Rethinking Voluntourism and Short Term Mission Trips

Mission trips and volunteer tourism (“voluntourism”) tend to make the mistake of providing life changing experiences for those who go on the trips rather than providing the best needs for communities. For instance, short term missionaries who build schools overseas are taking jobs from local workers, most likely doing inferior work, and taking away money that could go toward investing long term in education and operation of the school.

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Why this matters for church leaders:

There are many well-documented reports about the ways charities or short term missionaries can unintentionally hurt an impoverished or developing nation. This article suggests what to avoid and what to try out.

  • Do you understand the social and economic context of your outreach? Whether at home or abroad, understanding the precise social and economic challenges are essential before planning an outreach. Most importantly, outreach to an impoverished people will have the greatest impact when the people being served are empowered to participate and lead.
  • Are you stewarding your church’s talents well? It makes sense that a church shouldn’t send an accountant to build a school when capable workers are already in the nation. However, are there ways that the professionals in your congregation can partner with existing churches in economically disadvantaged nations to have a greater impact?
  • Who benefits from a mission trip? The greatest challenge with short term mission trips is the potential to provide benefits merely to the people going on the trips, not the people supposedly being helped. How can your church make sure this mistake doesn’t happen?

Is there an experienced nonprofit leader or missionary you could meet with to discuss effective ways to serve those in need?

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One Comments

  • Stan john March 29, 2016 Reply

    Right on point! Thanks for honest truth. I have been saying this for years and most in the church act as if I said Jesus is not God…
    Short term is no less than 6 months, doing something you know how to do!

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