John Piper says yes.
They can be.
At the time of this recording, this coming weekend our church will do another seminar with an expert in short-term missions. He will seek to train leaders to make them what they ought to be.
A huge thing is that you should only go where you’re wanted.
You don’t foist yourself on a missionary. I have had missionaries say, “Frankly, short-term teams are more trouble than they’re worth.” So you don’t do that! Don’t make yourself more trouble than you’re worth. If somebody doesn’t want you to come and they don’t have a plan for how it advances their mission, then, good grief, don’t take a vacation, grab your eighteen teenagers, and go make some missionary’s life miserable.
Rather, talk to the missionaries. Work out a plan. And if they want you to come, then come.
That way it should work out both ways. If older people, or young people, or multi-generational teams are really serving, pouring themselves out according to the needs of the missionary, then it’s the best of both worlds.
For one, though it may not feel like the fun and games some were hoping for, it will be deeply satisfying, because it is more blessed to give than to receive. And, secondly, it will be helpful to the missionary, because he is able to get some projects done that he hoped to get done.
So the answer is not an easy one, it’s not a simple one. Yes, short-term trips can be a mess. But yes, they can be worth the work and energy and finances.
One of the payoffs is that there is scarcely today an under-fifty missionary on the field who didn’t do a short-term mission before they went out. The testimonies are widespread that tastes of what mission life might be like were gotten on short-term trips.
So I’m for them. And Brad Nelson, who oversees them now at Bethlehem, knows the issues really well. And he’s not going to force any of our teams on anybody that doesn’t want them. And he’ll see to it that they are fruitful.