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Our View: Missions have changed

The evolution of short-term missions and its effects

Editorial Board | Echo

Short-term missions have been evolving over the past ten years.

It is no longer people moving west to east, but rather the church moving in all directions. However, college students’ interest in short-term missions have been slowly declining.

According to David Armstrong, executive director of ShortTermMissions.com, those willing to participate in a short-term mission trip has declined by about 10 percent. According to his article “Current Trends in Missions Trips,” younger generations are beginning to visualize their faith differently than previous years, such as taking a more holistic stance on missions.

Jenny Collins, associate professor of missions studies, believes that a deterrent for some college students comes from information online. According to her, articles and social media posts about the potential negatives of volunteerism in developing countries and failed attempts at poverty alleviation causes some to back away from the idea of short-term missions.

The Mexico Spring Break team poses for a picture on location.

The Mexico Spring Break team poses for a picture on location.

Yet this does not deter all students from considering participating in missions at all. Instead, Collins believes students consider participation in long-term missions, but that number of participation might be lower than those who would take part in short-term missions.

Chip Bii, director of local and global outreach, said that while the numbers of students who participate in short term missions might be declining, the desire to be globally engaged in spreading the word of the Gospel has not.

“If you say global-minded and global engaged, it’s an upward trend,” Bii said. “But if you were to narrow it and define it as how many of those people are going to do service type things, you might get a different kind of picture. If you say you’re going for missions, I think we’re still staying pretty steady as a program . . . there is just a consistent stream of students that value that and are engaged.”

According to Bii, there is a great interest from students who want to cross borders when they go on a missions trip. The idea of experiencing a new culture and engaging with the love of Christ is very appealing to students. However, there is less of an excitement to engage on a missions trip within the United States.

Collins believes this is because there is no natural beginning and end to a domestic missions trip.

“If I fly over to Ethiopia, it has a nice beginning and end to that trip, and there’s nothing demanded from me necessarily afterward as far as Ethiopia except maybe prayer and giving,” Collins said. “But if you start serving in your own community, you might find that people have chronic needs and it’s more long-term demands. We (Lighthouse) have had spring break trips to Marion, it might feel like, ‘oh’ and I’m gonna feel guilty if I don’t stay involved and perhaps . . . people see it as a detriment.”

While student excitement is something Taylor World Outreach takes into consideration while planning domestic trips, Bii said that missions as a movement have been getting more and more innovative.

“I don’t think there’s one way of doing mission services,” Bii said. “I think we have to always like, innovate, like consider your resources that we have . . . but the bottom line is to stay engaged.

The editorial board believes that short term missions should ultimately further long-term mission work. We find there is value in helping those in a culture already spreading the Word of Christ. However, we do not intend to prevent anyone from going on a short-term missions trip. There can be good from that, too. We urge students to prayerfully process through what God is asking from them before deciding to commit to a mission.

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