Hancock, “Short-Term Mission Voluntarism and the Postsecular Imaginary”

Hancock, Mary.  2015.  “Short-Term Mission Voluntarism and the Postsecular Imaginary.”  In Religion and Volunteering, edited by Lesley Hustinx, Johan von Essen, Jacques Haers, Sara Mels, 217-237, Springer International Publishing.

Abstract: This chapter examines the spiritual motivations and impacts of voluntarism in the USA through an investigation of international short-term mission (STM), a paradigm involving 1–2-week trips that amalgamate leisure tourism, evangelism, and voluntary development work and are carried out among Christian and non-Christian communities. Mainline and nondenominational bodies sponsor STM, but it is most popular among evangelical Christians. I argue that STM’s effects, while partially explicable in terms of the social capital that it may (or may not) engender at home and in mission fields, include challenges to secular norms and institutions. STM, especially as carried out among non-Christian communities, provides (1) experiential contexts for imagining a world in which divinity is reckoned as immanently and sensorially present, and (2) communicative tools for enacting that world. It thus may rework the categorical boundaries between secular and religious practices and spaces at home, as well as on mission sites. As such, STM can be understood as an artifact of an emergent postsecular imaginary—a characterization that signals the limits of the secularization thesis and the recognition of significance of plural religiosities, spiritual orientations, and faith commitments in social action and institutions. This chapter is based on ethnographic research in southern California conducted from 2009 to 2012.

Hancock, “Short-term Youth Mission Practice and the Visualization of Global Christianity”

Hancock, Mary. 2014. Short-term Youth Mission Practice and the Visualization of Global Christianity. Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief 10(2): 154-180. 

Abstract: This article examines the visual mediation of evangelical short-term mission and the theologically inflected global imaginary that these forms engender. Recent decades have seen the resurgence of long-term mission and the emergence of short-term mission among US Christians. The latter, combining evangelization, service, and tourism, is a staple within evangelical youth culture. I argue that it is used by Christians to constitute themselves as global formations, while also offering theological frames for global Christianity. Central to this global theological imaginary are visual representations of mission encounters with ethnic, sectarian, and racial Others, which illustrate the global scope of mission and missionaries’ understandings of their own efforts to engage and overcome those differences. Through an analysis of the visual content of four short-term mission agencies’ websites, I examine the mediation of global Christianity in contemporary mission and its recruitment of global Christian subjects.

Hancock, “Encountering Islam”

Hancock, Mary. 2013. Encountering Islam in Short-Term Mission.” Missiology 41(2):187-201.

Abstract: This article documents short-term mission’s engagement with Islam by showing how Islam is represented by sending agencies and how volunteers interact with Muslims. I relate the different styles of representing and engaging with Islam to differences of theological orientation as well as to the particular contexts and practices of short-term mission. This article is based on research in Southern California between 2009 and 2012, including visual and textual content analyses of sending agencies’ websites and guidebooks, and interviews with 57 short-term mission participants

Hancock, “New Mission Paradigms”

Hancock, Mary E. 2013. New Mission Paradigms and the encounter with Islam: fusing voluntarism, tourism, and evangelism in short-term missions in the USA. Culture and Religion 13(5).

Abstract: This paper concerns U.S. evangelical Christian mission practice in the Muslim world. Interests in and support for mission work among Muslims have increased – shifts that evangelical church leaders and missiologists attribute to the impacts of 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed – and the short-term segment, which fuses voluntarism, tourism and evangelism, represents the newest paradigm in these undertakings. While the overall popularity of short-term mission is recognised by scholars and church leaders, its role in mediating interactions between Christians and Muslims has received little attention. This paper documents short-term mission engagement with Islam by showing how Islam is represented by agencies and how volunteers interact with Muslims. I argue that styles of representing and engaging with Islam, while arising from a range of theological orientations, are also products of changing contexts and practices of mission, both the routinisation of short-term mission and the expanded opportunities for mission under rubric of faith-based development. This paper is based on research in Southern California between 2009 and 2012, including visual and textual content analyses of sending agencies’ websites and guidebooks, and interviews with 57 short-term mission participants.