Towards Best Practice In Short Term Missions -- By: Bob Garrett

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 05:1 (Spring 2008)
Article: Towards Best Practice In Short Term Missions
Author: Bob Garrett


Towards Best Practice In Short Term Missions

Bob Garrett

Professor of Missions at Dallas Baptist University

Introduction

The topic of short term missions has become a very relevant one for many local churches, and for the church staff and lay leaders that are engaged in planning and executing these projects. Thousands of lay people and church workers travel across the globe constantly to share their faith through different inter-cultural encounters and service projects. The phenomenon is really quite recent from an historical perspective, since only a very few practicing Christians could have imagined going on a missions trip before 1970. Today, however, many churches are now designating a significant part of their missions budget to sending church members out on missions trips to all sorts of places around the world. Many church members have spent significant portions of their vacation time doing Christian service in some global venue, and most if not all church members have at one time or another given to help their friends or others to go and to work on their behalf. For a growing number of Christians travel with a kingdom purpose has become habit-forming, so that they expect to take an annual missions trip much like planning their personal vacation.

The phenomenon has grown quickly so that missiological literature has scarcely been able to attempt precise definitions. Moreau, Corwin and McGee describe short term missions thus: “This usually refers to trips with a mission focus that range from one week to one to two years. They may be organized by churches, agencies, or even individuals for a variety of reasons (English-language camps, church building projects, evangelistic campaigns).”1

In the 1960s and into the1970s most denominational mission boards and missionary sending agencies were still sending out exclusively career personnel. While missionaries did come home for various reasons before retirement, there was always a sense of loss—almost of failure—and often some stigma attached. Few could have seen that there would be such a huge upsurge of interest in short term missions projects. In fact, there was strong resistance from old-timers who considered that the career missionary was the backbone for missionary endeavors, and that this fad of “vacations for Jesus” would subside quickly. They could not have been more wrong. For example, when Southern Baptists were developing goals for the Bold Mission Thrust they initiated in 1979, the most “out there” challenge was that by the year 2000 there would be at least 10,000 volunteers doing an overseas project each year. However, this was the one goal that was more than achieved—so th...

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