5 Ways to get long-term impact from a short-term mission trip
Will your mission trip have a lasting impact after you fly home? Will your week of serving abroad really make a lasting difference? Unfortunately, many mission trips do not leave a long-term impact.
Long-term impact doesn't just happen; we have to be intentional about it. Follow these five guidelines and your trip will have an impact that lasts long after you've returned home.
1) Focus on development in a community rather than relief
A relief trip is one that focuses on relieving people with handouts. Relief trips are great to aid nations in need during times of crisis (such as the Ebola outbreak), but this only meets the immediate needs of the community. What about long-term needs? If you want your trip to have long-term impact, you need to focus on development. Developing countries are just that: developing. The developing process takes time, and the answer is not another handout. Look for a trip or an organization that is focusing on sustainable, long-term solutions to problems.
2) View your trip as a small piece in a big puzzle
Having long-term impact means focusing on the bigger picture. Development within a community takes time. You may not see immediate or final results on your short-term trip, but that's ok. Your trip is just one piece of the puzzle. Remember that there have been teams before you and will be more teams after you to continue the efforts for long-term impact. When you focus on the bigger picture, you will be more likely to focus on longer-term solutions.
3) Seek to partner with the locals
If the point is to assist the community in sustainable development, the local leaders and members of the community need to be the ones to lead the process. If there is a lack of local involvement, then once your mission team leaves, it could all fall apart. The native leadership is what will carry on the process after your short-term team completes their work. The locals will also have a better understanding of what will work and won’t work in their community. Be careful to not have the mindset that “we” know how to do something the best way.
4) Train your team before you go
What's the purpose of your mission trip? What does “success” for your team look like? If your team doesn't know the answers to these questions, it is unlikely that they will leave a long-term impact in the community.
It's nearly impossible to make a lasting difference if everyone has a different idea of what “success” looks like. On the other hand, if everyone is on the same page about the focus of the trip, your team will be more likely to accomplish something that lasts long after you return home.
5) Engage after you get home
Your trip doesn’t have to end once you get back home. Debrief and reflect on your time overseas and determine if you feel led to invest long-term in the community or organization you worked with. Prayers, financial support, and advocacy are a few ways you can create long-term impact past the few days that you were physically on their soil.
Putting it all together
It’s never been easier to cross an ocean. A ten-hour plane ride can take us from one continent to another. We live in a unique time in history and what we do during this time matters. A short-term mission trip is a great investment of our time, especially if we keep long-term impact our focus.
Written by CJ and Teri