Possibly the right question to ask is who are the people that need help? There are 3 groups of people involved in a mission trip.The people going, the host missionaries, and the people potentially being served in the host country. Before any trip, it is important to allow the host missionaries to define who and what need help before your feet hitting the ground. This is because their lives are dedicated to helping the people they live alongside every day. Typically this is done through various projects that can improve the lives of (not westernize) the people they serve. A lot of damage has been done to cultures when wealthy Americans come rushing in with change.....but I digress
More importantly, your church or host missionaries should have a defined project or projects for you to accomplish. If you are considering a short term mission trip and this element is missing, then you might be painting the same wall the last team painted before you arrived.
YES!!! this is a thing.
Our team trips to Honduras and Costa Rica have an hour by hour itinerary that the team has created with the host missionaries. The schedule is flexible but it allows the visiting team to fully understand and prepare for the work that is needed on the field. The schedule is centered around the defined projects. We do not let teams tell us what they want to do but rather what type of ministry they feel called too. If we have a project that fits that calling, then we have the makings of a good mission trip.
OK, OK...are mission trips helping people? If your host missionary or church has a defined project that will help them do better ministry (i.e. building a church) or improve living standards (i.e. wells, schools, etc.), then you are helping people. My point is not to narrow down what work can be done on the mission field but rather to let the mission be defined by the very people who live there. They know what help they need, not you. Under these circumstances, you will be helping the people who live there and not yourself. Remember, mission trips are not photo ops to build your social standing! It is ok to take lots of pics for back home of what you did on your trip but also be aware of your surroundings. This will help others to consider making the trip later. The result will be heartwarming, life-changing, and faith-building and in the end, you will have helped many people.
Additionally, evangelism, worship, and prayer should all be included in a short term mission trip. This allows God to create new relationships between the locals and yourself and this is really what you want to cherish as a memory. My advice is to start with the book "When helping hurts" available on Amazon. This book will help you understand how to view missions from a different perspective. The authors even have a follow-up book for short term teams. Check out our next blog when we tackle another question about missions or message me at: