Re-imagining Short-Term Missions

This book is for those who suspect that current practices of short-term missions are in need of serious reform.


It is a platform for STM practitioners and visionaries who are calling for better ways for the church to engage the needs of the world.


The essays here are intended to equip and inspire any who want to advocate for change, but may not yet know what change looks like.


In sharing their experiences, the authors hope to promote critical rethinking and creative reimagination about the ways that the global church might learn to collaborate on a new basis of coequality and mutual respect—for the good of the world and the glory of God.


I recommend reading this book before embarking on a short-term mission trip. It will open the minds and hearts of those who want their experience to be respectful and to serve to create a more egalitarian world that brings us closer to the kingdom of God.

Erika Alvarez, Gestora de proyectos en Casa Adobe, Costa Rica


Burns & Inslee’s reader offers vital, creative insight into short-term mission (STM) endeavor. Healthy (trans)formation is the core focus. Interweaving theory and practice, the text’s globe-spanning forty-plus contributors share valuable reflections. The volume is challenging and invigorating while also being accessible and practical. There is meaningful material for systemic and local focus, for classrooms of the academy and classrooms of the streets. This work is a significant contribution to the conversation.

Clint Baldwin, Executive Director/CEO of Word Made Flesh International


This book speaks the hard truth that current STM practices are “broken, dysfunctional, and theologically-suspect.” And yet, despite this difficult message, the writers communicate deep hope and great joy in their vision for life-giving potential (for both hosts and guests) when Christ-followers commit to the long-term work of building real relationships with cultural others. Here is practical guidance, theological clarity, and inspirational leadership to help move us beyond shallow adjustments to genuine transformation.

Dr. Debbie Bayes, Intercultural Consultant, Culture Crux


Written largely by those on the “receiving” end of short-term mission trips, this book gives keen and deep insights into the challenges and benefits of these visits. Rooted in a plethora of actual examples, it provides practical suggestions for a Christ-centered approach that puts relationships first within a convicting framework of mutuality & unity, humility & repentance, curiosity & teachability, and creativity & contextualization.  An absolute must read for all engaged in these endeavors!

 Dr. David Bronkema, Associate Professor, Eastern University and co-author of Advocating for Justice:  An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structure


The authors of this book not only explore the present status of STMs in a clear-eyed fashion, but offer important ‘maps’ for developing new systems that will make the Church stronger and more able to truly live as Christ followers in the present world. A must-read for Christian leaders from both sides of the economic and political divide!   

Randall Borman, Director Ejecutivo, Fundacion Sobrevivencia Cofan, Ecuador


If you’ve ever been involved in STMs you will have a hard time putting this book down. What I love about it is the diverse community it represents—practitioners and scholars from around the world, inviting us into conversation about this this urgent topic: The impacts of doing STMs without thoughtful engagement have been devastating, and we must now find the courage to engage in the hard conversations that will lead to better practices. 

Dr. Greg Burch, Director of Global Development and Justice, Multnomah University


 So often ‘missions’ is a transactional exchange. In Reimagining, this view is replaced with a more humanized and Christ-centered perspective where people give, take and relate together in relationship. Practitioners and scholars will benefit equally as this volume exhorts us to grow as Jesus’ students as we do ‘missions’. With this tool, we can begin to re-craft global missions to more closely align with God’s own heart for spiritual, physical, emotional and mental well-being.

Dr. John Cranmer, Principal Investigator, Emory-Ethiopia’s Global Implementation Research Partnership to End Death in Pregnancy


The authors in this book make the case for a healthy paradigm shift towards better engagement between communities across the globe. Readers will benefit from the wisdom drawn from experienced practitioners who show us how to pursue a dynamic mutual transformation in various cultural contexts. This book is must-read for any who would be part of truly effective short-term missions.

Jesse Crock, Vice President, World Outreach Ministry Foundation


Finally! A book that helpfully addresses the troublesome and critically important questions that surround short-term service projects. This is a must read for anyone considering organizing a project. The diverse authors each bring vital insights. Not just an anti-STM, anti-neo colonialism rant, it provides pivotal insights for how to approach STM in ways by which everyone will benefit and the gospel of God’s grace be honored. 

Rev. Dr. Tim Dearborn, author of Short-term Missions Preparation Workbook


I can’t think of a timelier read for guiding individuals, communities, and faith-based relief & development organizations as they navigate this pivotal moment in time. Global events have forced us to take a hard, evaluate look at why we travel—and most crucially, how and why we do programming. This essay collection urges us to do work that must be done if we want to serve one another according to truly just and loving principles. 

