Friday, September 21, 2012

What do YOU think makes a STM trip a good one?

Last week I wrote about how to evaluate your STM trip. I proposed we should determine success based on the process of our STM trip rather than the end product. I promised I would suggest what makes a good process this week, so here it is.

A STM trip done well exhibits seven main traits. Several years ago, mission leaders wiser than myself came up with the Standards of Excellence in Short-term Missions (SOE). How does your trip measure up with these standards? Don’t just go with your gut, find a way to evaluate it. The STM Trip Assessment Tool and Free Supplement is a good way to do that.

Here are some thoughts that I have had when it comes to changing the way I view a mission trip:

  1. How was the trip’s leadership? Did we have our own agenda? Did we truly partner with our hosts? Were we serving our needs, or express a desire to serve them. This is far different from evaluating the relevancy or the success of what we did. 
  2. How was the group? Were they properly trained and prepared, not just physically but spiritually, emotionally, and culturally? A sign of this would be how the group reacts to adversity. Was there complaining or adapting? If your group was looking for God at work instead of hung up on what was going wrong, you probably did a good job. 
  3.  Did you follow-through with your participants? Not everyone will become a missionary, but everyone can become more like Christ. It’s not your responsibility to make a person change, but it is your responsibility to invite them into change. If you’re not sure how to practically do that, check out The Next Mile curriculum for help with follow-through. Make sure you see the free e-zine and mentor guides. 
  4. Think percentages not numbers. This is how I determine a successful day and a successful trip: What percentage of the time was I faithfully following Jesus? This means I did what he wanted, the way he wanted me to, when he wanted me to. Did I make excuses to avoid doing what God asked me to so that I wouldn’t have to leave my comfort zone, or did I step out in fear and faith and follow Him?

I admit, this way of evaluating an STM trip is a bit subjective. So how do you know if you should send a team back? Here are some questions to guide you:

  1. What is your philosophy? For example, are you looking for a long-term partner or trying to visit all your supported missionaries? 
  2.  Were your hosts’ desires accomplished? If you were beneficial, then a door is open for you to return. If everything was accomplished, then there might not be a need to return. 
  3.  Were your godly desires fulfilled? If this just wasn’t a good match, then don’t force it. 
  4.  Is there room for growth? Can your role with the field grow over time? Can your partnership grow and become deeper?

 I hope these ideas help you determine whether or not your last trip, or even your current trip is a success.

What do you think? What would you add? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

Questions for the author? You can contact Tory at 520-404-0841 or

Friday, September 14, 2012

Why you’re probably evaluating your STM trip the wrong way

How do you know if your mission trip was successful? Is it based on how many people received Christ? Number of lives rededicated? Impact on the goer? You got the project done? They invited us back?

Most people determine success based on whether or not they accomplished their goals. The problem with this is that we often misunderstand goals. We get them confused with desires. Here’s a definition I heard for a goal: “Something I can achieve on my own apart from others.” The definition for a desire, then, would be: “Something you want that requires cooperation from others.” Do the questions above sound like expressions of goals or desires? You can imagine how far off base we can end up if we evaluate success based on desires. This nearly always leads to worshipping numbers, stretching the truth, feelings of depression, or manipulating others to ensure we get what we want.   

The other difficulty is that we must determine success in a Kingdom not of this world. God’s Kingdom is far different from our own. Our kingdom speaks of “return on investment” but Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to go after the single lost sheep. We discriminately assign value to things in order to prioritize yet God gives humanity just one price—the life of His Son. Our kingdom tells us that we can do anything we put our mind to if we just work hard enough. But Jesus says in John 15:5 that we can do nothing apart from Him.

So what does success look like according to God’s Kingdom? Hebrews 12:1-3 seems to be telling us that the manner in which we run is what is most important. In Philippians 3 Paul tells us that he presses on for the prize. Interestingly he does not elaborate on what the prize is or what specifically will make him a winner. The emphasis is on persevering! Success in God’s Kingdom is simply based on how closely we follow Jesus!

So what does this mean for a short-term mission trip?

First, but not necessarily in this order, it does not mean that we throw out all accountabilities! Don’t confuse not putting a human price on a life with being irresponsible.

Second, it means we acknowledge our dependency on the Holy Spirit by keeping desires as desires and not turning them into goals. It’s okay to want God to do great things—even specific great things. We just have to be careful that we don’t ignore what God is doing because He isn’t doing what we want Him to do.

Third, it means we stop using our kingdom’s values to judge success, and use God’s values. In God’s Kingdom, we aren’t responsible for the outcome. In fact, the nature of short-term missions is such that we often don’t even get to see the outcomes. We are, however, responsible for how we go about them. God values how closely we followed Him on the journey.

So what does a faithful journey for a short-term mission trip look like? How do we use this new way of evaluating a mission trip to determine future trips? Well, you’re going to have to wait until next week for that one.

What do you think? Am I totally off base? What does a faithful journey for a short-term mission trip look like? Post your thoughts in the comments below!

Questions for the author? You can contact Tory at 520-404-0841 or

Friday, September 7, 2012

How To Deal With The Post-STM Blues

Are you feeling a bit off-center since returning from your short-term mission trip? If you are, you aren’t alone. The “post short-term mission blues” are not an uncommon feeling. Sure, the first few weeks after coming home were fun. You got to tell all your stories, share photos, and live off the spiritual adrenaline of the trip.

Now, however, life has gotten real. Bills need to be paid, work or school is still there, a strained relationship hasn’t gotten any better, and many of your friends are no closer to Jesus than when you left. What’s worse is that you are probably starting to feel like things haven’t gone the way you expected after coming home.

There are four common reasons for feeling down after a short-term mission trip. Read the list and see if any describe you:

1.    Missing the team. This includes both your team from your home country as well as the national believers with whom you ministered

2.    Longing for the same spiritual depth and meaning in life. This is often felt as a discontentment with your current life

3.    Liking the culture you visited more than your own. Or at least feeling at odds with your culture or even your own church.

4.    Returning to difficult situations at home. This could be a situation at home, at work, in school, and so on

 So what do we do with these feelings? How do we overcome them? Here are some ideas of how you can deal with the blues for each category.

Missing the team?

1.    Find a way to communicate with team member. But focus your communication on the future and not on reliving the past.  
2.    Don’t shut out your old friends. They may not understand your experience but they can still listen.
3.    Start planning for future ministry of some kind

Looking for spiritual depth and meaning?

1.    Don’t stop pursuing God with the same spiritual disciplines you did before and during the trip.
2.    Understand that you have a mission field at home too!
3.    Get involved with a ministry in your church or community

Do you like their culture better than ours?

1.    Remember you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. Be part of the solution.
2.    Find ways to integrate cultural values from the other culture into your own daily life.
3.    Find the cultural group in your city and get involved with them.

Returning to difficult situations at home?

1.    Depend on God for the solution just as you depended on Him during the trip.
2.    Look for God-honoring solutions
3.    Don’t get lost in the temporal—remember God’s eternal Kingdom.

What has caused your short-term missions blues? How did you “cure” them? Share with us so we can benefit from your story!

Questions for the author? You can contact Tory at 520-404-0841 or