Re-Thinking Short-term Missions

Short-term Missions (STMs) really belongs under Missions History because it is a relatively new phenomenon compared to the overall history of missions. However, it has become such a large enterprise that it is important for us to take a critical look at the current state of STMs. As many scholars are noting, we need to begin living missionally and cross-culturally in our own communities and cities, not just “do missions” thousands of miles away. It is in our own communities where we best understand the culture and how to make an impact. If individuals and churches do have a passion or call to foreign missions, a more comprehensive training and commitment process needs to be in place in order to ensure healthy cross-cultural partnerships and adequate education so that short-term experiences can be testing grounds for long-term missionary service.


Almost every organization and church has the correct language when it comes to STMs. Guiding principles include: “We honor the local people,” “We work as friends and partners,” “We do the work they want us to do,” “We have been going there for a long time,” etc. However, many indigenous leaders, if they are courageous enough to speak up, will point out the imbalance of the partnerships due to an emphasis on money, planning, and the need to see measurable results. We must look at who sits on the boards, who controls the money, who decides the needs and solutions, if local leaders have the power to tell short-term teams they are not needed, and if an organization’s practices are rooted in sound biblical teaching.


Is the sending of one-week teams into a foreign culture with a foreign language the best way to approach foreign missions? Do STMs really serve the local people, or do they reveal a Westerner’s ethnocentricism, quench our need to feel important, and allow us to feel alive in ways we do not think we can feel at home? These are tough questions, but the books and resources below will help educate and inform a better approach to missions.



Transforming Mission by David Bosch

The Open Secret by Lesslie Newbigin

New Global Mission by Samuel Escobar

Mission Between the Times by Rene Padilla

The Mission of God by Christopher Wright

The Mission of God’s People by Christopher Wright

Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? by Roland Allen

Effective Engagement in Short-term Missions: Doing it Right! - Ed. by Robert J. Priest



Special Latin American Journal on Short-term Missions*:
*With permission from Lindy Scott, editor of English version of Journal of Latin American Theology 2, no. 2 (2007) - created by the Fraternidad Teologica Latinoamericana-

"Introduction: Short-Term Missions and the Latin American Church" by Robert J. Priest 

“Short-Term Missions: What Can Be Rescued, What Can Be Criticized, and the Challenge of Contextualization” by Tito Paredes

"Short-Term Missions: Experiences and Perspectives from Callao, Peru" by Joaquín Alegre Villon 

"Short-Term Missions: A Sign of Mutations, Tensions, and Challenges in Mission" by Elíseo Vílchez-Blancas 

“'If Everything Is Mission, Nothing Is Mission': Reflections on Short-Term Missions” by Miguel Ángel Palomino 

"Short-Term Missions: Analysis and Proposals" by Rodrigo Maslucan 

“Short-term Missions: A Latin American Perspective” by Martin Hartwig Eitzen 

“Contextualization of Mission: A Missiological Analysis of Short-Term Missions” by Marcos Arroyo Bahamonde 

“Short-Term Medical Missions: A Summary of Experiences” by Apolos Landa

Western contributors:

"Reinventing Short-Term Medical Missions to Latin America" by Laura Montgomery 

“Short-Term Mission: A Great Opportunity” by Ulrike Sallandt 

"Short-Term Missions: Paratrooper Incursion or 'Zaccheus Encounter'?" by Hunter Farrell

"Towards a Missiologícally and Morally Responsible Short-Term Ministry: Lessons Learned in the Development of Church Partnership Evangelism" by Charles A. Cook

“Peruvian Churches Acquire ’Linking Social Capital’ Through STM Partnerships” by Robert J. Priest