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Short term mission toolkit: Learn

Learning ahead of time about context, culture, history, current events and the ways of life of the people you are visiting can help prepare mission trip participants for experiences that transform those who are going and those who are hosting.

What do Presbyterians believe?

Presbyterians Do Mission in Partnership (English)
The practice of partnership guides our whole connectional church. It guides us individually as members, officers and pastors. It guides us collectively as congregations, presbyteries, synods, General Assembly ministries and related institutions. This document paraphrases a policy statement adopted by the 215th General Assembly (2003) regarding mission in partnership.

Los presbiterianos hacemos misión en hermanamiento
La práctica del hermanamiento guía a toda nuestra iglesia conexional. Nos guía individualmente como miembros, líderes y pastores. Nos guía colectivamente en nuestras congregaciones, presbiterios, sínodos, ministerios de la Asamblea General, e instituciones vinculadas. Este documento parafrasea una declaración de política adoptada por la 215a Asamblea General (2003) sobre la misión en hermanamiento.

Basic Information:

  • How do we choose our destination?
    Deciding on your mission trip destination is a discernment process that can engage your congregation’s or presbytery’s mission committee and other groups. The questions in this document will help your group in the discernment process of selecting a destination.
  • Sample schedule
    Is your mission trip schedule balanced between activities, relationship-building and reflection? This template can help you think about how you plan.
  • “The importance of having travel medical insurance when traveling internationally.” A reflection from Al and Ellen Smith, long-time mission co-workers based in the States, serving also in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Poland. “Accidents can happen anywhere, and so can illness. Your hosts will do their very best to take care of you, but medical care in many foreign places is not always up to the standards we are accustomed to in the U.S.”
  • Crafting mission stories
    Sharing the mission trip experience helps other people in your church learn about people and places with which they are unfamiliar. What you say and the images you show can have a lasting impact on your listener or reader. Use these tips to help craft respectful mission stories.”


  • Mission work isn’t just a Cinderella story” A Presbyterians Today article on crossing cultures and serving in a spirit of partnership, written by Ellen Sherby, coordinator for Equipping for Mission Involvement.
  • Mission and Anti-Racism.”
    Laura Cheifetz, Assistant Dean of Admissions, Vocation, and Stewardship at Vanderbilt Divinity School, explains how looking at mission through a lens of anti-racism can help reshape our understanding of mission and how we engage in it.


  • Doing Good…Says Who? Stories from Volunteers, Nonprofits, Donors, and Those They Want to Help, by Connie Newton and Fran Early, goes deep into best practices for mission, featuring five stories that explore key principles centered on mutual respect and trust. The book includes a discussion guide. 
  • Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Mission: Leader’s Guide, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, 2014, Moody Publishers. This book goes deep into understanding poverty and culture and suggests a shift in the way short-term mission is planned and carried out. It’s a must-read for short-term mission leaders. A free, online video series accompanies the book. 

Further Study

  • Faith in Action, by Stephen Knisely and Gabrielle Beasley
    A free, downloadable two-volume set for learning and reflection on sustainable mission involvement. Interactive sessions by Gabrielle Beasley offers practical lessons and worksheets for mission education.


  • Helping Without Hurting, six-part video series, a tv production in partnership with The Chalmers Center.
    This documentary-style series of videos guides you through principles outlined in the book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, 2014, Moody Publishers.
  • The Danger of a Single Story, a TED Talk by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie.
    “Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”