Best Practices for Short-Term Missions

Kristen K. White, PhD

May 2024

In the late 1990s, an interdenominational network of over a thousand ministry mobilizers codified the seven Standards Of Excellence in short-term missions. An excellent short-term mission has: 

  1. God-Centeredness: seeks first God’s glory and His kingdom and is expressed through our purpose, lives, and methods.
  2. Empowering Partnerships: establishes healthy, interdependent, ongoing relationships between sending and receiving partners and is expressed by focus, plans, and mutual trust.
  3. Mutual Design: collaboratively plans each specific outreach for the benefit of all participants, and is expressed by on-field methods, goer-guests, and host-receivers.
  4. Comprehensive Administration: exhibits integrity through reliable set-up and thorough administration for all participants and is expressed by truthfulness, appropriate risk, and quality programs.
  5. Qualified Leadership: screens, trains, and develops capable leadership for all participants and is expressed by character, skills, and values.
  6. Appropriate Training: prepares and equips all participants for the mutually designed outreach, expressed by biblical, ongoing training from qualified trainers.
  7. Thorough Follow-Through: assures evaluation, debriefing, and appropriate follow-through for all participants and is expressed by comprehensive, thoughtful debriefing for goers and evaluation by all partners.

With these seven standards in mind, The Timothy Project launched Omega, a 9-week discipleship program for college interns considering long-term ministry in either a local or global context. In May 2023, TTP established a partnership with a ministry in Uganda that designed a 40-day ministry internship with local believers to meet the local community’s physical and spiritual needs. After the leadership interviewed and screened applicants in November 2023, we invited eight participants to serve on a mid-term mission journey for 40 days from June 14 – July 23, 2024.

As the director of Omega, my calling is to train and equip God’s people for acts of good service, so our team training began in December 2023, which means by the time we finish debriefing in late July 2024, we will have been engaged with these eight young brothers and sisters for eight months. We have already met nine times – about every three weeks – for 90 minutes via Zoom, which is a total of about 13 hours of virtual training.

On May 27, we finally came together for the first time to launch our 2-week in-person training. We will meet for about 11 hours daily, Sunday through Friday (Saturday is our sabbath rest.), so we estimate that our Omega interns will have almost 150 hours of cross-cultural training and biblical discipleship before embarking overseas for their 40 days of service. 

A typical day of training

  • 8:30 team devotional and worship led by Omega intern
  • 9:00 guest instructor (usually a TTP leader) teaches a spiritual discipline
  • 11:00 practical ministry preparation for Uganda
  • 12:00 lunch sponsored by a partnering ministry
  • 13:30 experiential learning activity
  • 16:00 practical ministry preparation for Uganda
  • 17:00 travel to a church member’s house
  • 17:30 various church members provide family dinner with intentional conversation
  • 19:30 day complete; travel to the host home, where interns stay for the two weeks

Please pray for our inaugural cohort of Omega interns: Abi, Anthony, Corrin, Gibson, Lauren, Luis, Lydia, and Rena. Pray for renewed energy, teachable spirits, and attitudes of gratitude.