Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)




It is estimated that over one and a half million American Christians will travel abroad this year on a short-term mission project, and that doesn't include the number who travel on similar domestic trips. However, in spite of the phenomenal growth, the modern short-term missions movement continues to suffer from what could only be described as an identity crisis. Many pastors, educators, and mission leaders continue to be engaged in missiological soul-searching, dialoging about the fundamental questions concerning the value and purpose of short-term mission trips. The insistence on using the same language to describe and discuss both long-term and short-term missions has contributed to the confusion, and has in some ways, pitted the two philosophies against each other. Certainly there is overlap, but the two approaches ought to be considered as two very distinct elements of Kingdom work.

This project will attempt to present and defend that to maximize the effects of a short-term mission trip, it should focus on the spiritual formation of the participant. These trips have much in common with pilgrimages in which one leaves behind his or her "normal life" in order to engage in an activity with the hope that a personal transformation will occur. Paradoxically, by focusing on real spiritual transformation, the short-term participant will actually be a better short-term missionary, and the trip will be a greater blessing to the host/receiver. Chapter 1 provides a basic over-view of the problems and promises of short-term mission projects and presents the spiritual formation of the traveler as a primary purpose for doing short-term missions. Chapter 2 discusses spiritual formation in very broad strokes. A biblical and historical view of spiritual formation will show how service and mission contribute to the spiritual growth of the individual. The short-term mission experience, specifically as it has developed in North America, is examined in Chapter 3. This chapter looks at God's mission in the world and how short-term missions has changed the way the North American church has engaged in missions and cross-cultural ministry. Also included is an assessment of the short-term rnission enterprise. Chapter 4 examines the short-term missions program of Northwestern College in Orange City, lowa. Chapters 5 and 6 argue that the spiritual formation of the participants should be given priority in a short-term experience and explains why this is crucial to an effective short-term missions program. The chapters propose a new role for the traveler, a structure for designing the program, and a philosophy for maximizing the contributions an STM can make to one's spiritual life. Attention is given to pre-field preparation., on-field processing, and post-field debriefing. Finally, Chapter 7 offers a summary and conclusion of the project while proposing some methods and tools for assessment and evaluation.

Included in the project are appendices that contain an evaluation of the program at Northwesten College, assessment tools to aid in measuring the growth of the student and effectiveness of the experience, and sample programs for weekend retreats to equip Spring Service Project (SSP) leaders and students involved in the Summer of Service (SOS) program. The heart of the project is two manuals to guide students through the training, debriefing, and processing phases of the short-term mission experience. The first manual is designed for student leaders to use with their SSP teams. The second is to help guide the SOS interns through the preparation and debriefing phases of their summer missionary internship.

Included in

Christianity Commons