In the North American church, short-term missions have exploded in numbers in the past few decades. In fact, today more church dollars are spent on short term missions than on supporting full-time missions.
It is a reaction to the globalization we are all going through. The world is smaller and more accessible to us. As a result of this changing dynamic, we at SI have always tried to think through how best to do short term missions. SI was founded on the concept of doing short-term missions and full-time missions hand in hand. Our full time missionaries are doing year-round community development with the poor in medicine, microfinance, education, social work, etc., whether short term teams come or not. They have a long term presence so that ministry is sustainable. When short-term teams do come, they enter the on-going work alongside the full time staff. Together they share the good news and disciple and serve one another.
We go on a short term missions trip not only thinking what can we do to help the poor, but asking the Lord what are you trying to teach me. It is less about “doing” and more about “being.” Being available. Taking the posture of being a humble learner. We don’t have the idea that we are taking Jesus to these other cultures. Jesus is already there.
If our goal was just how much we could get done, it would be better for short-termers to raise the money and send it to the full time missionaries. Instead, we are coming alongside others, hoping that we come home more globally minded, and more responsible with what God has given us. It is a vision of the full body of Christ coming together to bring Him glory.