New Publication Examines North American Short-term Missions

Engaging the Church: Analyzing the Canvas of Short-term Missions
Edited by Laurie Fortunak and A. Scott Moreau
2008, 235 pp.
published by Evangelism and Missions Information Service 

For some North American churches, the number and frequency of short-term mission trips can be a badge of honor of sorts. Short-term mission trips “overseas” can be incredible times of ministry, connection with other cultures, and personal spiritual growth—or they can be a “rite of passage” for teenagers, something to add to a college application or to put on a FaceBook page, or, at their worst, an exotic vacation that offers “a great way to purchase souvenirs from around the world.” In many circles, the debate continues over the long-term (and even the immediate) impact of such trips on the goers, senders, and host groups.


Have we gone too far in encouraging churches to engage their members in short-term mission trips? If so, at what expense—both literally and figuratively? Do the national and field workers who play host to these trips find them beneficial—or are they more of a distraction to their real work? Are there lessons that can be learned?

Engaging the Church: Analyzing the Canvas of Short-term Missions is a new book from the Evangelism and Missions Information Service at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College that seeks to offer a historical perspective on short-term missions, while also providing an honest critique of this decades-old trend that is a fixture in many churches.

The book, edited by Laurie Fortunak, editorial coordinator for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, and A. Scott Moreau, professor of intercultural studies at the Wheaton College Graduate School, brings together more than thirty articles from past editions of Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ).1

Articles have been placed in six sections that allow the reader to focus on one particular area or read through the entire book, thus allowing the articles to build upon one another. The sections include:

  • Biblical and spiritual foundations of short-term missions
  • History and trends of short-term missions
  • Critiques and suggestions for change and improvement in short-term missions
  • Types of short-term missions
  • Case studies in short-term missions
  • Resources for short-term missions

Mission leaders such as Scott Bessenecker, Gary Corwin, Paul Borthwick, Jim Reapsome, and others remind us of the costs of ill-prepared and self-centered short-term mission volunteers while also emphasizing that short-term mission trips are vital to many churches’ commitments to cross-cultural mission.

Fortunak says the book is designed as a resource for churches and individuals who are beginning short-term mission work and for those who are managing others involved in short-term mission work.

She adds that the desire is “to help make short-term mission efforts as God-honoring and effective as possible,” by offering a sobering, realistic look at the question of short-term missions, a trend that seems here to stay. After reading Engaging the Church, it’s likely that churches will feel compelled to closely examine their short-term mission outreaches and, the editors hope, come away challenged and encouraged to make necessary changes to the glory of God and the advancement of his work around the world.

Engaging the Church sells for $19.95USD (quantity discounts are available) and is available for purchase online by clicking here.


1. Access to EMQonline requires a subscription. A one-year subscription, which is $13.95 USD, includes access to forty-four years of EMQ archives.

Naomi Frizzell is chief communications officer for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. She also serves as managing editor for Lausanne World Pulse.