Someone recently asked me what the goal or purpose was of short-term missions in general.
If you were to check the website of a dozen sending organizations, you’d likely see a variety of uniquely worded statements, but the goal of STM is essentially three-fold. Organizations will focus on one or more of these three aspects, to various extents or in various combinations.
- STM assists missions’ staff and overseas churches to spread the Gospel.
- STM provides participants with excellent training & personal growth opportunities.
- STM constitutes a recruitment funnel for sending organizations.
Let’s look at each one in more detail…
1. Benefit to the Field
It’s difficult to speak generally about “the field” because individual mission fields are vastly different one from another, each one incredibly unique. That being said, in each case, you find a leadership structure and a base. The leadership structure could be as simple as a single missionary family or could involve a number of trained leaders. Their shared goal, to transmit the message of the gospel to an ever widening base. Properly prepared STMers can be of great benefit.
- They provide more ‘manpower’ than may normally be available for specific ministry undertakings. (eg. they could help cover an area with invitations, prayer walking, organize a punctual children’s program, help with evangelistic services, etc.)
- STMers can be an encouragement and a positive example to onsite constituents. As “outside voices” they show local believers that they are not alone in their faith but are part of something bigger.
- STMers may temporarily bring ministry giftings to the field that are not normally present, helping achieve the 5-fold ministry locally.
2. Benefit to the Participants
STM opportunities are just about always promoted as “life-changing” and without question they are key markers or watershed moments in the lives of participants. That doesn’t always mean that they’re life-changing, although they certainly have the potential for it. Done right, STM experiences can produce long-term growth in areas of
- personal Christian disciplines
- team-based ministry
- developing a lifetime habit of missions awareness and missions giving.
- their view of God’s ability to do “over and above all that we can ask or think”
- their view of how God can use them with (or in spite of) what they consider their own abilities & inabilities.
In this manner, an indirect beneficiary of STM involvement is the participant’s sending church. They invest in an individual who, upon their return, may bring back a new skill set or simply a renewed vigor and enhanced faith. Existing ministry activities in the local church will benefit from such faith and energy, not to mention an overall increase in global missions awareness.
3. Benefit to the Organization
Every time a sending organization commissions a new missionary, they put a number of things on the line including their name and reputation as well as their relationship with overseas leaders, national works and their network of donors – whether individuals or churches.
Given what they put on the line, the more they are able to build strong, long-term relationships with potential missionaries before a decision needs to be made, the better those staffing decisions will be. STM provides a recruitment funnel for organizations who are involved in a broad spectrum of missions service.
- Short-Term: In the first 17 days of application availability, @AYCorps received over 400 applications for their seventeen planned, 1-week trips for 2018 (and applications are FAR from closing). Out of that number, there are likely several who are doing their second or third AYC trip. They are becoming increasingly aware of the AYC structure, expectations and leadership, undoubetedly increasing the strength of their participation.
- Medium Term: Out of that large number, there possible some who will eventually want to participate in longer STM experiences. Enter the 1-2 month to 1-2 year opportunities such as AIM & Next Steps. If someone has already done one or more 1-week trips, it’s not as big a stretch for them to consider something longer. The sending organization can be reasonably confident in their ability to function in a foreign context (although again, each context is unique) and potential supporters will see an established commitment to missions involvement.
- Long-Term: Some candidates who have successfully completed several short to medium-term mission trips will feel the Lord speaking to them about long-term involvement. It could be in the same or in a different field from the ones where they’ve previously served. Regardless, participants will have worked through various branches of the organization’s sending structure, building up credibility with decision-makers and forging relationships at the same time. It is those relationship that allow participants to commit their future into the hands of the sending organization with confidence. Similarly those relationships allow a sending organization to entrust their name, their reputation and their overseas relationships to a newly appointed missionary.
(Read more about the STM Funnel here.)
It goes without question that the goal or the purpose of any missions involvement is to participate in spreading the gospel and lifting up the name of the Lord. That involvement, however, benefits different participants in different ways.
What do you think?
- Are there different benefits that you can think of?
- How did you or someone you know benefit from STM involvement?
Leave a comment below, I’d love to know your thoughts.