Mercy Hill Church - Short-term Mission Trips Have Pitfalls: How We Avoid Them Blog

Short-term Mission Trips Have Pitfalls: How We Avoid Them

When it comes to short-term missions, a driving conviction we hold to is to do short-term trips with the long-term in view.

Helping Without Hurting

The rise of short-term “mission” trips—whereby team members pack a suitcase full of peanut butter and don matching t-shirts through the airport in route to serve people of a different culture—has not been without controversy. Some fear that such trips become little more than Christian tourism. Some argue resources would be better stewarded if given directly to indigenous people. Others fear labeling short-term trips as “missions” devalues the sacrifice career missionaries make. And without even realizing it, there are many ways short-term teams may do more harm than good in the communities they seek to help. Aware of these pitfalls, we still desire to mobilize hundreds of people for short-term missions, and keeping the long-term in view helps keep us from falling into them.

Encouraging Partners

First, short-term teams sent from Mercy Hill go to support long-term field partners. We do not think spending 7 days with people we’ve never met will make them mature in Christ. We believe discipleship is “Word taught and life caught.” That implies time to build relationships. But short-term trips can be catalytic when utilized under a long-term strategy. Our teams go to serve the needs and vision of our long-term partners because those partners are instrumental in reaching the unreached.

We also understand being a long-term missionary is challenging. They’ve had heart-wrenching goodbyes with deep friends and close family in order to invest among a people who will perhaps always see them as foreigners and keep them at arms-length for years. Missionary life can be lonely and invasive at the same time. So, we want to send teams who will encourage our field partners and strengthen them to continue in their work.

Increasing Involvement

Second, short-term team members sent from Mercy Hill are expected to continue their involvement in God’s global mission. We believe every Christ-follower has a role to play in the mission of making disciples among all peoples. Short-term trips are a great introduction to cross-cultural ministry and are used to develop the individuals who go. Team members come back more passionate to send workers and sometimes to go as long-term workers themselves.

So, whether by developing individuals who go or encouraging field partners who remain, short-term missions can and should have a lasting impact for God’s glory.

To learn more about upcoming short-term opportunities visit

-Bryan Miller (Connections & Missions Pastor)

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