By Blake Hart
Churches worldwide are committed to mission; whatever that may mean in their particular contexts, churches know that there is a “sentness” about being called church. We are sent into the world to give testimony to Jesus Christ.
In many North American churches, one of the primary ways this is manifested is through short-term mission trips. Small groups travel the world doing projects in response to their encounter with God in scripture and worship. Recently, however, we’ve grown to realize that much of what has been historically done on mission trips has been less than beneficial.
Some have pointed out that the amount of money spent on taking construction teams could build more houses and employ local builders if the money were simply donated to the building efforts. Others have demonstrated that many of our best intentions lead to increased dependency and often times only served to entrench cultural stereotypes, paternalistic thinking, and colonial mindsets.
Defenders of short-term missions argue that what is often more important is the spiritual transformation of those who participate on such trips. They point to transformed lives, perhaps their own, and argue that for the church, short-term missions provides a needed discipleship tool.
It would seem that many trips, however, aren’t structured to that end. Work takes the priority and very little time is given to reflection, learning, and relationship building, all of which are vital components of any discipleship endeavor.
It was this very dilemma that lead us to create PilgriMission. Many of those who wrote for PilgriMission have been deeply affected by short-term missions experiences in our past but have also grown to see it’s many shortcomings and downsides. We wanted to find a way to help churches and individuals experience transformation while doing truly transformative work with their neighbors. In short we wanted them to experience the transformation of pilgrimage, while practicing a mission of transformation in the world.
That’s what PilgriMission hopes to offer. The goal is that any team, regardless their previous experience in mission, can pick up this guide and prepare theologically, culturally, and spiritually for their trip, reflect upon the experiences they are having during their trip, and then apply their experiences to their daily lives once they return home.
One mission trip leader recently wrote us this note in response to having used PilgriMission: “I believe that more times than not we as Christians rush into the mission experience with the idea of who we’re going to help and save. The experience can and should be so much more than that, which PilgriMission helps to explain. Our trip was just as much of a pilgrimage for us as it was a mission trip. I wanted our trip to have the structure and the reflection that would be pleasing to God. This curriculum allowed our team, none of which had ever gone on mission, to have a very fruitful trip.”
Our hope is that this will be your experience as well. That you will experience pilgrimage and mission together, that you will be transformed, even as you work to help your neighbor in their own transformation.
Blake Hart serves as Mission Coordinator for CBF of South Carolina and is the creator of PilgriMission. PilgriMission is available for purchase at the CBF Store. A free companion journal to PilgriMission is also available for download.