Short-term missions work from the United States has experienced exponential growth. In 1979 an estimated 22,000 lay people in the United States were involved in overseas or cross-cultural ministries ranging from a few days to four years. A million now go forth annually, from 40,000 churches, agencies, and schools.
Criticisms of the trend—alleging superficiality, cross-cultural ignorance, and poor stewardship of resources—have nearly kept pace.
Responding to the critics, a coalition of evangelistic and missionary organizations has released a set of new "Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission" (Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission). The seven standards were adopted on the heels of similar codes established by evangelicals in Great Britain and Canada.
"In the '90s virtually all [missions] publications were anti-short-term missions. [They said] people were in it for themselves, were insensitive, and didn't learn the language," Roger Peterson, chairman of the national steering committee for the standards, told CT. "The standards are saying we recognize those criticisms are valid."
The standards, which are voluntary, include God-centeredness, empowering partnerships, mutual design, comprehensive administration, qualified leadership, appropriate training, and thorough follow-up.
Members of the steering committee that developed the guidelines came from Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth With A Mission, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Assemblies of God, and the Southern Baptist Convention, among other groups.
For more on missions, see our Missions & Ministry area.1