Questions are raised about short-term teams all the time. As I defined in my previous post, short-term teams are:
“A group of up to a dozen Christians, spending up to three weeks, specifically exploring the idea of mission in a context that is culturally and linguistically different to their home culture.”
And even a definition like this will raise questions.
Many of these questions consistently revolve around finances, impact, development, need, politics, and church relevance. Questions like:
- Are they worth the cost? Couldn’t the money be used elsewhere?
- Do Westerners arriving on the shores of a developing country for a couple of weeks actually help anyone? Are these teams a modern form of colonialisation?
- Is anything really achieved for the participants and the people in the host country by a 2-3 week stay?
- What is the image given to people who see wealthy Western Christians coming and going from their country while they are never helped themselves?
These are good and valid questions.
I know a number of people who have seen damage done spiritually, personally, financially, culturally, and socially because of these teams. And so rightfully, questions do need to be asked of this $2 billion industry. Depending on where you come from will mean different questions.
In recent years there have been helpful books written, like “When Helping Hurts“, that have promoted better practices for short-term mission teams. These practices have elevated the need to think through short-term teams, not only from a participant point-of-view but for those in the country where the team is going. They have also provided helpful frameworks, and questions to ask of teams, in the areas of finance, community development, spiritualisation, evangelism, discipleship, and more.
This goes a long way in helping those of us who lead teams and involved in short-term missions to think through the issues. Sometimes there is the need for change because of this thinking and questioning. And sometimes, we may only need to shift our goals a little and see the benefits of these teams can occur from a better and more solid foundation.
Benefits Of Short-Term Teams
And while there are plenty of criticisms and plenty of questions to be asked, I believe there are also plenty of benefits. Many of these I have seen myself, for me personally and for others who have been on teams before. And I’m sure there are also plenty of others that come from short-term teams too. But in the mean time, here are 15 benefits of short-term teams.
- They increase mission awareness within your church.
- They give the church a tangible opportunity to be involved in global mission.
- They broaden the worldview of those who participate, and those in the congregation.
- They increase the participation of of church members in local mission.
- They help grow followers of Jesus.
- They open participants eyes to the needs and realities of other people in other cultures.
- They develop a sense of connection between church members, participants, and the missionaries visited.
- They encourage the ministry of the the missionaries who are visited.
- The provide opportunity for participants to receive training in cross-culture ministry and settings.
- They help people understand the nature of support-raising.
- They enable participants to see what the reality of missions is like on the ground.
- They give another person in the world the opportunity to interact with someone from another culture.
- They increase the passion for helping people and being a good neighbour.
- They provide action-reflection experiences for participants in emotional, physical, and spiritual ways.
- They change lives and career paths.
Each of these points could be expanded. There are no doubt others to add too. But, as I’ve said here, and previously, these benefits give good impetus for short-term teams and their value to the church.