Will Short-Term Missions Return?

We find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic; a trying time for each one of us, our loved ones, and those in the communities around us. As we begin to see a resemblance of normality here at home, we must remember that those in other parts of the world are facing critical issues. A few months ago, we received a note from a friend who lives in South Asia, who, in the absence of being able to do his normal ministry, began feeding hundreds of “workers” each day in the local Red Light District, where there is no food available. And read this message from a ministry friend who serves the people of East Africa:

Would you join us in prayer for our pastor, who has been working among an unreached tribe and was gruesomely chopped to death? His body was found yesterday.

Not everyone’s pandemic experience is as gruesome as these examples, but as we begin to have normal life, we cannot forget our brothers and sisters who live abroad, who are dealing with significant challenges. Those of us who lead global ministries have been asking ourselves, “Will short-term missions return?” To the same extent, the answer to this question today is an obvious “no” for many reasons … transportation system chaos, active virus outbreaks, changing ministry, political and civil unrest, and so on. But in the months and years ahead, the answer will become clearer. There are some topics related to short-term missions that we are certain of today, including:

  1. TRAVEL – Travel to and from ministry locations has become far more difficult than before … we were spoiled by incredible flight itineraries available to us in the states, both domestic and international. Airline experts are saying that it could be 2024 before flight itineraries get close to returning to pre-pandemic levels. It’s important to remember that the ministry of Jesus wasn’t altered because of the difficulty of travel. Future teams will be able to get to their ministry locations, but travel will be more challenging than before.
  2. TEAM SIZE – A close friend recently said, “Gone are the days of 25-person teams.” Most agree with this statement, at least for 2021 and, perhaps, much or all of 2022. Large teams will become teams of six to nine people, each person being eager to the calling and fully trained to do God’s work. These “Seal Team” units will travel across America and the world doing significant work in God’s name.
  3. MINISTRY – While in the field, the work of the team will become more significant to God’s kingdom than before. The same friend who made the “25-person team” comment, also said, “Teams will no longer be building jungle gyms. Instead, teams will be providing food to the hungry, water to those who need a drink, and clothing to brothers and sisters who are poorly clothed.” The work will be dirty … and most definitely, not easy. Certainly not for the faint at heart. But in this season, the work completed in the name of Lord Jesus will be very significant … and God’s kingdom will be advanced in amazing ways.
  4. TIMING – One year ago, we were confident that short-term teams, regardless of size, would be unable to mobilize. Today, we are confident that short-term teams that are intentionally sized to be nimbler are able to travel nearly anywhere in the world. Therefore, the question no longer is “When?” The question now is “Should I be part of this movement of God?”

Will God call you to lead one of these “Seal Team” units? Would you pray that God would identify a body of work for a “Seal Team” to complete? And would you pray that God would place the names of a few people in your heart who one day would join one of these “Seal Teams”?

The cost for those who choose to join one of these teams will be great. Saying “yes” will not only add their name to a roster, it will also be an affirmation to move extremely quickly on all parts of team planning.

No extended time will be available for support raising, and many times, team members will need to personally fund a mission within a few days’ notice. The same goes for required forms, passports/visas, immunizations and medications. Leaders will contact their team with a task or two … and team members must respond almost immediately. There will be no time for any delays. And training will be more important than ever. “Yes” also means that team members will attend 100 percent of all team trainings. It will be imperative that teams are properly trained before they enter the field of battle on the Lord’s army.

Will short-term missions return soon? They have already returned, and we are very excited about the opportunities that will become available to us in the coming season. We believe that over the next year or two, we could be part of completing one of the most significant bodies of work ever in the name of Jesus Christ. So the question isn’t whether there will be ministry for us to complete or not. The question is whether we will say yes to becoming part of the army who completes it.