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Why Does PMU Do Short-Term Missions? by Rev. Casey Southerland (April 2021 Banner)

Short-term missions (STM) have been a benchmark in the lives of thousands of young (and older) Christians.  It was that time they stepped out in faith to serve the Lord in the most committed way they could find.  Sadly, it has often been an occasion for many young Americans to do little more than fulfill a selfish desire to have a grand experience and see the world, all at the expense of generous friends and family whose intention was to see God’s Kingdom expanded.

I want to be perfectly clear.  I share many of the concerns of those who criticize STM.  I have even been the recipient of teams from around the U.S. when I served as the Program Director of a ministry to a housing project in Florida.  I know STM can be ineffective, and even present problems for the laborers who remain after the team has had their mission experience and gone home.  The unfortunate stories of the failure of STM, or even the damage they may cause, are often cited as an objection to them.  Also, the financial cost of sending teams is significant and measurable.  The combination of cost and STM failures, can easily serve as an argument against participating in these sorts of gospel efforts.  On the other hand, the eternal benefits cannot be so easily quantified.

This is where I believe Team Timothy, PMU’s STM arm, differs greatly from teams that have brought into question the value of short-term gospel efforts.  An equipped team sent to the right field at the right time can be an immediate help to the missionary with a long-term effect on the local ministry, as well as the missionary family.  It also says to our missionary or the native believer, “We appreciate your labors for our Lord and we are with you for the cause of Christ!”  And it does so in a way that is scarcely possible from a distance.

It is undoubtedly true that STM are often a greater blessing to the short-term team member than to the missionary or field being served.  In some sense, this is to be expected.  Our Lord told us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35b) But it is our aim to give and to leave the blessing received in the Lord’s hands.  Sometimes the blessing comes in the form of a call to the Christian to commit his or her life to gospel ministry for the long-term.  Nearly always, team members are changed for life as their comprehension of God, His work throughout the world, and His glory in saving sinners is magnified as they join in the work.

Any Team Timothy veteran could tell you these STM are far more than giving a person a cross-cultural experience that will help them appreciate all the things they have in the US.  They are at their heart gospel-serving labors.  Team members are expected to have a high commitment to all three—the gospel, serving and labor.  Hard work happens intentionally; fun happens accidentally.  Teams go to accomplish a specific purpose which has been requested by a home or foreign missionary.  They’re a shot in the arm to a ministry that is already in place or a boost to a young ministry seeking to gain a foothold for the Kingdom of God.

In most cases, Team Timothy serves PMU missionaries, church planters or BP pastors who are requesting a team to help them with a special effort to reach their community for Christ.  Team Timothys are focused on spreading the gospel, encouraging the missionary, identifying future missionaries, and discipling team members to grow in their love for the lost and support of gospel-missions.  In this way, PMU short-term missions promote God’s glory among the nations for the long-term.

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