Friday, October 10, 2008

The Business Case for Short Term Mission Trips

This is a very interesting article from the Wall Street Journal that looks at the overall impact on the people go go on the trip and the recipients of the service - kind of a spiritual business case, around short-term mission trips - The 'Great Comission' or Glorified Sightseeing?

Calvin College sociologist Kurt Ver Beek surveyed U.S. missionaries who built homes in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch in 1998. After coming down from a post-trip "high," the short-termers did not evince much change in their lives. Only 16% reported "significant positive impact," including in prayer, friendships and financial giving. Then Mr. Ver Beek surveyed those whose homes were rebuilt by missionaries and those whose homes were rebuilt by local nongovernmental organizations. He found that there was "little or no difference" in the spiritual response of the beneficiaries.

The business case says this:
Indeed, if you were to ask an economist about short-term missions, many of which involve such manual-labor projects, he would have a simple answer: Ditch the traveling team members and send a check. A career missionary knows better what manual labor needs to be done on-site, and he can hire local laborers for much less money than what flying in unskilled Americans requires. Using local labor contributes to the local economy and avoids perpetuating a culture of dependency and powerlessness. A career missionary is also fluent in the local language and culturally aware, so he can be more effective at evangelism, discipleship and social-justice ministries.
Anyone ever been on a trip like this? Do you agree?


phil said...

i wonder what they mean by significant impact. if you say only 16% go into missions after that experience, then i'd say that's pretty good numbers.

i think it makes a difference in age groups too. i would think adults would go on a trip, and then be more likely to give to missions b/c of what they've seen or experienced.

for youth, it opens their eyes to the world around them that they might not otherwise see. which i would still consider an impact. they may not go into missions, give to missions, or even continue in church, but chances are, they might remember what other people have to go through.

i think w/out short term missions, we would eventually run out of missionaries b/c if you never have a first run, why would you dedicate your life to it.

and for the people you minister too. i've found that most of the time, they love to see that people care. that people would pay to come work for them.

Dave Kurt said...

Good points. The article really doesn't mention how the awareness people gain from these trips affects their views of social justice in the future, nor how it impacts their trajectory for long term mission work.

Either way, wonder if there is something more effective that people could be doing with the time/money on these trips other than building expensive houses.