What do you call a missionary who thinks he’s on vacation? A vacationary!

The word “derisive” in the definition may be a little harsh. I’m probably going to change the first line of the definition to “A term for a person on a short-term mission trip… (etc.); the tone of the term may be either playful or derogatory.”


vacationary n. [vacation + missionary] A derisive term for a person on a short-term mission trip who may lack formal missionary or evangelistic training and who may be treating the trip as a vacation.
2006 MacDonald “On a Mission—a Short-Term Mission” USA Today (18 Jun.) : Judd Birdsall, former managing editor of The Review of Faith & International Affairs, a Christian journal, grew up in Japan in an evangelical missionary home. Too often these days, he says, untrained short-term missioners—or “vacationaries”—offend indigenous populations and undermine hard-earned relationships cultivated by long-term missionaries over many years. 2008 Salmon “Churches Retool Mission Trips” Washington Post (5 Jul.) 13 : Not long ago, the families of Fairfax Presbyterian Church spent thousands of dollars to fly their teens to Mexico for eight days of doing good. They helped build homes and refurbish churches as part of an army of more than 1 million mostly Christians who annually go on short-term international mission trips to work and evangelize in poverty-stricken lands…. Critics scornfully call such trips “religious tourism” undertaken by “vacationaries.” 2009 Hoke, Taylor Global Mission Handbook 125 : And North Americans evidently have enough discretionary funds to travel the world on short-term service projects—and increasingly Latins, Asians, and Africans are doing the same. Many are questioning the entire venture, and perhaps with reason. Some call it mere “glorified sightseeing, funding vacationaries,” and wonder whether it’s worth the cost.
  • tkbeyond

    From a long-term missionary’s perspective, derisive is not so harsh. A couple of the national pastors (& their ministries) I’ve worked with over many years could be supported for a year or two with the funds it takes to send a small short-term team somewhere. Sad but true. Cynical? No, just reality. And I became a long-term missionary after going on a couple short-term mission trips, so I’m not completely down on short-term. But the vacationary… well, not so supportive.
    thanks, I enjoy reading your posts.

    • timoteostewart

      Thank you for speaking up.

  • Ecuador Missionary

    Sadly, short-term missions is sliding more towards a vacation than actual ministry/missions. A very recent short-term mission team from my home church went to Nicaragua for eight days with the goal of developing closer unity among the team members and families on the trip. part of their “outreach” ministry” was to take their Nicaraguan ministry partners to an beach resort for 3-4 days where they could relax, swim in the ocean, have spa treatments, and restaurant dining.

    I also recently saw an ad from a mission agency promoting a 14 day “mission trip” to Ecuador; four days visiting the mountains, four days in the jungle, and four days visiting the Galapagos Islands and there will be a 1/2 day of ministry in each of those three areas.

    You say that “vacationary” it is a derisive term… I wonder what God would call the actions of the people who promote these trips and attend them? I think what God would say would not be called “derisive” or “harsh” but something far far worse. Maybe God would use words like “blasphemous” or damnable”

    I am certain that Paul did not go to the mission field with the purpose to “bond” with his fellow team members, go sight seeing, stay in nice air-conditioned hotel by the sea, or eat three meals a day at a fancy restaurant. And…I know that 99% of the long-term, career missionaries are more like Paul.

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