Since the first edition of this book released in 2006, I’ve sometimes been approached at conferences by people who say, “Hey—you’re the guy who hates short-term missions, aren’t you?”
It’s not exactly the way I want to be known. And it’s not really true. I don’t hate short-term missions. But I understand why some have heard my critiques about short-term missions without also hearing me say that I think there’s tremendous potential in short-term missions done well.
But what has surprised me far more about is the way this book has been generously received by so many people. Many readers have said things like, “These were things I always wondered about but never really voiced”. Or “This doesn’t only apply to a short-term missions trip. I see the same things in how we interact with culturally diverse people at home.”
Here’s the deal. I don’t hate short-term mission. I’ve been participating in short-term missions for more than 25 years—as a participant, a leader, and a researcher. And even to this day, I travel overseas several times a year to various places around the world. It’s because I think short-term missions can be such a transformative experience for everyone involved that I’ve been motivated to examine the good and bad of our North American endeavors.
What’s in the book?
The second edition includes the core of what was in the first edition—a wide angled look at the realities of our 21st Century world, a focus upon some conflicting perspectives between how many North American Christians describe their short-term missions experiences versus the locals who receive them, and an introduction to cultural intelligence as a way to improve the ways we learn and serve.
What’s Revised or New?
- Updated statistics and research related to short-term mission and global realities
- Additional insights and a nuancing of my initial claims based upon continued reflection, interactions, and research
- Updated material on cultural intelligence that aligns with our CQ Assessments and resources
- A Checklist for how to plan an effective short-term mission
- And updated list of resources from the many other good pieces that have been published on this topic since the first edition came out.
On the whole, I’m encouraged by the direction short-term missions is moving. Growing numbers of groups are working hard to develop reciprocal, honoring relationships with the communities and churches they visit. Orientation and even de-brief sessions have come a long way. And there’s a spirit driving the short-term missions movement that appears much more thoughtful than what I observed when I first began researching and talking about this fascinating phenomenon.
We still have much more we can do. Not all groups are equal. There are compelling, missiologically-sound pictures of short-term missions happening among countless groups. And there are still plenty of appalling examples of seemingly thoughtless, adventure-seeking programs.
I invite you to join with me in taking a careful look at the world in which we live and zooming in on how short-term missions can be part of what is happening, for such a time as this. You can order the revised edition here or at your local bookstore.
[Portions excerpted from Preface to the 2nd edition of Serving with Eyes Wide Open]