Sarah Ena, Global Advisor—Safety, Security & Risk, World Vision International


Reimagining Short-term Missions is the best book I have read so far that helps to evaluate and re-think the purpose and practice of STM. I love the concept of copowerment and the long-term benefits for everyone. After hosting numerous teams over the last twenty years, I have often longed for a better ethos concerning short term missions—and this book provides it! I will be recommending it to all STMs teams from now on. 

April Foster, Co-founder and Director, Breaking Chains Network, Belgium


Re-Imagining Short-term Missions is a tremendous achievement.  For decades short-term missions have had a noteworthy impact on communities and ministry organizations around the world.  Sometimes with great value and sometimes with disastrous outcomes, but usually somewhere in between.  This work pulls together diverse voices with well-informed perspectives. It asks critical questions and offers fresh perspectives.  It will undoubtedly shape the vision and practice of STM for years to come!  It is a must-read for anyone involved in overseas ministry.

Myal Greene, CEO, World Relief


I have a love-hate relationship with short-term mission trips that too often are more about collecting Instagram fodder than anything related to the Kingdom of God. These essays offer insightful ways forward to something more beautiful--even while unapologetically naming the things that undermine the Ways of Jesus. Here are some practical pathways to follow, and practiced theological perspectives from a global community of voices that can help us reimagine the future.  

Ruth Hubbard, InterVarsity VP, Director of the Urbana Student Missions Conference


In rethinking short-term missions we need to strike a balance. A balance between the ethos of those being served, and the ethos of those serving. By giving us perspectives from a wide spectrum of stakeholders, this essay collection does just that. Brilliant! 

Jason Lyle, CEO, 10:15 Foundation

Pastor Hillary Wafula, Lumino Town Baptist Church, and Administrator, Bright Hope Orphanage, Uganda


This compilation of insightful and thought-provoking essays marries real-world experience with international development best practices. The authors offer hope for changing a broken system, and challenging what is, to be frank, the theologically shallow approach to short-term missions that the American church has adopted over the past five decades. Most importantly, this book proclaims the hard but necessary truth that lasting change requires deep, trusting relationships. 

Jesse Martin, Chief Operating Officer, Advancing Native Missions


 An exceptional resource for thoughtful practitioners, this essay collection offers a diverse range of global voices sharing insights and examples from personal experience, along with recommendations for effective STM ministry. Organized around essential values for reframing practice, reflection and application, the questions following each section invite readers to consider implications for their ministry contexts. A “must read” for mission leaders on both the sending and receiving end of STM!

Dr. Rhonda McEwen, Associate Professor of Education & Culture, Regent College, Canada


This book urges us to enter into short-term missions with a willingness to learn and defer. As a Black man, I resonate with this admonition, since I’ve often interacted with people who have presumed that they knew more about my communities than I did—even though they did not live with or look like the residents. While this book doesn’t attempt to address all of the problems with STM, I’m ordering it for all my staff! 

Jimmy McGee III, CEO/President, The Impact Movement


This book shows exactly where our conversation as a church full of “helpers” needs to be. I celebrate that it is no longer good enough for our hearts to simply “be in the right place”. Instead we must challenge one another to a much higher standard of socio-cultural understanding. This essay collection shows that to truly be Christ’s hands and feet, we must first seek a deeper awareness of ourselves and of our neighbors.

Alexis Miller, International Director, Not Abandoned


From my experiences hosting short-term teams in Thailand, I can affirm the message of many of the authors in this book: If foreigners want to be part of impactful work that is sustainable for the long term, they must form authentic relationships with the local people and to work alongside them as coequals. This book helps us to understand why this must become the new normal for short-term missions, and shows us where to begin.

Supunnee Pargul, Program Director, Shared Space for All, Thailand


Written by people with a posture of humility, cultural sensitivity and a heart for partnership, this compilation of beautiful and articulate essays is a breath of fresh air for a practice that has become stale, unhealthy and ineffective. What makes it especially powerful are the voices of those who have been wounded by their experiences of STM’s and who long for healthier expressions of God’s heart for the world. 

