Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Value of Short-term Missions

Over the past couple of years there has been much debate of the actual value and/or effectiveness of short-term missions. Are we doing more harm than good? Are we just supporting the cycle of poverty in US cities? Can a group of middle school students really make a difference in a city that needs so
much? Would the money the mission groups spend to come be better used by the organization and ministries in the city?

After working for CSM for almost eight years, the value of short-term missions comes down to one word, effectiveness. The complicated part is how you define effectiveness. CSM’s mission statement is: To provide an effective urban ministry experience that transforms lives, influences churches and communities, and honors Christ. 

So what does an effective urban ministry experience look like? Does it mean your group has sorted hundreds of cans and fed 100 homeless people? Sure, that is effective and it is important work that  you can feel pretty good about, but is that all there is? At CSM, we work with already existing organizations and ministry sites in the city. There is no point of re-inventing the wheel. With our model, relationships are more valuable than gold. We pride ourselves in listening to the needs of the city and understanding how our volunteers can best help those needs.

We recently met with a long-time ministry partner. Over the past couple of years she had gone through some very tough illnesses and has not been able to do ministry as much as she has wanted.  We still have been sending out groups to serve with her ministry even when she hasn’t been capable. At the meeting, she was sharing how it has been so hard to take a step back and slow down because she is so passionate about her ministry. She then went on to share that it makes it easier to know the CSM groups are still conducting her ministry even though she is physically unable to do it at this time. To me, that is effectiveness. It is not how much you do or get done but more how you meet the needs of those you come in contact with.  

-Justin Perry, CSM Philadelphia City Director

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