Missional Field Notes

Quotes, Examples, and Ideas from My Missional Frontier

OK, I’ve been on a few short-term missions trips. They’ve been good. I’ve had a great time with youth or other adults. I’ve enjoyed the process.

But, I’ve also heard the bad stuff about short-term missions. Sometimes it can be paternalistic. Sometimes, when going to impoverished areas, the missionaries go back to swanky hotels for fancy dinners while the persons they are there to serve go hungry.

But Aaron Monts uses short-term missions as a way to talk about discipleship in the local church…that what short-term missions provide is an “Active-Reflective Environment” which is different that just passing along information (which is what most of our discipleship has been). Here’s some of what he has to say on his blog:

In my experiences and through many conversations, the common consensus is no greater transformation of the disciple occurs than in those who return home from a short-term missions trip. Now, while it is completely impractical and perhaps not very beneficial to send hundreds of people each year from your congregation on short-term missions trips, it does say something about the total immersion into discipleship that occurs. It is an active engagement of the mind, the heart, the body, the soul. Sure, some of the transformation wears off once the person returns home and some time has elapsed, but is there not something important to take away from this experience?

The core of a short-term missions experience from a discipleship standpoint is that of the active-reflective environment in which the person is immersed. We have become really good at creating environments where one or the other are present–action without reflection or reflection without action. Active-reflective discipleship is the key to unlocking not only discipleship, but the true heart of missional discipleship: a discipleship that takes an active role in the Missio Dei (Mission of God).

So, does “Active-Reflective” ring true to you?

2 thoughts on “Active-Reflective Environments for Discipleship

  1. Jon says:

    It sure does!

    I facilitate and lead a number of short-term teams per year and is one of my main roles in my work. I would suggest that short-term mission trips are great if there is the recognition that discipleship is actually one of its main tasks. In this way the action (the trip itself) should be constantly reflected upon during and after the trip. There is greater learning in discipleship and self-awareness, which can lead to a strong understanding of what missions is about and what it’s really like on the ground. It avoids the paternal element, but also the superiority element that can arise when we think we’re doing others a favour by being there.

    Thanks for the post.

    1. jimdoepken says:

      Thanks for the comment. Everything can be done poorly…and short-term missions are no exceptions. I’ve been on good ones and bad ones.The best ones are when folks return as better disciples than when they left.

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