources.