Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tough Questions About Youth Missions

Rudy points us to an article titled "Tough Questions to Ask Before Your Next Missions Trip" on the Center for Youth and Family Ministry website related to Short Term Missions trips. I thought I would weigh on a little bit here about our perspective. The article is based on a June 2005 study outlining whether short term mission trips are really that effective - an important question. [See my post here about the study that this article is based upon.]

The article states a few tangible implications from the outcomes of the study, and I thought I would expound on them from SPACE's perspective.

1. When we do STM, we need to serve the work of the career missionaries and local leaders.
Here here. One of the big SPACE goals is that we work with GCC missionaries whenever possible. We take it even further - when we can, we will work with career missionaries who are connected to our body.

2. When we go, we need to develop true collaboration with those we serve.
The point I think the author is trying to get at is that it's not just about a partnership, it's also about not doing a mission trip just to do one. And that hosts are not hosting teams just because its a good thing to do. To the contrary, that the work and ministry there is vital, important and that the experience is a combination of what both parties can bring to a shared experience. I tell every missionary family, "Be honest. We want to serve you - not just be doing a missions trip just to do one."

3. When we fundraise, we need to cover not just our own costs but also raise funds for the locals.
This is a point that I disagree with - but not enough to make a big stink about it. Just enough though to think that it needs some more thought, based upon the context. We all know that when a community relies on an outside source for a given resource, whether its for finances, leadership, or whatever, it is usually a detriment. When those resources can be generated from within the community, it allows more participation, more involvement and more ownership. Once again though, I disagree on the basis that the context would need to be well thought out and studied - and then a decision could be made for covering local costs.

4. When we do STM, we need to make sure we develop effective preparation programs for before the trip, and extensive follow-up programs for when we return.
Prepping teams is one of the things that I love love love to do. And there is always more we can do with follow up after we return. Follow-up is one of the key reasons I believe that our missions efforts are so much better when they are based within the context of the local church along with mentors and leaders from the local church student ministry leading students, sharing the experience together and being involved way after they all come home.

5. Part of our preparation and debrief should address WHY those in other contexts face particular struggles.

6. We need to view STM as part of a year-round focus on developing world Christians who serve.
Great point. I haven't said this out loud very much - but one of the key indicators for the invitation only SPACE trips that we do (2004 - NYC, 2005 - Brasil) is whether these kids are involved in the SPACE Launches that occur throughout the year. It's great for a student to show a desire to serve in a particular area of the world or specific demographic or people group. But the desire to do so is much different than a student who comes out to our SPACE events year round. Our Launches give us a great opportunity to work and serve with these kids and get to know them far in advance of a summer team.

Overall, great article based on an important study in the area of short term missions effectiveness.

No comments:

Post a Comment