“Short term missions are a waste of time and money.” “Think of how much they could buy if you just sent resources.” Maybe you haven’t heard or thought exactly those words, but if you’ve participated in missions here at Bay Area or in another church or ministry, this sentiment may be familiar.

Last year, Bay Area sent over 160 short term missionaries to West Virginia, El Salvador, Poland, Ghana, India, Uganda, South Sudan and Southeast Asia. Together, our extended family at Bay Area raised thousands of dollars and lifted thousands of prayers to send these men, women and children across the country and the world with the good news of Jesus. We recognize that without intentionality there is a danger of short term missions devolving into religious tourism, yet we’re committed to sending short term missionaries and to being missionaries from here to the nations. How do we steward this responsibility well?

In short, Bay Area abides by seven nationally-recognized short term missions standards of excellence. A group of missions leaders developed these standards over 20 years ago; they serve as fundamental values for our global ministry. The goal is a “win-win-win” situation – ministry that benefits the host or receiving missionary, the goer and the sending church. Specifically, short term missions should …

Be God-centered.

A worthwhile short term mission is focused first on God’s glory. We want to act, plan and pray in line with God’s grand redemptive plan for the world and the model of missions that Jesus set for us – reaching out in wise, biblical and culturally appropriate ways. Our short term missions, like our global partnerships and everything we do at Bay Area, are focused on making passionate, maturing followers of Jesus from here to the nations.

Empower partners.

At Bay Area, we send short term missions teams to serve alongside our long-term partners, with whom we build healthy, interdependent, ongoing relationships. We cultivate these relationships throughout the year and send missions teams based primarily on the needs of our partners and hosts. Our global partners spend time at Bay Area, are in community with our senior leadership and work together with us to build a foundation of mutual trust and accountability that spans years and decades.

Be mutually designed.

We develop the activities and plans of each short term missions team with the input and approval of our partners so that the resulting team’s mission benefits the goer, sending church and host and is aligned with long-term strategy. If our teams create more work than gospel momentum for the host, then our plans bear revision and redevelopment. With a mutual plan in place, we can select and train teams to serve in appropriate ways, with humility and servanthood.

Have comprehensive administration.

To glorify God and steward resources well, we strive for integrity and thoroughness in the way we administer funds, plan travel details and the use of time and skills. This involves policy and procedure, the development of missions opportunities with proper logistics and effective risk management. This is a crucial piece in being prepared while leaving room for the Holy Spirit to work amongst our teams, partners and the people we serve.

Have qualified leadership.

Bay Area places a high value and responsibility on short term missions team leaders, who are charged with discipling a team through a cross-cultural experience to share the gospel. Leaders are recommended by others, trained by ministry leaders, and maintain community and accountability with other leaders as they empower and equip their teams. This month, our 2018 leaders are finishing up a multi-week leader cohort focused on building this community and skill base as they begin meeting with their teams.

Be appropriately trained.

One reason we require at least three months from joining a team to travel date is to allow adequate time for teams to gain the character, knowledge and skills necessary to serve effectively on the mission field. Trained and qualified leaders equip their teams with biblical teaching and cross-cultural skills appropriate for their specific culture and mission focus while developing the desired and necessary team bonds. Teams work together through a short term missions training manual to help guide their development as a team and as missionaries prepared to serve.

Have thorough follow-up.

Finally, short term missions teams must include thorough and effective follow-up or debrief. Our debrief process begins on the field and continues post-trip as leaders help their teams process reverse culture shock, identify what they have learned and apply these lessons to their life for continued growth in Christ. Both hosts and goers evaluate the effectiveness of the short term missions journey to provide clear and honest feedback to address any unresolved issues and grow in efficacy of future endeavors.

As we strive to abide by these seven standards, we continue to grow long-term partnerships and improve our ability to bring the gospel to men, women and children around the world through the dedication of our global partners and the service of our short term missions teams. If you’re interested in serving on a short term missions team or supporting our global partners, visit bayareacc.org/missions to learn more!