Short-term mission trips continue to rise in popularity. In leading such trips and researching their impact, I’ve found that they can have a profound effect on the faith and life of participants, and good work is often done: people living in poverty have their needs addressed by energetic and caring people.
But the liability of badly implemented mission trips far exceeds the missed opportunities of staying home. Poorly conceived trips can distract hosts from their primary ministries, use up significant sums of money and energy on low-priority tasks and create unreasonable expectations for visible results in a short period of time. These are familiar criticisms; it’s well known that short-term mission trips can be done poorly or well. Here is a brief inventory of the worst practices that can undermine the best intentions.