The phenomenon of short-term missions team has exploded in the west. Churches are sending out team in record numbers. Which is amazing! However, there are some perspectives that need to be considered for each short-term missionary, team, pastor, and the long-term missionary that will be hosting the team.
First, let’s consider the impact. Short-term teams start off with extremely noble intentions, which is great. However, the real impact is not necessarily seen on the mission field, in fact, most long-term missionaries honestly would probably prefer they went somewhere else. The real impact takes place within the individual team members which they bring back home with them and further impact their sending church. We have a saying, “short-term missions doesn’t change the world but it does create world changers.” That is true. So as a short-term team member or team leader please have this perspective and make sure to capitalize on this experience for yourself and/or your team. Also, you need to recognize and respect the burden you and your team are going to put on the long term missionary and seek with all of your might to elevate that burden and help upon them blessing. For example, whenever I lead a short term team I start with no ministry agenda. I always start by going to the missionary and asking them what would be a blessing and what would their vision be for our team. Then I work hard to facilitate that vision. Next, I always add a little extra in the budget to leave a financial gift (on top of paying for all the ministry, supplies, etc… our team needed) for the long term missionary. You can guarantee that their personal finances, which are probably very limited, took a hit while your team was there.
To the sending pastor, you need to have a vision to send short term teams. It will radically change your church! However, their needs to be a balance. Most churches only send short term teams but have next to zero investment in long term missionaries. You need to playfully seek balance in this for your fellowship.
Lastly, to the long term missionary that is hosting the teams. Your role is one of inspiration, discipleship and facilitation. Sure it will be a lot of extra work on top of your already stressful workload. But these short term trips are breeding grounds for long term missionaries. So pray for vision on how to disciple and inspire each team into a deeper walk and commitment to Jesus Christ. Give them tangible examples of how they can go back home and still be a blessing to your ministry (i.e. pray, support, host an info/prayer meeting, etc…). And make sure to follow up with a thank you to each individual team member. That is just good ministry.