Short Term Mission: More Than Experiences?

By Martin Paterson

Is short term mission more than "nice pictures, great status updates..."?

It was dark, and I had woken with a start. There was an unusual noise washing over me. As I looked out the window, in the distance the sun was rising. It turned out this was the normal start to every day in this country of South East Asia. But the minaret of a local mosque had never been my alarm clock before. 

Maybe you are reading this because you are considering being involved in short term mission this year. I really want to encourage you, this is great to hear. No doubt you will have similar experiences like I had when you are in another culture. In fact, you will have many experiences. But are nice pictures, great status updates and eating different food really what it’s all about? 

For what it’s worth, I don’t think that’s true. Here’s what I think. Short term mission is about God’s glory in Christ being displayed through his church among all the peoples of the world. Put it another way. Short term mission is all about God and his glory and serving his mission. 

Having this as our starting point means we will think about short term mission very differently. It is no longer something I am doing. Instead, we see it as a beautiful thing that God has invited us to participate in. 

God’s purpose in the world is to see his gospel proclaimed among all peoples, to see churches established and to see believers strengthened. If that is the case, how should this shape where we go and what we do? Well, it means a couple of things at least. 

First, we should desire to serve alongside believers where there is little or no gospel witness. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Where there are not so many people living and speaking for Jesus, that’s where we want to be. That is the gospel in action. Seeking to serve the forgotten people because they matter to God. 

Second, it should get us to think strategically about strengthening our local churches global gospel workers. Instead of trying to work out where to go, we can support people who have already gone. This is a beautiful way to serve short-term as it displays loving commitment and a desire to serve other’s needs, not our wants. Find out who you’re global partners are and ask if coming over to serve would be helpful. 

One final thing. Short term mission is about serving. Those who learn most and are of greatest, long-lasting, kingdom expanding impact are the people who serve with an attitude of humility. They are not the sort of people who arrive and think that they are going to save the world. Instead, they know the one who has saved them and are willing to please the saviour by serving his people.  

As you think and pray about short term mission, where to go and what to do, take the chance to learn about the unreached peoples of the world. Download the unreached of the day app or check out Operation World for helpful information. Through all of this ask that the Lord would give you a heart of humility as you seek to see his name glorified throughout the peoples of the world. 


Martin Paterson is a Scotland Area Representative for OMF and a Free Church of Scotland minister. 

Generation also works closely with Operation Mobilisation who run short term mission trips. If you are interested in learning more, you can find more information on their website: