More on “Mission Trips”

My last post created a decent amount of discussion. Essentially, my question was, What might be a more theologically accurate name for a missional relationship (as opposed to the typical “mission trip”)? Reminder: these are the (very basic) qualifications for a theologically-grounded missional relationship:

  • Establish ongoing relationships by returning to a particular community rather than migrating to a different locale every year.
  • Immerse the group in culture as opposed to making sure there is always something to “do.”
  • Create authentic action out of these relationships and immersion.

A few less-than-desirable descriptors came to mind:

  • Missional relationship. Though this points towards the relational component that I believe is healthy, I wonder if the term missional might smack of imperialism and hierarchy, implying that the “privileged” community will save the “under-privileged.” I also wonder if the term relationship doesn’t give enough sense of eventual direction and action, but simply implies the idea of getting to know one another, having fun, and listening to each others’ stories.
  • Justice partnership. Partnership seems to get at this idea of eventually moving toward authentic action. The goal isn’t just to hear each other out, but to authentically act in such a way to bring about justice. However, I still get the feeling that justice might suffer the same downside as missional by implying some sort of hierarchy.

The best label for this that has come to mind thus far is:

  • Cross-cultural partnership. I like this descriptor because it highlights the fact that two communities may be different, but one’s economic or social status does not make a community ontologically more or less valuable than the other. It also allows room for the very important notion that the community that is in a position of power is just as likely to benefit from the relationship as the community that is in a position of weakness. Partnership, as stated above, denotes that the relationship between the two communities will eventually be working towards a goal. The relationship is not simply grounded in emotion or education, but in action.

Does anyone else have other ideas?

Coming up with a name is pretty easy. The difficult part will be communicating to our students, parents, and church leadership why we are considering some significant changes to the way we approach what is likely the most well-attended, most-anticipated youth group event of the year, the mission trip. Once that happens, of course, then you have to actually establish and carry out one of these cross-cultural partnerships. Easier said than done.


  1. says

    matt i think you are right on the money with your comment that i think does plague the ‘mission’ field. it is this idea that ‘we’ bring is almost racial, economically driven.
    more often than not we specifically target poorer towns that the message of ‘hope’ might reach them. not sure. i find it very pressing to merely give it a name (which i know that is not the point) but to discuss the ethos behind what we do. the relational side i think is the only way in that it shows true community and body when one is actually interrogated within a town/community outside of its own and begin a communion and fellowship with that town…
    sorry for not being in the naming game right now…i’m in the process of reconstructing some thoughts on the current situations with the Episcopal division…but i promise to put my mind to it..
    oh cross-cultural out reach; cross-cultural community work….nope i got nothing 😉

  2. says

    my presbytery is involved in a relationship we’ve termed “mutual mission” with a group of churches in jamaica. each year a group of youth and adults from northeast fl travel to montego bay for a week to spend time with youth and adults there,working on a project or doing vbs together (but mostly it’s about being immersed in culture and learning what it means to be church in a different place), and then we spend a week in fl doing something similar in our community. my particular congregation does an every other year exchange with some friends in jamaica, and just this year we’re partnering with our jamaican friends to travel to cuba to form a third piece of the mutual mission.

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