by A. Scott Moreau and Mike O’Rear
We focus our attention on short-term-related Web pages in this installment of Missions on the Web.
The most recent edition of the Mission Handbook (2004-2006) gives a startling statistic: the number of people going on short-term mission trips reported by the United States agencies listed in the Handbook grew from 97,272 in 1998 to 346,270 in 2001; an astounding 256% in three years.1 While short-term work is only one missionary method, it certainly has received more than its share of attention and energy from the missions movement in the US.
Therefore it is appropriate that we focus our attention on short-term-related Web pages in this installment of Missions on the Web.
We split the Web-based resources we found into six major categories: 1) Gateways; 2) Helps; 3) Codes and Standards; 4) Databases and Lists; 5) Organizations; and 6) Articles.
The number of agencies and denominations offering short-term trips is in the hundreds. For example, a search on Google of “Short-Term missions opportunities” (in quotation marks to force the exact order of the words) yields 554 hits; without the quote marks the number was 409,000. We chose not to try to list or link every agency, organization or church offering short-term projects separately. We recommend that those interested in looking at short-term opportunities with a particular mission agency or denomination go directly to the organization’s Web site and look for short-term opportunities there.
We found three major gateways to short-term missions. Rather than looking at what an individual agency or denomination offers, we focused our search on those sites that listed opportunities from multiple agencies or churches.
Mission Finder.org offers several directories covering thousands of opportunities for service from short-term to career in areas such as orphanages, medical, teaching English, tradesman, and more. The short-term list includes hundreds of opportunities, but many short-term trips are included in the other sections as well.
Overseas Short-Term Mission Trip Resources Directory describes itself as “An Annotated Listing of Organizations, Sources of Supplies, Books, Websites, and other Information Regarding Overseas Short-Term Mission Trips and Follow Up Activities.” The content of the site has a medical/health orientation, but several resources are broader in focus. For example, many will benefit from the list of “Thirteen Commandments for Going on an Overseas Mission Trip”.
Certainly the most extensive directory is ShortTermMissions.com. In addition to a search engine to help you find relevant trips, this well-organized site offers articles on short-term missions and discussion forums which let you follow dialogues among various people. It even includes an area for parents to talk with others about their experiences or apprehensions.
Several Web sites offer specific services that help in setting up, running, and debriefing short-term mission trips. Howard Culbertson of Southern Nazarene University provides a helpful page of tips and procedures as part of his Mission Mobilizers page. His step-by-step list of travel procedures, tips and examples to assist with fund-raising, and links to useful resources is a must for anyone who is a beginner at setting up a short-term trip.
ShortTermMissions.com has built four discussion forums to help various groups: 1) general, 2) parents, 3) sending organization, and 4) youth pastor. The forums let you see questions others are asking as well as the answers offered. For example, at the time we checked, the forum for parents had twenty postings ranging from “Should I bring my children on a short-term trip?” to “My children want to go to ____ for a trip. Is it safe there?”
Health insurance options can be found through GoMissionTrip.com as well as MissionFinder.org. MissionFinder.org also provides a travel page with links to commercial travel agents who offer special fares and cater to missionaries as well as shippers if you need their services for your trip.
With the permission of the World Evangelical Alliance, Urbana.org has significant portions of the workbook Send Me! available. Send Me! is “designed to help you work through the process of charting a course from where you are to where God would have you be” (ibid.). You can order the full workbook, or work through significant issues in the online version. The book’s ten-step approach starts with “Considering Where You Are” and concludes with “Finishing Strong”. Each step has one or more articles or worksheets developed by a seasoned veteran. Having a small group walk through the workbook prior to a short-term trip will increase the likelihood of a successful venture.
Finally, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada provides an eleven-page booklet (pdf format) with advice ranging from motivation to dealing with objections to instructions on setting a trip up. It also includes a sample “Short-Term Missions Ministry Contract” and a liability release form that you may want to adapt for your own situation.
CODES AND STANDARDS
The recent growth in short-term missions has brought with it corresponding concerns for quality, safety, and appropriateness. In response to these needs, and as reported in the September 30, 2003 issue of Christianity Today, recently a coalition of US-based organizations developed and posted a list of best practices for short-term missions.
They are not the only ones to have developed such a code, and we have links to parallel standards for three countries: the United Kingdom and the US. Anyone planning on developing a short-term trip is strongly urged to take careful note of these statements. We encourage those agencies or churches which send out short-term teams on a regular basis to join the list of adopting organizations for your country and thereby strengthen accountability. Instructions to do this can be found on each of the Web sites.
DATABASES AND LISTS
Many denominations (e.g., Christian and Missionary Alliance and agencies (e.g., Navigators have their own short-term opportunity list. To be listed in this section of our MisLinks page, we looked for those sites whose lists were not confined to a single organization. For example, Finishers Short-Term Missions provides a list of dozens of specific short-term agencies. Their focus is on more mature adults who may be considering missions as a later career choice.
