ArticleMissionary Life

5 Characteristics of a Good Short-Term Missions Team

Short-term missions can be done excellently—or poorly. To do it right, we need to focus on the needs of nationals.
Whether you’re going on a short-term missions trip yourself, or you’re the one coordinating it, it’s important to consider what characteristics short-termers should have before going.

Here are five characteristics of a good short-term missions team member:

1. A Humble Attitude

When you go on a cross-culture short-term trip, it’s important that all team members have a humble attitude for these reasons:

  • To Learn—At the core of partnership ministry is the understanding that we, as foreigners, do not know everything. Go ready to listen and learn. Ask questions and hear what the national partners have to say. Spend time learning about the cultural do’s and don’ts before going. Find out how the nationals think.

  • To Trust—If you meet a long-term missionary on the ground, they have lived in the country and gained experience concerning the culture. They know how things operate, so trusting their judgment is necessary to avoid complications, miscommunication, or cultural blunders.

2. Service Experience

Anyone who intends to join a short-term trip must prove that they are ready to serve by actively serving in their local church first. No one should assume that they will jump into service in a cross-cultural setting if they are not doing it in their own familiar setting.

3. A Posture to Give

The question often asked about short-term trips is “What can/did we get out of it?” The question should be “What are/were we able to give?”

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

We need to shift the focus from ourselves to those around us. Anyone going on a trip will inevitably be blessed. However, these trips should be about how the nationals, their ministries, and the advancement of the Gospel will benefit from the team’s trip.

4. The Purpose to Fulfill the Nationals’ Needs

Every short-term mission team should have a purpose, goal, and plan for going in order to be effective. But don’t put a burden on the national partner or a long-term missionary on the ground to come up with things for you to do. In partnership ministry, you wait to go on a short-term trip until you have been invited by the national partner to come to fulfill a specific need. This way, the trip benefits everyone. The team will specifically meet an existing need. A long-term missionary on the ground can coordinate easily with the national partner. And the national partner can have his or her needs met.

5. A People-Oriented Mindset

While a short-term team goes on a trip to fulfill a specific purpose, they should keep the people they are serving at the forefront of their minds. The team should not come to exclusively check a box off a list. The team should purpose to glorify God and impact people with the gospel of Christ, which often occurs by building long-term relationships with the nationals along the way. It’s important to complete the task at hand. But also be sure to build a relationship with the national partner and nationals in the area so that you can pray for them and encourage them in their ministry in the long-term.


Note: This article originally appeared on Live Global.

About the Author

Taylor serves with Live Global, an ABWE ministry that takes a national-first approach to global partnerships to advance the gospel.

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