Acton Institute Powerblog

Is Your Church’s Short-Term Mission Trip Putting Someone Out of Work?

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Too often, short term mission trips to the developing world trample on dignity or harm economic growth, says Ray Sawatsky. It’s time to stop confusing charity with generosity.

With summer over, another season of short term mission trips draws to a close. Churches, schools, and agencies (both for-profit and non-profit) have sent teams to work in the developing world. These mission trips (or “internships,” or “working holidays”) are major pieces in the lives of many North American believers—both spiritually and, as you’ll see below, economically. My primary intent is not primarily to defend short term mission trips as a concept; rather, I sketch a few criteria for measuring if planners, fundraisers, and, most of all, participants in these trips do their work in the proper frames of mind, for the right reasons, and while taking biblical precautions.

As steel sharpens steel, I hope some sharp warnings will prevent future well-meant short term mission trips that fail to protect dignity, that harm economic growth, or that confuse generosity with charity.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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