MissionFinders.org offers hundreds of short-term trips. You can either search their database or scroll through their list. The fastest database is provided by Mission Network News. It is searchable “by the type of ministry you would like to be involved in (construction, youth outreach, athletic outreach, music), country, date, cost, mission agency, and more.” When we searched the database for the term “evangelism” eighty-one opportunities were found. At the time of writing, sixteen organizations were listed as participating. There is potential for many more to join. When we clicked on the link to list all opportunities, 149 listings were returned. At this time the lists and databases appear to be underdeveloped, given the fact that there are literally thousands of short-term opportunities and no database has more than a few hundred.
SHORT-TERM MISSIONS ORGANIZATIONS
With the rise of short-term missions has come a corresponding development of agencies and organizations whose sole focus is short-term projects. Our list is limited to those organizations that are not directly related to a particular denomination or mission agency.
The first organization is Adventures In Missions, which offers trips around the world. It is “an interdenominational short-term missions organization. Our objective is to mobilize and equip the church for missions by bringing the mission field to the church’s doorstep.”
Bridge Builders, “an organization committed to facilitating the details and logistics of short-term mission team experiences for groups interested in working and serving in the Developing World,” offers trips in Latin America and South Africa.
MissionTripS.com, focusing on the Caribbean and Latin America, “works with the missionaries ‘in country’ to work out your trip. We find the work sites and work up your accommodations and meals. The missionaries will be responsible for your team when ‘in country’.”
The National Short-Term Mission Conference has met for fifteen years, and will hold its next meeting January 16-18 of 2004. They seek to prepare leaders to better serve the short term projects they lead.
New Way Missions has as its focus short- term missions for adults. It “is a Christian, interdenominational short-term missions agency dedicated to providing projects that make a difference in the locations we visit. We serve the US church and strive to provide our teams with creative and useful ministry opportunities wherever they serve.”
Real Impact Missions provides both mission trips and leadership training for those who want to lead trips.
STEM International “was founded in December 1984 for the purpose of sending volunteer mission teams from various churches, schools and other organizations to work in developing and disaster-stricken nations.” They send teams to various countries in Latin America and offer trips to several 10/40 Window nations as well as some domestic urban locations.
Finally, Venture Teams International “trains and sends teams on mission trips to impact other cultures with the Good News of Jesus.” The main vehicle for evangelism with Venture Teams is the arts (drama, puppetry, chalk art, etc.).
Collections of Articles. Mission Frontiers devoted their entire January 2000 issue to short-term missions. Seth Barnes’ “Ten Emerging Trends in Short-Term Missions” is particularly interesting if you want perspective on what has been happening. Scott Olson and Joy Bray’s “Mobilizing Workers for the 21st Century” helps you translate short-term trips into career commitment by illustrating how the Wesleyan World Mission does it. In “Short-Termers and the Future of American Missions” Monroe Brewer presents a strategy for mobilizing local churches in which he advocates making short-term mission experience the centerpiece for the local church missions program.
The Network for Strategic Missions is usually our first place to check for missions articles on the Web. The Knowledge Base is a collection of over 11,000 articles covering more than 1300 topics. At the time we wrote this column, there were sixty-seven articles on short term missions in the Knowledge Base. We selected a few to highlight the type of materials you’ll find in the collection. For example, John Holzmann’s “Short-Terms: Factors Not Often Considered” was first published in Mission Frontiers in 1988. In it he explores numerous objections to short-term missions in a way that is still fresh today. Stan Guthrie, former managing editor of EMQ, explores pros and cons for short-term experiences in “The Short-term Missions Explosion,” a chapter from Missions in the Third Millennium. ShortTerm Missions.com offers several articles chosen for their practical and helpful advice.
Individual Articles. In addition to the collections, we also found some individually posted articles that will be of interest to you. Susan Loobie’s “Short-Term Missions: Is It Worth It?” in Latin American Evangelist provides a well-balanced look. Widely-respected mission mobilizer and thinker Paul Borthwick’s “Reaching the World Short-Term” examines the ways God is using short-term missions in the lives of his children around the world.
Short-term missions has passed from fad to phenomenon, and there are no signs that it will let up any time in the near future. On the negative side, a generation that can afford to travel anywhere in the world for an adventure might have trouble translating twenty-one day trips into decadal commitments. On the other hand, exposing those who have never really experienced another culture to the wonderful diversity of our world surely gives an opportunity for God to call people into long-term service. Our hope is that the resources we have linked will give you the tools and thinking you need to ensure that your short-term experiences, whether you are organizing them or going yourself, can be all that God would have them be.
1. The 2004-2006 edition was in press while this article was written, but is expected to be available by the end of 2003. The numbers are found in Table 2 of Chapter 1 in the Mission Handbook (Wheaton: EMIS; in press).
2. All URLs, unless otherwise noted, start with http://.
Scott Moreau is editor of EMQ and chair of Missions and Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School (Wheaton, Ill.). His e-mail address is A.S.Moreau@wheaton.edu, and the Wheaton Missions Department Web address is: www.wheaton.edu/missions
Mike O’Rear is the president of Global Mapping International (Colorado Springs, Colo.), which is dedicated to providing access to information for church and mission leaders, especially in the Two-thirds world. He also serves as Lausanne senior associate for information technology. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the GMI Web address is: www.gmi.org/
EMQ, Vol. 40, No. 1, pp. 100-105. Copyright © 2004 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.