Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Should We Support Missions Trips?

Summer is upon us and that means that ‘tis the season for church camp and summer mission trips and lots of other things. For those of us that aren’t going, that means there are probably people asking us for money to send them on their way. If you know me, you know that I’m willing to support a worthy cause. My problem is that I can’t afford to support everyone who wants money for camp or to go on a mission trip or whatever cause they have. I don’t want to say that I won’t support anyone or anything, so it comes down to a question of which I should support and which I shouldn’t.

When I look at church camp, I have no doubt that it is a worthy cause. I’ve heard many stories of kids going off to church camp and getting saved. Sometimes it takes getting them away from a familiar environment or immersing them in the gospel for a few days to get them to hear what we’ve been trying to tell them for a long time. So I’m happy to give if it will help kids go to came who wouldn’t otherwise go to camp. But as I say that, I don’t really like the idea of giving money to send kids to camp when their Christian parents have the money to send them to camp, if they would just cut back on spending for things they could do without.

Mission trips are an interesting thing because they seem so inefficient. We send people off on a one week mission trip to support some work. It takes hundreds or thousands of dollars to get them there an back when we could’ve paid someone who lives in that area to do the work they did and even more for less money. So why support such a trip?

I see a couple types of mission trips. Many fall into the category of trips that help to encourage those who go to be active in supporting missions. In the process, they may help someone else, but the primary reason for them is that when the people who go come back, they are enthused about serving the Lord. The other is to provide services that are not usually available to the people of an area. We see this with medical missions trips or trips in which a team of builders go to erect a structure or build a road.

If I’m going to support a mission trip, I find it easier to support teenagers who are going on a mission trip for the first time or skilled professionals who are giving of their time to help people. I find it more difficult to support a mission trip when the people going have gone before and what they are doing would be better performed by someone living in the area for a longer period of time. Some people head off on mission trips as a type of vacation. There’s nothing wrong with that. Spending your vacation helping other people is a good thing, but it gives me pause when I consider that some of them are asking other people to fund their vacation. It’s interesting because they would never ask me to fund their trip to Disney Land, but they’ll call it a mission trip and ask for money to travel around the world.

So here’s my thought. Let’s encourage people who have never gone on a mission trip to go so that they have a better idea of what missions is about. Let’s support professionals who give of their time and money, as well as the support workers on those trips, to provide aid and to share the gospel. And let’s not discourage people who wish to spend their vacation on a mission field from doing so, but if sending them on those trips takes resources from other things, let’s suggest that they should come up with their own money for their vacation.

What do you think?