by Tim Dearborn
Dearborn wrote this interactive workbook to resolve his own question of whether most short-term trips reflect one’s commitment to Christ or personal desire for adventure.
InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426, 2003, 128 pages, $13.00.
—Reviewed by Steve Hoke, vice-president of people development, Church Resource Ministries, Anaheim, California.
I cannot think of a more qualified person to write a book on maximizing the impact of short-term missions than Dr. Tim Dearborn. He has served as a missionary, missions pastor, professor and director of campus ministries at a major Christian university and currently serves as associate director for faith and development at World Vision International.
Dearborn wrote this interactive workbook to resolve his own question of whether most short-term trips reflect one’s commitment to Christ or personal desire for adventure. Yet a deeper question drives the book. It is a question many EMQ readers have: “With all the money we invest in short-term missions, how can we make them worth the cost?”
Dearborn has seen the power of short-term mission trips to change the lives of the people who go and of those whom they serve. He has also witnessed the untreated trauma that can be caused by those trips. Given the astounding fact that “the Western church spends as much on short-term mission trips as it does on long-term missionaries,” this book is his “attempt to help us discover how to do it right.”
One distinctive of Dearborn’s book is the author’s concern for holistic ministry. The author emphasizes the Kingdom motif in a desire to stretch participants towards embracing “global citizenship.” Chapter titles include: “The God of Mission,” “Learning to Delight in Differences,” “Embracing Change,” “Maximizing Personal Growth,” “Working Together as a Team,” “Communicating Clearly,” “Staying Spiritually Fresh,” and “Preparing to Return Home.”
A second distinctive of the book is its design as a workbook, created for both individual reflection and team discussion in preparation for a short-term trip. The approach is inductive rather than didactic. Participants study the workbook eight times during orientation and preparation for their trip, and twice more after they have returned. Each chapter is divided into three sections, requiring about an hour of work apiece. Chapters begin with a creative and culturally appropriate group activity that is followed by a time for personal reflection, debriefing, Bible study, input regarding a specific aspect of the cross-cultural foray and final questions for group discussion.
Participants are also encouraged to read two supplemental resource books, Beyond Duty: A Passion for Christ, A Heart for Mission which provides greater theological depth, and the very practical Mack and Leeann’s Guide to Short-Term Mission.
The book challenges one’s theological and cultural assumptions going into the short-term missions trip, and helps the short-termer evaluate them biblically upon returning from the experience.
In addition to the solid spiritual preparation through individual and group Bible study, and a concise summary of cross-cultural principles, the four appendices provide significant additional help to a prospective team leader: an easy-to-follow “Leader’s Guide for Each Chapter;” a meaty section of recommended reading, additional resources and websites; basic “Language Acquisition Phrases and Cultural Research Question;” and a practical “Bookmark and Journal” insert. Short-Term Missions Workbook is the eight-week training course all short-term leaders need.
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