Principles for successful short-term missions

God is the head of the mission
  • You are not taking God to this place; rather, God is taking you! (Gen. 12:1-3; Ps. 139:1-10)
  • God has been at work in this place long before you arrived.
  • God has a plan for this community and each person (Jer. 29:11; 1 Tim. 2:3-5; 2 Peter 3:9).
  • Follow God’s lead, not your own ideas.
  • God will always be with you (Matt. 28:20b; Rom. 8:38-39; Heb. 13:5).
Open heart, open hands
  • An open heart is free to be filled by the Holy Spirit and overflow with love (John 14:15-17; Acts 13:2-4; Rom. 5:3-5).
  • An open heart is free to be broken by the injustices and poverty of the world (Deut. 15:7-8; Ps. 9:18; Ps. 82:3-4; Gal. 2:10).
  • An open hand is ready to receive. Be willing to accept gifts and hospitality.
  • An open hand is a sign of good will and humility (Gal.5:22).
  • An open hand cannot clutch a clock, a schedule, or a stereotype. Take interest in people, asking questions about their culture and way of life.
  • An open hand is willing to eat the food being served. Food offered to you will be the best your host can offer, and your host will be honored or dishonored by how you react.
‘Doing’ is less important than ‘being’
  • Be like Jesus. Walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6; Matt. 5:1-16; John 15:1-14).
  • Be human beings not “human doings!" (1 Thess. 5:11)
  • Focus on people, not just on the task (1 John 3:18).
  • Work on building relationships, not monuments (Rom. 12:9-15).
  • Take a deep breath when things don’t start or end on time; there are more important things in life than sticking to a schedule.
  • Be flexible – things will rarely go as you planned. Look for God’s surprises in the                unexpected.
A servant’s heart
  • Learn from your hosts; honor them and God by serving them (John 13:12-17). Remember that you are a guest; lay down your rights to time, privacy, and energy.
  • Find out what your hosts pray for and commit to praying for that, too (James 5:16).
  • Accept the leadership of your hosts. You are not the one in charge. Do what you are asked humbly and with joy.
  • Practice humility (Luke 22:24-27; James 4:10).
  • There are many ways to do things; yours is only one way, and it may not be right for this   time or place.
  • Be adaptable – try new things, set aside biases, and work on fitting into the culture.
  • Try to speak the language. Taking an interest in the language is taking an interest in people. Learn to laugh at yourself for mistakes and try again.
  • When with local people, do not joke in English unless someone is there to translate the joke. People who do not understand English will wonder if you are laughing at them.
    Adapted from 2000 by AECBorquist