Things Jesus Never Said about Short Term Missions Trips

Short Term Missions Trips are a great way for people to see the world that Jesus believed could exist. In fact the trip is the #2 way that people get involved in mission.  After donating money to mission (#1 way) many people are curious where that money goes, they want to go see the world and make a difference themselves.

As leaders, we look for hosts or agencies who can help us out. We want to go where we can help out in a big problem, in a place that is exotic, at a price we can afford.

Ultimately we want to make an impact.

Why is it that so many of these short term missions trips look different than the mission trips that Jesus sent his disciples on?


The Short Term Missions Trips of Jesus

If you want to find the original STM trip planner, check out the story of Jesus sending out his team in Luke 10. He grabbed 72 of his closest friends and gave them clear instructions for their mission and sent them on their way.

Here is his mission plan:


Don’t take extra stuff

short term missions trips - hockey bags

“Do not take a purse or bag or sandals” – Jesus

Jesus suggested that if we carry too many resources, that we can get stuck in thinking that the solutions to century-old problems is more stuff. If that was true, then the border towns of Mexico (who receive countless STM teams with piles of stuff), should be some of the most transformed places on earth.

Are they?


Don’t self promote

“do not greet anyone on the road.” – Jesus

Staying below the radar seems like the opposite plan for mission.  Aren’t we supposed to blow in, blow up, and blow out?  Where is the X-TREME X-Citement in that mission?

Mission as activity relies on exciting attention-getting devices. Mission as relationship takes a lot longer to build, but lasts a lifetime (and more)


Stay with the locals

short term missions trips - stay somewhere nice

“enter a house, say, ‘Peace to this house … stay there” – Jesus

Taking hospitality from the poor is hard, it positions us as a receiver when we would rather see ourselves as the saviour. We are not the answer to their problems.  The more we try to be that answer the more likely it will be that the problems will deepen and get worse.

We can easily justify it by saying we don’t want to impose. But, if you really do want to make a lasting difference, Jesus suggests you must impose – we owe a debt to one another – a debt of relationship.


Jump in

short term missions trips - don't drink the water

“eat what is offered to you” – Jesus

Being cautious about unclean food, dirty water, theft, accidents and violence is just good common sense, but spending too much time afraid of the people and keeping in a compound is a terrible way to get to know someone.

Jesus ate meals with people. He stayed in their homes. He risked receiving generosity and was liked by the people who didn’t like religious people. Why? Maybe because he was likely to sit down with and have a drink with a stranger.


Get something out of it for yourself

short term missions trips - cash

“the worker deserves his wages.” – Jesus

“I give with no expectation of receiving” is a wonderful-sounding mantra and a terrible way to live. If none of your friends and family ever give anything to you, I imagine you are a fairly broken person.  Human beings require give and take. Reciprocity is what allows us to enjoy life.

Yes, it is better to give than receive, but that doesn’t mean we should never receive. In fact if we never receive, we never give anyone the blessing of giving.

Jesus emphasized this because he knows each of us must put ourselves in the place of receiving from the materially poor. This give and take creates mutual obligation. We get to know a person, not a problem.


Are these the same for Short Term Missions Trips today?

There are so many mission agencies out there calling people to join their mission. A good question to ask is are they calling people towards the mission of Christ.

Perhaps our mission has become the mission of Canada rather than the mission of Christ. What do you think …



What else did Jesus recommend for Short Term Missions Trips?


Mark Crocker

Thanks so much for reading my thoughts on mission.  I am so grateful for the leaders out there who  are jumping in and challenging the status quo in mission not as critics, but as creators. I appreciate all of your comments and promise to read and reply to every one. If you enjoy these articles and are inclined to do so, would you consider either sharing with a friend, or liking our Facebook page?  Many thanks!

November 3, 2017

2 responses on "Things Jesus Never Said about Short Term Missions Trips"

  1. I remember this being read to us in our IWM class and felt convicted on a few things. Like wanting t stay at a night place overnight endnote wanting to stay with the locals, that scared me. This definitely made me reshape or reframe my thoughts on what missions is really supposed to look like, and that it isn’t all about bringing stuff to people and giving people bag of toys and clothing at all.

    • feeling those feelings is pretty normal … natural! the bigger question I suppose the bigger question I have is how do we put our teams into the place where we all feel these tensions at a strength that allows us to challenge our presumptions

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