Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the content
Rethinking the $3,000 Missions Trip
Image: Courtesy of Katie Norrell

Rethinking the $3,000 Missions Trip

When I learned that kids in my city couldn't swim, I started to rethink how much I'd invested in overseas missions.

Painfully thin for his age, Martin shivered uncontrollably by the side of the city swimming pool. He held his sides in a futile effort to keep warm. I was puzzled. A rare June heat wave had swept through Knoxville, and the temperature was pushing ...

read more ...

Comments Are Closed

Displaying 1–12 of 12 comments

Robert mason

August 30, 2013  8:39pm

I wondered why it cost so much to go see poor people. As a youth director, I had our students participate in tutoring in our local city before going on a mission trip. The mission trip itself cost $200 a person for 10 days - but it was a 1000 mile van ride to Mexico. After 4 years in Haiti I couldn't justify spending thousands on missio-tourism. My first "mission trip" was 5 years long. The needs are all around us though much more severe in other countries. I taught in an urban school and saw teachers abused by students they were trying to help. Some of the poverty here is self inflicted, some is a remnant of slavery. Although, most poor in the USA are much better off than they would have been had they never come here. The freedom of the gospel is foundational for most trying to escape poverty, there needs to be a change in thinking and behavior that Christ can give.

Report Abuse

carlene byron

August 07, 2013  4:35pm

Our North Carolina suburban church had a pulpit exchange with a British church this summer. The pastor and his South African wife came. To me, the most startling comment he made was that our community reminded them both of South Africa. I didn't get a chance to press for details, but I inferred that the resemblance extended beyond our red soil. We have large suburban lots with big houses, good city services, luxury shopping malls and white residents in part of the city ... various people of color living overcrowded in small, worn houses with iron-grated neighborhood marts and poor services in other neighborhoods. If you know how to see it, you can even recognize homes where people are living behind boarded-up windows. The return from a Third World short-term can make it hard to imagine that other Americans, living in so wealthy a nation, could possibly need your church's help. And yet, if you choose to see, it's in front of you.

Report Abuse

Christoph Koebel

August 02, 2013  11:30pm

Okay another article which ATTACKS mission trips. They see only the $3,000 ticket for LIFE CHANGING INVESTMENTS. My first "missiontrip" did not cost me $3,000, since I grew up on the LEAST REACHED continent. There are bad and well organized mission trips. Some companies, like OM, do that for over 50 years. Let us reach folks across the street and across the world.

Report Abuse


August 01, 2013  12:38am

Mission trips are not usually far-away vacations. They introduce locals to missions. Some who go may decide to become missionaries. Some may come back with a desire to support missions. The question is not which is better or more important, the question is what does God's Spirit lead each one of us to do?

Report Abuse

Maj G

July 31, 2013  4:43pm

In addition to administering a Christ-centered drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in California, I serve on the board of a missions organization that sends groups on short term trips around the world. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of human need in my city and in distant places. I am greatly inspired and comforted that Christians are being moved by God the Holy Spirit to 'do something' even if they cannot rationally explain the economics or the outcomes (like Martin). In the end, we have all served Christ and have hopefully been humbled by exposure to Him as the least among us.

John pierce

July 31, 2013  10:03am

My church does both. Once or twice each year we send teams to Central America to engage in building and other projects, but we also minister in the inner city, not only of our own general area (Columbus, OH), but also of others not close to home such as Cleveland. But in doing all this, we don't neglect our own suburban area, either (where people are spiritually needy). I realize that not all churches have our particular set of resources, but I think that the Lord provides what is needed for the task(s) to which He has called.

Report Abuse

Rebecca M

July 28, 2013  2:39am

Excellent article. However, was any follow up made of the boy? or did he simply dissappear from the radar? God bless your efforts.

Report Abuse

Pete Dayton

July 27, 2013  2:33pm

Very much agree with you, Doug. I have mentored several inner-city kids and have transported them to swim lessons at the only inner-city pool in Knoxville. I was so happy that UT Aquatic club did these for free and amazed at how many kids in the community had never been in a pool! I wound up overloading my car for several summers with kids and had to turn down many due to a lack of transportation. I agree with Chany(above) in that every time I see a movie from a returning youth STMT and ending with a middle-class student from the suburbs crying because they had to leave a "new friend" from a third world country, I think how many kids within a 15 mile radius are dying to have a new friend which have access anytime. I also have felt the pain of losing one of my "Martins" seemingly disappearing overnight. Thanks for the article.

Report Abuse

Jim Ricker

July 23, 2013  7:38pm

Should we give up STMT's? Heck no. Should we consider our daily lives as mission? Heck yes. Serving those around us is vital.

Report Abuse


July 23, 2013  5:32pm

Thank you! In addition to these important points is the concept of attachment and trust. You were able to build a relationship with Martin over a long time, showing him how to trust an adult. Whereas, on short-term mission trips, real relationships with the locals can't be formed. For local children -- especially in orphanages -- the caring adults leave over and over again. It becomes more difficult for children to learn to attach to and trust adults with each successive mission group because of that.

Report Abuse

Vic Christian

July 23, 2013  2:33pm

Good article - but you are really stretching when you quote that verse in Jeremiah.

Report Abuse

Grady Walton

July 23, 2013  1:00pm

It seems good that churches start thinking about this topic. Let’s face it; going on a short-term mission trip can be adventurous. Add the fact that it’s for a good cause, and you have a recipe for a thriving industry. Perhaps congregants with limited resources should focus on serving where the need is greatest. I’ve heard missionaries say that things are much worse in many places around the globe than they are in the poorest parts of America. That is not an excuse to turn our backs on local needs. I think we can help in both places. But we need to examine our hearts to make sure our motives to go on a short-term mission are not for the sake of adventure. If we want adventure, we can sign up for a trip through REI.

Report Abuse


Make a contribution to help support the This Is Our City project and the nonprofit ministry Christianity Today.Learn more ...