The Impact of Short-Term Missions on the Long-Term Missional Development of Participants


Brian L. Bain

Publication Date



In this dissertation, I address the need for post-trip training and discipleship following a short-term mission trip. To address this need, I reviewed the literature relating to short-term missions and transformative learning theory. In my review, I found that short-term mission literature is full of valuable content regarding preparing participants for a trip and even conducting a trip, but when it came to post-trip follow-up there was very little material. The transformative learning theory literature served as a very insightful frame for me to evaluate and later offer suggestions for short-term mission practitioners. This review of the literature led to my field research.

My research involved unstructured interviews, open and closed surveys, and participant observation. I interviewed both U.S. short-term mission participants and South Sudanese pastors. The surveys were entirely from U.S. participants from various churches and organizations who had travelled to South Sudan. The research examined the short-term mission experience through each of the pre-trip, trip, and post-trip phases. Through this research I come to the conclusion that not only is there a great gap in the literature but also in the popular practice of short-term missions in regard to post-trip follow-up training.

I believe that this gap represents an incredible lost opportunity in terms of discipleship and missionary development. My proposed solution is to apply transformative learning theory and adult learning practices to design short-term mission experiences in a way that better captures the disorienting dilemma of the short-term mission trip. This involves a new level of intentionality on the part of sending organizations and trip leaders to design a discipleship oriented learning experience that transcends the actual trip itself. I also provide a model for post-trip discipleship that I call Missionary Academy. Missionary Academy seeks to help people live active missional lives in their home contexts by becoming gospel fluent in the context of a gospel-centered community.

Mentor: Elizabeth L. Glanville, PhD

Degree Name

Doctor of Intercultural Studies (DIS)

First Advisor

Glanville, Elizabeth L.

Document Type



Christian missions; Discipleship; Missionary Academy; Post-trip training; Short-term missions; Transformative Learning Theory


Missions and World Christianity


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