A saavy pastor friend of mine had some great feedback for the Short Term Missions Discussion going on at CT Online:
- What was the purpose of the SST’s they “analyzed”? As anyone knows who has done experimental research, conclusions and causes are not possible in studies that miss the questions and fail to study the relevant issues. All STT don’t fit one neat category.
- Even if a STT was simply to get a cross-cultural experience, i.e., rebuild a houses/feed some people, then that’s the benefit of the time invested. Besides, people would be spending their $ somewhere (car, x-box, travel), so, why not invest it in a STT experience? Why not help someone rebuild a house that blew down in a storm?
- However, not all STT’s are simply aimed at providing an experience. As you said, what if the purpose is to equip leaders and provide some encouragement and momentum for the host ministry (local church), i.e., wind and water? The goal of sending a STT is helping “there” more than “here” – it’s not just about us, or me, or $).
- Life-Change is fluid and hard to quantify. If 5 out of 100 experience significant life-change over time, and those 5 aren’t interviewed in a survey due to a bad experimental method, then the conclusion that “nothing happened” is bogus. Not everyone who goes or is on the receiving end of a STT is changed forever, but some are. Many followed Jesus because they enjoyed his teaching, but most eventually turned away because his sayings were too hard. Was Jesus ineffective because many of those surveyed turned away from following him? Isn’t that the nature of the gospel…many called…many participate (for a while)…but in the end, few follow…and few make serious life change?
- When people give to a STT those $ would have gone somewhere anyway, and likely not to fund FT missionaries (second time on this point J).
- Many trips are not equipping focused and as such have no staying power. Too many also move from place to place because they either have no focus, their focus is temporary by design or they lose focus over time. Being on the right course and staying to that course is essential.
- Establishing and maintaining strong partnerships that share leadership and kingdom vision are essential characteristics of viability and effectiveness. My guess is that most STT ministry lacks these two elements at one end or the other.