A Go-To Guide for Helping in Short-Term Missions (Book Review)

Corbett, Steve and Brian Fikkert. Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions: Leader’s Guide. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL. 2014. 256 pages.

This summer I will be joining a team from my church on a short-term trip to the Philippines. We have a missionary we support there. On this trip, we will follow along in the ministries he leads and oversees, and we will serve alongside of him. Because of the price of the trip, a few prospective team members have raised concerns whether spending money for such a trip is worth the cost. The question “Wouldn’t it be better to just send the money for the ministries over there?” is an understandable one. It is a question of stewardship and one that gets answered in Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert’s book Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions.

Reforming the Vision of Short-Term Missions

Building off their transforming work, When Helping Hurts, Corbett and Fikkert hone in specifically on short-term missions and call for a reformation. They set out to guide church leaders and team members through a renewed vision for short-term trips that contribute to a long-term process of engagement. This particular resource is broken up into two different halves. The first half of the book is the leader’s guide involving two parts. Part 1 lays out the biblical foundation and holistic understanding of mission while showing the cost of short-term missions and a better way forward. Part 2 gets practical and describes how to implement this new vision for short-term mission trips. Each chapter ends with a “Takeaways” section, encouraging the leader to do more than just read but also heed what the authors are saying.

The second half of the book is an annotated participant’s guide, providing direction for the leader to guide his or her group through the material. While additional resources, such as teaching videos and individual participant’s guides, need to be purchased, this resource gives adequate details to lead the group. This portion of the book is divided into 8 units, broken up into two phases: Pre-trip Training and On- and Post-field Engagement. The participant’s guide also includes two resource modules for fundraising and understanding cultural norms.

An Honest Assessment and Holistic Approach

Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions gives an honest assessment and a holistic approach of short-term missions. In an effort to help, many church leaders and mission teams have imposed their way of doing things without input from those they are going to serve and share. This book highlights that uncomfortable truth. The vision for short-term missions has been short-sighted, looking at what work can be accomplished in a short period of time. Rather, the reformed vision put forth is short-term missions with a long-term view of learning, engaging, and investing in relationships. To hold onto the former way of short-term missions can actually produce more harm than help. The way forward in stewarding missions well is by “being with” and “doing with”, not “doing for” (Corbett and Fikkert 53).

While a structure for the leader’s guide reflecting the structure of the units in the participant’s guide would have been helpful, it does not take away from the value of this guide. This resource is sure to be a go-to resource for church leaders and short-term teams. The material presented will challenge the way many teams and churches currently do short-term mission trips, but the encouragement is to see this as an opportunity to be a part of reforming the vision of short-term missions. As this reformed vision of short-term trips is applied, churches and teams will be witnesses to short-term trips that have a long-term process and commitment to help and not hurt those they are there to serve and share.

If you desire to serve the church well in short-term missions and if you seek to faithfully steward the call to care for those in poverty, then you need to get this book. If you are a church leader or someone who is committed to serving in short-term missions, then this is the book for you. I know that as I continue to prepare for a short-term trip to the Philippines this summer with a group from my church, I will be better prepared and well-equipped to steward this experience because of the wisdom and guidance Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert share in Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions.

I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

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