The Secret to Long Term Impact on Short Term Mission Trips

We’ve heard it asked a lot: is it really possible to have a long term impact on short term mission trips?

The short answer is: “Yes.”

The long answer is: “Yes, because long term impact comes through discipleship.”

This might sound complicated, but in reality it’s not. At its heart, discipleship is simple. It’s about about connecting people to Jesus and showing them what it looks like to walk with Him daily in a continual relationship.

There’s no way connecting people to Jesus does not have long term impact. The key is to make sure we are connecting people to Jesus, not us.

If they are dependent on us, the impact is limited. In everything we do, whether it’s meeting a felt need or having a simple conversation, we need to point to Christ.

The Great Commission is not to just go and help people for a bit. It’s to bring people into a real and life-altering relationship with God.

Photo of two men praying together with their hands clasped

Simply evangelizing without teaching the process of discipleship—or even connecting people to a discipleship ministry—is leaving out part of the Gospel.

The Good News is about more than salvation and eternal security; it’s about being in a life-changing relationship with God that starts now and goes into eternity. When Paul preached the Gospel and set up a church, he then left people in place to disciple the new believers. Paul also commanded the church to keep learning, growing, and being trained in what it means to follow Christ, like an athlete continues to train for his sport.

He says the Kingdom of God is right here, right now, not just in eternity.

After all, Jesus never said to preach the Gospel and then move on. Instead He modeled what it meant to have and continually live from a relationship with God.

Photo of two women sitting a a step talking to each other

Most of the cultures we serve in are highly relational. People will take time off work or even spend their free time hanging around our teams. If the average person goes to church for one hour every week, they will go for 52 hours in one year. In a month, you could have more time with a person than a church gets in a year. How much impact could you have if you spent multiple hours with someone every day for a month? Or even two weeks?

In your own life, have you ever had one conversation with someone you barely knew that changed your life? How many of those conversations can you have with a person in a week?

It’s easy to think we need to know someone for years in order to really impact them, but I can think of conferences I’ve been to, or people I’ve only a handful of conversations with who have drastically impacted both my faith and my walk with the Lord.

If you focus on getting people connected to Jesus and showing them how to be continually connected to Him even after you are gone, you can have huge impact in a short amount of time.

The question is: will you?

A short term trip comes with a gift: the urgency borne out of the limited time you are on the field. Will you be intentional with every moment, every relationship, every opportunity—not only on a mission trip but in your everyday life?

The choice is yours.

Bill Swan is the director of the World Race. Before coming to Adventures, he was in youth ministry for 5 years. He’s spent the past seven years specifically working on how to train people to disciple others in the context of short term missions.