Canadian Evangelical Missions Engagement Study

22 February 2017

Report 1: Canadian Evangelicals and Short-Term Missions

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Executive Summary

The Canadian Evangelical Missions Engagement Study Series is the first ever comprehensive national research on how Canadian Evangelicals engage with “mission” or “missions.” With over 3,400 Canadians polled and qualitative interviews with 56 Evangelicals, this series of reports provides a snapshot of how and why Canadian Evangelicals engage with missions, and forms a baseline for future study.

Forthcoming reports in this series will look at: long-term, career missions; mission communication and local church promotion; local church mission budgets and local church mission priorities; and mission definitions and mission geography.

First in the series, this report looks at Evangelical practice and belief with respect to short-term missions: who goes on short-term mission trips, where they go, what they do, and what motivates them to go on these trips.

Who goes on short-term missions trips?

Pastors, frequent attenders and younger Evangelicals are more likely to go on short-term missions trips, as are Evangelical lay people from larger congregations or in Canada’s western provinces.

  • Two-thirds of evangelical pastors (67%) and one-fifth of evangelical lay people (22%) reported going on at least one short-term missions trip (STMT) in the past decade.
  • Lay people who attended religious services at least weekly in the last year were 8 times more likely to have taken a STMT in the last decade than those who attended religious services just once or a few times in the last year.
  • Younger Evangelicals were more likely to have taken a STMT than older Evangelicals. Lay Generation Y (Gen-Y) Evangelicals were twice as likely to have gone on a STMT than the next most frequent trip takers, Generation X (Gen-X). One in three Gen-Y Evangelicals went on a STMT in the last decade compared to just one in seven Evangelicals from the Silent generation.
  • Both pastors and lay people from larger congregations were more likely to have taken a STMT than those from smaller congregations.
  • Lay people from western provinces more likely to have taken a STMT than those from the East.

Where do they go and for how long?

Many short-term missions trips are close to home and the duration is usually two weeks or less.
  • One in five STMTs by lay people in the last decade were to locations in Canada. A common sentiment in the qualitative interviews was that STMT and mission resources needed to be “rebalanced” back to Canada to deal with spiritual and physical poverty at home.
  • Nearly one-third of missions trips were to locations in the United States, Mexico or the Caribbean.
  • Younger Evangelicals were more likely to stay closer to home on STMTs than older ones.
  • ​Three quarters of lay STMTs and 80% of pastor STMTs lasted two weeks or less. Trips made to closer destinations tended to be shorter in duration than those to more distant locations.

How much do they spend?

  • On average, pastors reported spending $2,118 on their most recent STMT compared to $1,691 for lay people. Generally speaking, pastors reported spending more on STMTs than lay people even for trips to the same locations.
  • Older lay Evangelicals, those from larger churches and those from the West tended to spend more on STMTs than those who were younger, from smaller churches or lived in the East.

Why do they go?

  • Three-quarters of pastors agreed that STMTs are an important form of discipleship for their local congregation.
  • About two-thirds of pastors and half of lay people agreed that the spiritual growth of STMT team members was the primary purpose of these trips.
  • Many see non-Christians’ participation on STMTs as a form of outreach to those non-Christian team members. Two-thirds of pastors agreed that spots on STMTs should be made available to non-Christians who have skills and abilities to contribute.

What do they do on these trips?

The STMT tasks most frequently reported were those that could be accomplished in a short timeframe.

  • The five most commonly cited STMT tasks were: building, construction and repair; vacation Bible school; evangelism and discipleship; encouraging missionaries; and working with orphans and orphanages.
  • The least commonly cited STMT tasks were: social justice; teaching English or French as a second language; combating human trafficking; environmental stewardship; and peace and reconciliation ministry.

Download the complete report as a PDF document

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