Zehner, “Short-Term Missions”

Zehner, Edwin. 2013. Short-Term Missions: Some Perspectives from Thailand. Missiology 41(2):13-145.

Abstract: Recent interviews with congregational leaders in Thailand suggest a need for reframing some of the concerns commonly expressed in missiological writing on short-term missions (STM). North American writers have expressed concern about the ministerial inefficiency of short-term missions, the attendant de-professionalization of foreign missions, and the potential for STM to encourage dependency among recipients. Interviews with Thai pastors in 2007 revealed a different set of concerns. Many expressed an interest in resourcing for stronger congregational life, a concern that is usually missing from North American writing on short-term missions. Short-term missions were also valued most greatly by leaders whose congregations did not have alternative access to the material and relational resources made available by the visitors. Finally, in contrast to concerns that short-term missions promote dependency, the interviews suggest that many Thai leaders were using the relational networks to access moral and material resources that enhanced ministerial vitality and independence.

Priest and Howell, “Theme Issue on Short-Term Missions”

Priest, Robert J. and Brian M. Howell. 2013. Introduction: Theme Issue on Short-Term Missions. Missiology 41(2): 124-129.

Abstract: Like the anthropology of tourism, research on short-term missions has had to overcome a bias against what is often assumed to be a trivial phenomenon. As scholars in a variety of fields have encountered this growing, global phenomenon, they have begun to develop a vibrant and multifaceted research-based literature exploring its cultural, historic, economic, and political aspects. This introduction to a special issue of Missiology on short-term missions presents a brief overview of the development of this emerging literature, as well as synopses of the six articles advancing our understanding of short-term missions.

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.

Howell, “Short-Term Mission: An Ethnography of Christian Travel Narrative and Experience”

Howell, Brian (2012) Short-Term Mission: An Ethnography of Christian Travel Narrative and Experience. Downers Groves, Illinois: IVP Academic Press.

Publisher’s Description: Over the past few decades, short-term mission trips have exploded in popularity. With easy access to affordable air travel, millions of American Christians have journeyed internationally for ministry, service and evangelism. Short-term trips are praised for involving many in global mission but also critiqued for their limitations.

Despite the diversity of destinations, certain universal commonalities emerge in how mission trip participants describe their experiences: “My eyes were opened to the world’s needs.” “They ministered to us more than we ministered to them.” “It changed my life.”

Anthropologist Brian Howell explores the narrative shape of short-term mission (STM). Drawing on the anthropology of tourism and pilgrimage, he shows how STM combines these elements with Christian purposes of mission to create its own distinct narrative. He provides a careful historical survey of the development of STM and then offers an in-depth ethnographic study of a particular mission trip to the Dominican Republic. He explores how participants remember and interpret their experiences, and he unpacks the implications for how North American churches understand mission, grapple with poverty and relate to the larger global church.

A groundbreaking book for all who want to understand how and why American Christians undertake short-term mission.

Han, “If You Don’t Work, You Don’t Eat”

Han, Ju Hi Judy (2011) ‘“If You Don’t Work, You Don’t Eat”: Evangelizing Development in Africa.’ In New Millennium South Korea: Neoliberal Capital and Transnational Movements, ed. Jesook Song. London: Routledge.

Excerpt:  Work or else starve – these unkind words were uttered partly out of frustration. Two South Korean Christian missionaries from Global Mission Frontier (GMF) were presenting a week-long economic development seminar to approximately 30 local government officials and municipal employees crowded inside a modest hotel room in Mwanza, Tanzania. The seminar leader, Deacon Shin, had begun by introducing himself as hailing from the prosperous land of Samsung and the LG Group (two of the world’s biggest conglomerates) but he failed to impress – the participants had never heard of these corporate brands. “How about Hyndai?” Deacon Shin asked in disbelief. “You must surely have seen all the Hyundai advertising during the World Cup?” Apparently not. Deacon Shin shook his head in dismay, and explained that there are large, powerful companies from Korea, and that their very success stands as proof of the miracle of Korean economic development . . . It was then that Deacon Shin suddenly instructed everyone to stand up and stretch  – and shout after him, “You don’t work, you don’t eat!” When some chuckled, he said firmly, “This is in the Bible!” and pointed to the Bible in his hand. Indeed, there it was in Second Thessalonians of the New Testament: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” He explained that this verse captured the key to Korea’s economic miracle, and rallied the class in fist-pumping chants for several minutes: “No work, no eat! No work, no eat!”