Did you Know that Short Term Mission is Broken?

Have you prepared just enough to make you dangerous? Learned the 10 basic language lessons, discovered the strange cultural customs, worked your way around a map of the country, and prepared your ministry objectives as fully as possible. Strangely enough, our intentions to fix the world might be the reason why short term mission is broken.

What is broken?

Ask any host and there are countless stories of well-intentioned people who hurt their projects. It is never intended, but unfortunately too often a result. Good intentions are not enough

Our enthusiasm, matched by the money of your friends and family who are helping send us, is pumped and positive. We enter excited to make a difference and naively hope that while the situation is difficult, if we try hard enough we should somehow, somewhere figure out beautiful simple solution.

That’s the problem there!

The very nature of a short-term trip often spells out an unspoken version of the world.


How we think of mission

We all know the version, It goes something like this:

  • There are some poor noble people stuck in a helpless situation
  • They need something and have no ability to change their circumstances
  • A hero needs to arrive with the new project or information to fix the situation!
  • Problem solved – everyone is happy

This version of the story assumes that all that is missing is the right resources. If someone would just discover the problem and fix it – all should be well. We think of ourselves like appliance repairman.

Just show up with our knowledge and tools, find the problem and fix it – good as new! Not sure if you think that way, consider how often you want to say …

“Why don’t they just…”

The question is common and deadly! It comes from the following attitude: the problem is huge, but through resources, hard work and modern insight, we will be able to fix these people.

In short, a volunteer should be able to see the root of the issue, develop some solutions, clearly teach those solutions to local peoples, and finally follow up to see how they are following through on the process. It doesn’t work that way.

At all.

If we continue in this way then we know why short term mission is broken. We broke it.

If short term mission is broken, what do we need to stop trying to fix people?

Mark Crocker

October 13, 2016

2 responses on "Did you Know that Short Term Mission is Broken?"

  1. Boyd, that is so true … when we face a complex and difficult situation, our desire to step in often takes precedence over our understanding that we may only be creating a more complex situation …

    most of this happens because we feel helpless, and at the same time we feel we should be able to find a solution. this dichotomy means that many people begin to engage out of great motives, incredible hearts, and tremendous naivety…

    there are guides out there, but we must begin to recognize our incredible need to first enter as learners rather than fixers.

  2. Good question Mark (questionmark?) I wish I'd pondered that thought more before I went. We just want to help sooooo bad! Maybe if we went just to share a month in their shoes. I just don't know.-Boyd

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