Right Heart, Wrong Way

Is this even the same mission?

Mission Team: “God did amazing things and we’ll never be the same again!  We made friends for a lifetime!  It was fantastic, and so many could see Jesus through us!”

Missionary Host:  “Whew, I’m glad they’re gone…that was tough.  I hope they don’t try to come back again.  Let’s see if we can get things back on track here.”

Yes, these two perspectives are from the same mission experience.   How is it possible to have testimonies that seem to be at such odds?  Most often, it’s because of what I call “right heart, wrong way” and it’s unfortunately common with short-term missions.   You see, we all know that the world is broken and is filled with people who feel broken, and we all care – that’s why we go on short-term mission trips!  Yet even with our best intentions, results vary from “more harm than good” to nominal –  and the truly stellar reports are few and far between.  Some statistics suggest that less than 1/5 of the two million short-termers each year are adequately prepared for effective cross cultural and long-term strategic impact.  That means that as many as 1.6 million people may be going on mission trips with big hearts, but lacking the skills and resources to be truly relevant and valuable.  Ouch.

I believe our aim should always be this: “Be a blessing and not a burden.”  And that means that organizers need to be intentional about all aspects of a short-term mission.  The seven Standards of Excellence contain all the ingredients for a great mission.  Each of the Standards and their Key Quality Indicators provide a road map to help leaders and ministry partners be excellent in all aspects of the mission.  The Standards are available to anyone at www.soe.org.  For those who want to become part of the SOE network, you can join as an Associate Member.   For the truly ambitious, passing a Peer Review will move you from Associate Member (we align ourselves to the Standards) to an Accredited Member (we comply with the Standards).

When done well and the trip comes to a conclusion, good bye’s are slow and long as both the goers and the receivers share in the blessings and emotions of a job well done.  And then the mission hosts say, 

“We can’t wait until they come back again!  They were just the right people, trained so well, and a great fit for our long-term work here!”

Thank you so much that you lead and participate in short-term missions, and may the Lord grant you great courage in finding ways to make mission trips better!


by Brian Heerwagen, CEO of Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Missions

Also see: Seven Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission article on our website

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