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The dangers of dependency on a mission trip

(part 1) Posted in Short-term missions by Seth Barnes on 3/12/2007


If you are working with a host partner and your objective is true partnership, then you will each
work to serve one another. You communicate your objectives to your host partner and he will
work to help you achieve them You in turn communicate your need to understand and helps him
achieve his objectives.
A reader writes: One thing I'm not certain about - why shift the [STM] project site? In our case,
I have one church I work with regularly because the need is consistent and severe, I know what
to expect and can plan, and because the kids are able to establish real relationships with the
people we serve.
Its a good question. The issues of partnership and dependency are at the heart of missions. To
change locations year after year requires a lot of extra work in organizing an STM. Its far less
complicated to go back to the same place where you know the logistics and people and can
calibrate your expectations accordingly. Why would you ever go to a new location?
The answer hinges on the answers to two other questions:
What are we trying to accomplish in the lives of our STM participants?
What are we trying to accomplish in serving our host partner?
Here are some possible objectives for the STM participants:
To have their hearts broken.
To better understand and commit to the Great Commission.
To confront their own materialism.
To confront their own narcissism.
To confront their own peculiarly American A.D.D.
To learn to hear the Lords voice.
To learn how to minister.
To learn how to depend on and obey the Holy Spirit.
Here are some possible objectives for host partners:
To share Jesus love to the community in a tangible way.
To encourage the local body of Christ.
To grow the local body of Christ.
To plant a church.
To in some way disciple local believers.

The reasons for going to a new location for a missions project are largely based on the problem
of dependency. Although many sending churches, or their partners, may not recognize the
dependency, it can crop up in unnoticeable ways, both for themselves and the partner church.
Here are the most common issues surrounding dependency for partner churches:
1. Tithing is discouraged
Members of the hosting church or organization can begin to count on the assistance of their
partnering church to supply their financial needs. Not only do members recognize that their
needs are being met by an outside organization, but leaders can also begin to depend on this
assistance.
2. Tangible contributions are valued above relationship
Host churches adopt the view We dont need to do anything since our friends (internationally,
the Americans) will come help us. Although many outreaches contain a relationship element,
many involve construction and other tangible/economic advances to the partner. The host church
becomes spoiled by the partnership and ceases to do for itself what it should be doing.
3. Jealousy or competition
Contempt towards the partner can be built within the churchs community due to the relationship
built with the sending church. Although unintentional and usually misperceived, other churches
not receiving assistance compare themselves to the partner church/organization.
For the participants of the sending church, a sense of dependency can also be formed.
Most commonly, I have seen these three phenomena:
1. Comfort in ministry: Participants grow meaningful relationships with a host church, and
remain in those relationships year after year, rather than branching out. Although the first few
visits may be a stretching process, sequential visits become routine and comfortable.
2. Stagnation in teamwork: New experiences most commonly stretch a team. It is within new
places, challenges, and situations that conflict and resolution occur. Dependency upon the
normality of a location limits this process.
3. Lessened dependence upon God: For young people, growing and learning within
experiences is linked to newness. For a participant to fully depend on God, their view of
relationship, ministry, and the Holy Spirit must be stretched. New locations require this trust in
ways that familiar locations do not.
Furthermore, as participants seek to fulfill the Great Commission, it is important that they see
and experience the aspect of reaching out to new people in new places. Simply put, the Gospel is
not spread into unreached places when it always returns to those who have already heard the
message.