Friday, November 11, 2011

Are your short-term mission trips surviving or thriving?

Let's face it, keeping a missions program going is hard. Continuing to send short-term mission (STM) teams is getting even harder. I don't mean to be a pessimist and I'm not a quitter, but we have to admit there are fewer dollars to go around and more
skepticism about how money is being used.

Many ministries are being forced to do more with less--which may not be an all bad thing. Hopefully it is pressing all of us to do what we do with excellence!

If you are involved with short-term missions you are probably sitting where the rubber meets the road. Hopefully you haven't gotten run over! The truth is you have to be more intentional, communicate more, and be more creative if you are going to continue your STM sending program. But what does that look like? Here are a few ideas to get
your brain working:

  1. Do it well--Make sure your short-term mission teams are done well. This means qualified leadership, good preparation, and thorough follow-through. Check out The Next Mile curriculum for all-in-one mission team curriculum. There is a leader guide with resource CD, goer guides, and returning home devotional.
  2. Report impact--You need to have your team present to your church as soon after they return as possible. This will help your congregation realize the impact that STMs have.
  3. Write an article--Have someone who went on a short-term mission one year ago or more write an article about how they have experienced sustained change. This could be distributed on your website, put as a bulletin insert, etc.
  4. Focused clarity--Make sure your church has a clear, compelling reason for being involved with your STM trip. This could be a partnership with a foreign missionary, a national ministry, a cause such as clean water, or a people group that has become a focus of the church. Your STM trips should feel like one aspect of what the church does and not a random activity.
  5. Wet their appetite--Schedule periodic service days near by, maybe even in your own city. Make them cross-cultural if possible.
  6. Get creative--You can still do Spaghetti dinners and car washes for fundraisers, but try something new and creative. One church I work with recently did a dinner theatre at the church for $25 per ticket, and it went really well. Maybe organize your own benefit walk, or have your worship band hold a benefit concert.
  7. Recruit strategically--Many churches tell me the same people go on mission trips every year. Make a real effort to make half of each team first-timers.

Each church and every situation is different. Hopefully these ideas will help you mobilize people from your church for Kingdom impact. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions about keeping your missions program fresh and thriving or post a comment to share what has worked for your church. You can reach me at (520) 404-0841 or

Contact Information: 1400 NE 136th Ave Suite 201, Vancouver, WA 98684 |800.533.5822

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