Short-Term Service Trips Matter
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Short-Term Service Trips Matter

They are the start of change.

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Short-Term Service Trips Matter
Caitlin Gilby

Negative press regarding short-term mission trips has expanded over the past few years. This is primarily due to the fact that short-term mission trips are increasing and more money is being spent on them.

According to Robert Priest, a missiology professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the number of people taking part in short-term trips jumped from 540 in 1965 to more than 1.5 million annually, with an estimated $2 billion spent each year. This statistic was calculated in 2008, and the numbers continue to increase. Many writers argue that the money spent on airfare should be donated to countries in need instead of making the trip. They argue that there is still a lot to accomplish in the United States.

While I understand these concerns, I think many authors are forgetting the importance of face-to-face communication and that simply donating money is not enough. I would rather get to know people and their stories rather than donate money and call it a day. I think it's possible to pull off both, and many of these mission trips do that, despite what these authors believe.


I know that short-term mission trips may not immediately make long-term changes, but I know they can be catalysts for long-term service. For instance, people who go on short-term mission trips are more likely to give financially toward missions afterward. Once they have seen the need first hand, it can change their perspective. However, they needed that first short-term mission trip to get them there. For some people who go on one service trip, they begin to realize they want to do more.

In regards to people needing help in the United States, I’ve noticed that people who go on international short-term trips tend to serve the poor more actively at home when they return. Sometimes all we need is a small step to put us in the right direction. Short-term mission trips allow this to be possible. As young people, it is hard to be long-term service volunteers. However, if we are deciding to volunteer and wholeheartedly want to help, we should not be criticized for it.

Throughout my experience with short-term mission trips, I’ve seen them change the lives of everyone involved. While we go to serve people struggling in poverty, the importance is that they provide service to us as well. They enrich our souls, teach us how to grow and expand our spirituality. I hope that we deliver a similar effect on them, beyond fixing a house and serving meals.

I hope through our conversation, laughs, stories and joy, we make a difference. Even if it is not long-term, making someone happy in the moment is important to me. Those memories can last a lifetime. If you did not learn this, then I do agree with the authors who think short-term mission trips are a waste of time, but I guarantee you many people learn this.

I admit, short-term mission trips have drawbacks, but I don’t think these negative articles on them should stop people from going or make them feel bad for going. I know these short trips are not meant to change the world, but I am OK with that. Even if these short-term trips can lighten the load on long-term trips in some way, I still think that helps.

Giving attention to children and families that are searching for it can make a difference in their lives. As Katie Davis says in her book, "Kisses from Katie," “I'm not here to eliminate poverty, to eradicate disease, to put a stop to people abandoning babies. I'm just here to love.”

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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