“Yes, but go for several months.”
I know that some people say that a short-term trip is not necessary to confirm God’s direction for you in missions. I would say, however, that they can be helpful. If possible, go for several months, six months to a year if you can.
Although I guidance to go into missions since my midteens, short-term trips changed my ideas concerning what tasks or roles I should be doing in missions. I actually changed my career direction completely: I did medical training but am doing surveys for future Bible translations.
Answer from Mike, who served ten years in West Africa and North Africa on a Bible translation team with WEC International.
“Perhaps go for the long-term track from the start.”
If you are reasonably sure God wants you in missions long-term, go for the long-term track right from the start. It will save you in the end and get you on course right away.
If you’re not sure, but are open to be shown with a heart to follow fully, then a short-term experience in an area of the world in which you have an interest, or to a ministry for which you have a heart is a good approach.
Answer from Merle, who served for twenty-one years in Ethiopia and Sudan with SIM.
“Consider more of a field visit rather than a typical mission trip.”
A short-term trip can be a valuable way to test the waters and get a sense of what it would be like to be a missionary, but if you have already done a short-term or two, it’s time to think more strategically. Go on a longer trip or one that’s more focused on the kinds of things you see yourself doing.
Better yet, rather than joining a short-term team with its own itinerary and agenda (and trying to follow your own agenda on the side), consider going by yourself or with your spouse or a good friend and visiting the actual field you’d like to join. If you aren’t sure, try to set up visits to two or three likely ministries and locations so you can compare and get a sense of what the options and obstacles might be.
That kind of field visit will not hold you back or distract you from preparing to go long-term, but will instead serve as an important step in finding your fit and figuring out what it will take to get there. You’ll have a much better idea of what you’re getting into and can better share that vision with family members, friends, and supporters.
Many of the teams sent out by the agency I serve with require new applicants to make a field visit before they come long-term. I think it’s a wise policy.
Answer from Marti, who has served in missions for twenty years, currently with Pioneers.
See also Mission Trips That Move You Forward: Stepping Stones to Long-term Service (published on ShortTermMissions.com)