Spark Limitless Potential through Short-Term Missions

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How do short-term missions trips produce results that go beyond a feel-good mini vacation?
Woody Roland (R), Pastor of Missions at Autumn Ridge Church

As a missionary for 12 years in Bolivia and for 16 years in Central America, Woody Roland hosted hundreds of short-term missions teams, before he took the role as the Pastor of Missions at Autumn Ridge Church in Rochester.

To analyze the value and effectiveness of short-term missions trips, we asked Roland to be a part of our panel on Maximizing Short-Term Missions Impact.

“In this day and age, a lot of people have become frightened of student short-term teams,” says Roland, but he believes short-term missions offer great value to long-term missionaries, and as a discipleship tool. “If they are done in the right way, for the right purposes, and with the right type of partnerships, they are excellent tools.”

Round-table Discussion Among Missionaries

Roland says he has seen quality, effective short-term trips, as well as wasteful, unhelpful trips from teams who visited Roland’s long-term ministry. He says the key is honoring the mutually beneficial nature of the church/missionary partnership.

“Our short term teams need to depend on the direction from our long term missionaries. If you’re going to engage in short term missions, listen and engage in real organic partnership. Real partnerships means our partners need to listen as well. Churches in America need to receive something from short-term missions, it’s not selfish; it has to work both ways in an honest long-term partnership,” said Roland.

Dream Big
Justin Mack, Global Project Pastor at River Valley Church

Justin Mack, Global Project Pastor at River Valley Church also presented at our lunch panel. Mack says many churches don’t dream big enough to make their missions efforts as successful as they can be.

Ten years ago, River Valley started offering more global team trips for congregants to go on, and that changed the trajectory of their missions’ ministry.

“We decided to offer 12 teams, and immediately all 12 teams filled up, then we offered 20, and then 52. We are making it 52 time easier for people to go on a trip. When you do one or two trips, you are making it that much harder for people to be able to go on it,” said Mack.

Mack found the more River Valley congregants went on short-term global trips, the larger the churches’ collective heart grew for missions. In the past 10 years, River Valley Church has grown 800%, while missions giving has grown 9,000%.

“This is because missions is not just a theory, a statistic, or a story; it’s moved to the heart. When people see, and feel and touch it, and they get to meet the missionary partners you are working with; they hold a child, and let God speak to them, ‘This is not an orphan, that is my child, I gave my only begotten son for her/his life.’ That is going to reorient the way they look at everything,” said Mack.

Long-term Missionary Invitation

The commitment River Valley has made to long-term missions is directly tied to its short-term teams’ participation.

Maximizing Short-Term Missions Impact event at Cedar Valley Church

“When you maximize the potential for a short-term experience trip, it can be a spark for a limitless potential in our churches and around the world,” said Justin Mack, Global Project Pastor, River Valley Church.

River Valley Church sets aside 10% of the church budget to support long term missionaries, and follows a policy of only sending short-term teams to long-term missionaries who invite them to meet a physical or spiritual need.

“We believe the best missions dollars is spent with long-term missionaries committed to long-term work in the culture, who know the language, know the culture, know the needs. Every single short-term team that we send, we send in partnership with a long-term missionary, and we don’t go without an invitation,” said Mack.

River Valley’s conviction of dreaming big shows in their vision for every single person at River Valley to go on a Global short-term trip within 4 years, and their goal this year to give $6 million to missionaries.

Boost Long-Term Missionaries
Allison Goldhor, Short-term Teams Administrator for Bethany International

Allison Goldhor also joined us for the missions’ panel. Goldhor is the short-term teams administrator for Bethany International, a Christian missions training and sending organization based in Bloomington. Bethany has the goal of using short-term teams to give a helpful boost to the long-termers’ ministry.

“Short-term projects can help strengthen long term missionaries, because they can help by doing short-term projects that would be helpful for the missionaries to get to. For example planning game nights, landscaping, building patios, distributing fliers for events,” said Goldhor.

Goldhor follows these 7 Best Practices of Excellence in Short-Term Misisons

  1. God-Centeredness An excellent short-term mission seeks first God’s glory and his kingdom.
  2. Empowering Partnerships An excellent short-term mission establishes healthy, interdependent, on-going relationships between sending and receiving partners.
  3. Mutual Design An excellent short-term mission collaboratively plans each specific outreach for the benefit of all participants.
  4. Comprehensive Administration An excellent short-term mission exhibits integrity through reliable set-up and thorough administration for all participants.
  5. Qualified Leadership An excellent short-term mission screens, trains, and develops capable leadership for all participants.
  6. Appropriate Training An excellent short-term mission prepares and equips all participants for the mutually designed outreach.
  7. Thorough Follow Through An excellent short-term mission assures evaluation, debriefing and appropriate follow-through for all participants.
Other Resources from our Maximizing Short-Term Missions Impact panelists:

River Valley offers free resources to help churches develop missionaries and a missions culture.

MISTM (Maximum Impact Short-Term Missions) book features everything you need to know to organize a short-term mission trip with high-level Kingdom impact and across-the-board effectiveness.