Millions of Americans go on short-term missions trips every year, but only a percentage of us slow down long enough to think about it. And even fewer ask, “How can we do this better?” If you’re asking this question, that’s a good thing. This is a conversation needs to happen. Thanks for tuning in for this series, and if you have missed our first five posts on this, you can find them here.

Let’s take this to an even finer focus and application. Envision is a ministry strategy of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. So how does this apply to our Alliance family of over 2,000 American churches that report sending out approximately 14,000 short-term missions participants annually?

Whether we like it or not, short-term missions is a significant player in Alliance missions. More than ever before, Alliance churches worldwide, on both the sending and receiving end, are experiencing a movement, crossover, and overlap of Christians from other cultures and countries because of short-term missions. We can no longer ignore or pay little attention to its influence on our missions strategy.

We need to shift from seeing short-term missions as an obstacle and start seeing it as an opportunity. Historically the Alliance has been amongst the leaders in world missions. The Alliance has been out front in many areas of missions over our 125-year history. We’ve been part of strategic shifts in the past. We can continue that tradition now.

What if the Alliance family was collectively committed to reimagining short-term missions as a movement? What if we all recognized the pitfalls of short-term missions done poorly and charged forward into healthier well thought out alternatives? As the world changes quickly, so must our missions strategy.

My dream is the Alliance family innovating through the changing tides of world mission. I believe there are opportunities where the Alliance can lead in innovating our short-term missions strategies. We only have to prioritize it, and take the opportunities presented.

This type of change isn’t made by leaders in an office. It happens on the ground. In the day to day. In our homes and churches. It will take a collective buy in and participation by many to see significant change.

Less than 1/3 of last years reported 14,000 short-term missions participants from Alliance churches went to serve with Alliance missionaries in Alliance fields. I’d love to see this ratio change. We’re missing one of the greatest benefits of being part of the C&MA if our short-term missions are independent from what we’re doing collectively as a movement of churches.

Through STM, you can come to an Alliance field, and see Alliance International Workers. You can see Alliance churches, planted and led by National church leaders and pastors, or missionaries. You can worship in an Alliance church in another country, and another language. You can see Great Commission Fund dollars at work. You can see our International Ministries teams at work.

I am increasingly convinced that there are incredible benefits to our Alliance people participating in our global Alliance work through short-term missions. My hope is that a greater involvement would bring stories to life. Give vision for why we do what we do. Provide context for financial giving to increase. Show the need for more full-time workers. Encourage people to respond to full-time work. And make our hearts more like Jesus’ for the world.

We have been a missionary sending movement for over 125 years. We have sent out thousands of full-time missionaries into long-term gospel access work. We are also a family of churches that sends out roughly 14,000 STM participants annually. Up until this point, those two forces haven’t worked together all that much. Let’s allow our long-term investment to influence our short-term work.

There are billions of people today who lack sufficient access to the Gospel. The missions statement for Alliance International Ministries is “Gospel Access for and from all people.” This mission can’t be accomplished by 700 full-time international workers on their own. We need the full force of the 500,000 people in our U.S. churches rallying behind this mission cry.

Reimagining short-term missions is moving away from seeing missions as the work of only the select few. Instead, we each need to see the opportunities for our own healthy involvement and investment. 

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David Nishizaki is an Envision Site Coordinator. When he isn’t writing blog entries, you can find him working hard at learning American sign language as he and his wife Aleah pioneer a new ministry with Envision for Deaf people. When he’s hardly working, you can find David rooting for sports teams from the San Francisco Bay Area or playing video games on his Nintendo Switch.