‘Voluntourism’ – More than Good… Actually Really Awesome


     I used to agree with this concept: Voluntourism ultimately does more harm than good. It is not cost effective. It is more self-serving than serving those who truly need help.
From a Whitworth missiology class I remember the cost of ONE short-term mission tripper could pay the living expenses of a local missionary (“a national”) for an entire YEAR.

     Why are we doing these touristy trips? 

     However my view of short term missions changed from criticism to advocacy, and here’s why:

Short term missions are profoundly worthwhile in the long-run.

Consider some shamefully anecdotal evidence: As a bright-eyed 14 year old, I felt ridiculous driving all the way to Tijuana to do Vacation Bible School for some poor kids who obviously needed a lot more.  This was the perfect example of “volunteerism” as the author puts it.  However the author stops there.  You see that trip to Mexico stirred a passion in me that has launched me into full-time mission work. 

barbie volunteerism toxic short terms missions     My question to those who view short term missions as silly, uneconomical, and even “destructive to the community” (author’s words, not mine) I offer this: How many full time missionaries do you know started with a short term mission trip?  For myself personally I could name +20 people who are 100% integrated in foreign cultures, giving their lives to tell other cultures about heaven… and each one started with a short term mission trip. I could name +20 more who don’t live overseas but give and support passionately because they went to Zimbabwe for 1 week.

Yes short term missions is not perfect evangelism meant for everyone.  But by no means should we feel guilty or look down on those who preach Christ differently or even unwisely.

In a nut shell I am an advocate of people preaching Christ through ANY MEANS POSSIBLE.

Yes, that’s radical, but I derive my thinking from Paul who said (my paraphrase), “I don’t care if people preach Christ through stupid methods… as long as Christ is being preached.”

 “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.”
– Philippians 1:15-18