Miriam Adeney asks this question in the recent book, Effective Engagement in Short-Term Missions: Doing It Right, edited by Robert J. Priest. At the end of her chapter she argues that people do not have to travel across the world to gain a heart for a people, a vision for mission work, or to participate in what God is doing around the world. But people do need “a sense of relationship with those on the field” and a sense that their “money is being used in worthwhile projects.”
At the end of the chapter, she offers six suggestions:
1. Make It Easy to Know a Missionary
Adeney shares from her own life story:
“When I was ten years old, Don and Faye Smith spoke in the Sunday morning worship service in my church. They had founded Daystar University in Kenya. Studies of communication-in-culture were their passion. Already at age ten, I knew that subject would be an important part of my life. . . . I will never forget Don and Faye’s presentation” (138).
She acknowledges that missionaries will rarely be given an entire Sunday morning service to share their lives anymore, but urges, “we must find other ways for church people to get to know their missionaries” (139).
2. Connect With the News
For example, put information in your bulletin and/or on your website about a nation that has been in the news during the week. Glean some info on the church in that nation from Operation World.
3. Show What a Good Mission Does
Many churches and Christians have an anti-institutional bias and fear that money given to a mission organization is being wasted on administrative costs, rather than direct ministry. This leads many to go out on their own, rather than collaborating with a mission organization. Sometimes this is a good idea, but “American church members need a more comprehensive and more positive understanding of what missions do. Going out on our own may feel empowering, but it also may mean ‘reinventing the wheel.’ It may divert energy to building new structures when that energy otherwise could have been devoted to loving people” (141).
4. Connect with Internationals Locally
“God has brought the nations to America. We no longer have a choice between going on a short term mission or going to the mall, because when we go to the mall we ride past global mission fields. . . . All sorts of ‘unreached peoples are one bus ride away.” (141-142).
5. Advocate for a People
“A U.S. congregation can develop a focused relationship with a specific ethnic group overseas” (142). This long-term connection can involve learning about the people group, praying for them, returning repeatedly to specific communities, sponsoring a delegation to visit your church in the U.S., or a young adult or two for seminary study or an internship in your church.
6. Teach Kingdom Stewardship
“Mobilization should include less of ‘our favorite mission-trip’ stories and more of God’s One Story . . . The biblical theology of God’s purpose for the nations and every believer’s responsibility to live a strategic ‘world-Christian’ lifestyle can be the ‘magnetic north’ that this generation needs. . . to raise up world-Christians who are praying, giving, going, welcoming internationals and mobilizing others . . . strategic lifestyle choices that can keep them involved during the seasons they are no overseas” (143-44, quoting Claude Hickman).