I remember as a teenager growing up in Bellflower, California that our youth leaders came up with a new idea, something that had not been done when my brothers were teens: a short term missions trip. Our trip was to support the ministry of a church plant in the San Diego area, led by a former pastor of our church. My memory of it is not crystal clear, but I do remember Bart Huizenga leading devotions, the bus ride and handing out literature about their upcoming vacation Bible school.
Over the last thirty years this innovative idea of short term missions has become a standard part of the annual cycle for many churches. Youth teams within the US have been supplemented by international and intergenerational trips of many kinds: hurricane relief, sports and musical teams, mime, etc. Much of the focus has been on making use of such trips in discipling those who go. Ninety-seven percent of such trips are to the Reached World, where Christians are already present in significant numbers. It has occurred to many people that spending $30,000 to send a team to the DR to build a church that could have been built by local people for $2000 doesn't make a lot of sense when analyzed only in terms of finance. However, with good orientation and debriefing, such a trip can push participants out of their comfort zone and into a deeper relationship with Christ.
More recently the buzz has been about relationships between the goers and the receiving community or church. In this way there can be a reciprocal benefit. The group that goes may discover that Majority World brothers and sisters find joy in serving the LORD despite (or is it because) they don't have many of the things that we consider essential. The ministry of the receiving church or community can be enhanced as the presence of North Americans draws a crowd to their events.
On October 30 Christian Reformed World Missions, in cooperation with a number of other CRC agencies, put on NEXT! Global Missions for a New Generation, a conference on youth and intergenerational short term missions. Amazingly, our plenary speaker, Dr. David Livermore, one of the leading writers and speakers in this field, was willing to have videos of these presentations posted on our website. You can watch them below:
Yes, You!: How People Like Us Can Change the World (1:06)
Serving With Cultural Intelligence (55:41)
The blog "Everyone a Missionary?" drew a number of comments about STM. If you are interested in the topic, I would highly recommend watching these presentations. On the conference evaluation form, every single person rated these presentations 5 out of 5. I've never seen that before.