Curriculum to Help You Plan an STM

by David Nakhla, OPC Short-Term Missions Coordinator (February 2013) 

Short-term missions (STM) have earned a bad name in a lot of circles. There are books coming out on the woes of STMs. And, sadly, there truly is a lot of legitimate criticism of short-term missions. Much of the cause for concern stems from two things.

First, the local missionary and/or indigenous church are often not included in the process of planning the STM. This means that many STMs are coming in without an understanding of, or appreciation for, the cultures, traditions, ways of life, etc, of the people, group or church with whom they are going to work. The end result in many cases is unintended consequences; often including the infliction of significant damage on the gospel ministry that was present before the STM team ever showed up! In the OPC, we strive to avoid these stumbling blocks with a heavy emphasis on the need to work with and through the local missionary, pastor, or Session when going to any field - foreign or domestic.

Second, teams depart for an STM inadequately prepared and return without much reflection on what was learned. It is easy to get so caught up in "just getting there," that very little emphasis or time is put into our preparation: physical, spiritual, mental, etc. After the STM, we can get back so exhausted with "life" piled up in front of us, that we jump right back into our normal routines, without investing much time, if any, for considering what the Lord has taught us on the STM. We inadvertently rob ourselves of much of the value of the STM by cutting short the pre-trip and post-trip activities. (I am guilty of both of these myself!)

Last year I had the opportunity to attend the National Short-Term Missions Conference sponsored by the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Missions (SEO). Despite coming from a broadly evangelical perspective, I was impressed by the desire of those running this conference that short-term missions work recoup its good name. When done well, STMs can be very positive, not only in the life of the one who goes, but for all those involved, including those who send and those who receive.

The Next Mile Curriculum:

In an effort to help leaders and participants of STMs be more intentional in their preparation and reflection, a curriculum specifically designed to aid in this process has been developed. The author of much of this material, Brian Heerwagen, encourages "working smarter, not harder." The wheel does not need to be reinvented. The work is already done!

Consider whether The Next Mile Curriculum might be a help to you in planning your church's next STM. The Next Mile curriculum offers practical tools to enable leaders to plan, conduct, and follow-through with short-term mission trips for long-term impact.

This resource will help you:

  • Cast the vision of short-term mission teams with long-term results to your church
  • Involve your entire church in the short-term mission
  • Integrate mentoring throughout the entire experience
  • Avoid common pitfalls
  • Prepare your team effectively with training materials and team meeting agendas
  • Disciple your team members on-field through prayer, journaling and daily debriefings
  • Provide customized follow-through for each team member
  • Evaluate your experience and set goals
  • Be prepared for the Top 10 issues team members will face upon return
  • Keep the flame alive well after the short-term experience




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