Maj. Sandra Pawar, The Salvation Army USA, Southern Territory


After 34 years working in Christian mission, I’ve no doubt that short-term missions needs fundamental reassessment and transformation. The authors in this valuable volume provide an honest and clear-headed assessment that is a good place to start. I especially appreciate the honest yet hopeful voices of those who have been on the receiving end of careless STM. Seriously: If you are involved in either sending or receiving short-term teams, this book is a critical resource. 

Dr. Bill Prevette, Research Supervisor, Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and Missionary Scholar in Residence, Vanguard University


I love this book! Burns and Inslee not only preach a message of collaboration but have woven it into the fabric of their methodology.  Inviting a variety of voices to the table, deconstructing old patterns of paternalism, while building a model of symbiotic relationships and deep listening in the world we are called to love. 

Dr. Ron Ruthruff, Associate Professor, The Seattle School and author of The Least of These: Lessons Learned from Kids on the Street


This is the most important book about short-term missions I have read for a long time. The COVID pandemic forced us to rethink life, faith and the inequalities within our society. It should also encourage us to rethink short-term missions and some of the bad practices that dishonor people and reinforce global inequalities. 

Dr. Christine Sine, author of The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting In God


When it comes to equipping Christ-followers for cross-cultural engagement, this book should be required reading in colleges, seminaries, and missions-minded churches. It features an impressive array of innovators and theological thinkers who challenge us with paradigm-changing insights. Its authors invite Christians in both the Global South and North to learn to work with one another as co-creators—and to imagine new forms of intercultural community and service that more authentically and compellingly reflect the ways of Jesus.

Dr. Tom Sine, author of 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change


Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Short-term missions have become a major part of local church ministry for years, but often with little evaluation and too little regard for those hosting them. This book offers helpful and hopeful content that not only recognizes key issues with STMs but also gives a litany of helpful counsel for future trips. This is a must-read book for anyone involved in the leadership of STMs.

Dr. Ed Stetzer, Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership, Wheaton College 


Once upon a time, a small American church decided that, rather than spend thousands of dollars sending a team overseas, they would ask a young man from Africa to travel to them,so they could help him get education in medicine and community development. When he returned to Burkina, he started a Christian school and a medical clinic that continue to bear witness to God’s love even today. That young man was me--and I stand with these authors when they contend: With imagination and courage we can discover better ways to love and serve the world.

Dr. Caleb Tindano, Clinique Médicale Shalom, Burkina Faso


This collection of essays is a timely word from and for followers of Jesus around the world who desire to engage in short-term mission in a way that reflects the humility of Christ and honors the Imago Dei in every person. The authentic reflections from diverse perspectives will enrich, challenge, and convict readers and, Lord willing, serve as catalysts on a shared journey towards a new and better vision for mission.

Katie Toop, Senior Director of Transformational Development, World Concern


This very honest book  reflects well the views of those of us in Latin America who work with visiting teams. What a difference it would make if everyone believed (as these authors do) that the primary purpose of short-term missions is to foster relationships between brothers and sisters for the sake of a truly global church! This book casts vision for a new way forward that is more contextually relevant, effective, and dignifying.

Mizraim Tovar, Director del Campus

Karla Mendoza, Directora Estudiantil, El Centro Liderazgo, Honduras 


Short-term mission trips were my gateway to a life in long-term missions overseas, and I highly recommend this book for both STM participants and hosts. The real-world stories in this volume compel readers to take a hard look at their own experiences, while the questions in each section promote the necessary discussion to imagine a new way forward. 

Susanne Walter, Director, Youth With A Mission Community Development School, Mexico


Burns and Inslee packed a lot of wisdom into Re-Imagining Short-Term Missions. As a trained missiologist, I urge you: don’t plan another trip until you and your team have studied this book together. It will make a world of difference for everyone involved.  

Rev. Dr. Randy Woodley, Professor, Portland Seminary and author of Decolonizing Evangelicalism


As a Turkish national who has hosted short-term teams in Istanbul, I highly welcome and recommend this honest book. These essays explain some of the common mistakes that are made, but also provide balanced, seasoned wisdom for nurturing collaboration and mutual learning. I am certain that this book will be a blessing for all who want more holistic understanding that can only lead to better approaches to STM. 

Rev. Engin Yildirim, Church of England, UK


"Emerging from the global pandemic and the forced pause in short-term mission trips, it is imperative we ask ourselves the critical questions surfaced from these thought-provoking insights from respected missional leaders. This book is a must read for any organization, church or team leader who desires to improve the impact and effectiveness of their short-term mission teams."

Rich Rice, Founder and Executive DIrector, WIND