Ten ways to ruin your mission trip

Believe it or not, it’s possible to have a bad short-term missions experience. Usually, this has less to do with the situation or organization than it does with the short-termer’s own attitudes and expectations.

To help you maximize your short-term experience, here’s a checklist of what not to do.

  1. Keep narrowly focused on spiritual activities. You want to win that country to Christ. So, focus on your loftiest expectations. Avoid doing such menial work as data entry, loading trucks, or working on buildings. Such things will only distract you from your primary task.
  2. To tighten up your schedule, eliminate personal prayer and Bible study. Likely, you will be so rushed that you really won’t have time anyway. Besides, can’t you get all the spiritual food you need from church services and from group devotions?
  3. Stay organized. Set goals before you go. Establish a detailed schedule. Do not deviate from that schedule. Refuse to accept delays, last-time changes, and impromptu visits and invitations. Those things will just keep you from getting things done for God.
  4. Help the missionaries by pointing out their mistakes. Bring them up to date on what you’ve heard are the latest missions trends. Missionaries can sometimes be stubborn. So, you may need to enlist some support among the nationals for your views about how the mission should be running.
  5. Get involved romantically with someone. Being away from family and friends make this the perfect time to get involved in a romantic relationship. While it may distract you slightly from the work, you will be able to expose national Christians to America’s progressive dating customs.
  6. Don’t embarrass yourself by trying to pick up the local language. People are always saying that English is spoken all over the world. So, insist that those people use it with you.
  7. Immediately begin pointing out your team members’ faults. Time is short. It may be difficult for people to make the needed changes in their lives if you don’t help them from the start. Especially focus your criticism on team leaders.
  8. Make hygiene a top priority. Don’t eat any of the local food. To be sure, you may miss some friendly opportunities with “the natives,” but you’ll avoid all those germs!
  9. Keep your distance from team members who couldn’t raise their full support. They may try to mooch off you. Don’t give in. Letting them sweat out their finances will build their faith.
  10. When you return home, castigate 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 deferential respect; so make the most of it.

adapted from Commissioned, January/February/March 1995

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