Ten Ways to Ruin a Mission Trip:
How Not to Do Short-Term Mission Trips!
by Bob Young

Believe it or not, it's possible to have a bad short term mission experience, and then no one will ever want you to go again. Here's my "Top Ten" list, scavenged from several sources and personal experience.

#10. Immediately begin pointing out the lack of spirituality and the faults of your team members. A good time to start is at the airport before the trip even gets off the ground. Time is short; it will be difficult for people to make the needed changes if you don't help them right from the start. It is especially helpful to criticize the team leaders-that will help them avoid the big head and help them shape up early in the trip.

#9. Don't embarrass yourself by trying to pick up the language. If "they" want to talk to you, "they" can learn English. After all, English is spoken all over the world. Insist that "those people" use it with you.

#8. To stay healthy and fight against dangerous germs, don't eat the local food. Gringo communion might even be a good idea-lots of germs are passed crackers and grape juice.

#7. Keep your distance from team members who didn't raise their full support. They probably aren't as committed as you and some of their lack of faith may rub off. Besides, they may try to mooch off you. Don't give in. Give them the opportunity to sweat over finances-it will build their faith!

#6. Stay focused on "spiritual" activities. Since you want to help people become Christians, focus only on eternal things-like baptism. Avoid menial work and physical labor. Such things will distract you from your primary work. Besides, it's not good to over-exert and end up sick when you are in a foreign country.

#5. Stay organized and on schedule. Set detailed goals before you go. Establish schedules and don't modify them. Do not accept delays, last-minute changes, and spur of the moment visits or invitations. Those things just keep you from getting things done. To tighten up the schedule, eliminate personal prayer and Bible study. You will be so rushed that you probably won't have time anyway. Besides, you can get all the spiritual food you need from group devotions.

#4. Don't spend too much time with the local Christians. It is hard to communicate with them, and besides they are already Christians. The ideal schedule is to arrive on Monday and leave on Saturday, with a gringo mid-week devotional. That way, you'll not bother them and never have to spend time with the local congregation.

#3. Get involved romantically with someone. Being away from family and friends makes this the perfect time to get involved romantically-preferably with a native, so you can help him or her find Jesus. While this may distract you slightly from the work, this is a good way to find prospects.

#2. Help the missionaries by pointing out their mistakes. Bring them up to date on what you've heard are the latest trends in missions.

#1. When you return home, scold your home church and friends for their lack of commitment, for their weak prayers, and for their inadequate giving to missions. This may be one of the few times you will have their respect. Make the most of it.

If you'll do all of these things (or even some of them), I promise no one will ask you to go on a short-term mission trip again.

--adapted in part from SNU missions website: "http://home.snu.edu/~HCULBERT/ruin.htm"

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Last updated May 29, 2008.