What are your thoughts on short-term missions?

missions mapQuestion from a reader:

I've spoken to many long-term missionaries who have surprised me with their opinion about the effectiveness of short-term missions.  We spend a tremendous amount of money on “missionary tourism” in America, often to the detriment of long-term support.  What are your thoughts on short-term missions?

Answer from Randy Alcorn:

The short term thing is really tough. I agree that for some it can be just a fun time, but for others it builds a life-long respect for and interest in foreign missions, reflected in sending and supporting and praying. It’s very hard to put a price tag on that. To me, the balance is not eliminating short-term missions, but being sure it is strategic, and that those going make financial sacrifices themselves, not just rely on everyone else to pay their way, so it’s a free international jaunt with fun friends. We have found that most of our long-term missionaries at our church started as short-termers. The expense is enormous, but on the other hand, would people actually give that same money to long-term missions or would they find other ways to spend it on themselves? A difficult issue.

Here are some good articles that do not blindly, but intelligently point out the good in short term missions, while at the same time acknowledging the need to recognize their limitations and maximize their effectiveness:

http://www.adventures.org/a/parents/answer_to_critics.asp

http://www.sethbarnes.com/?filename=the-case-for-shortterm-missions-pt-2

http://urbana.org/go-and-do/missional-life/place-short-term-missions

Randy Alcorn, founder of EPM

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over fifty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries

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