Apparently there are very strong feelings about how they should be run, who should be the focus, and, most importantly, whether they are a good idea. Even mentioning short term missions in a somewhat negative light gets people all fired up, but why?
The most successful businesses, non profit organizations, even churches take a look at feedback from all sources in order to determine if their marketing strategies, their business plan, their ministry worked. They talk to the planners, to those instituting the plan, and even to their target audience to evaluate all steps of the event from the genesis of the idea to the after party.
What I have seen in the last couple of weeks, mostly sparked by some criticism of short term missions from JamieTheVWM, is a completely one sided view of missions. Short term missionaries, and that is what they are: missionaries, have commented in droves about how the experience changed their life, helped to shape their view of God, even gave them their calling, but what about those being “reached”?
For the past couple of years I have been both a player and coach for several north American style football teams. I am part of the team, in fact, other than my size and bearded glory, I am truly one of them. So, when short term missionaries come down and try to convert my players, 3 times in the last year, I am inevitably on the receiving end of their attacks (see Droppin Evangalism Bombs).
In an effort to give a more complete analysis of the effect of short term missions on their intended audience, here are a few of the comments I have received from my fellow evangalees after our various interactions with short term missionaries:
“They are trying so hard to save me. Do you get bonus points for converting us?”
“I knew they wouldn't help us without getting something out of it. You christians are all like that.”
“Why do they use the same testimony; I used to party with girls/booze/drugs, but my life was meaningless before Jesus and now that He is with me everything is great? Do they teach you that s^#%? Does it ever work?”
“If we are accepting Jesus into our lives shouldn't He know? Why do they make us raise our hands then, is it so they can count us up to tell everyone back home how great they are?”
“I felt so much pressure to make a decisions today, right now. It is my experience that when people pressure you like that it is because they are hiding something.”
“What do I do now?”
I am not condemning short terms missions, on the contrary, I feel they are a vital part of the work of Christ, but can't we look at them and make them better? Is it possible that we are making mistakes and even working against His plan? Is there a problem in asking the question?