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A short-term mission (STM) is the mobilization of a Christian missionary for a short period of time ranging from days to a year; many short-term missions are called mission trips. The short-term missionary is a fairly recent innovation in the global missions movement, but many short-term missions agencies are seeing an increased number of trips that consist of a week up to a year.
Generally, missionaries have been people sent to spread their religious faith, usually among the people of another country or region in which that faith is not widely practiced. In the past 50 years, churches have moved toward mobilizing young people for short-term trips.
The project approach has matured in the modern Short-term Missions (STM) movement and becomes a standard annual feature for thousands of Christian youth groups, church groups, and individuals across the United States. In a national survey in 2006 it was determined that 2.1% of church members of all denominations (1.6 million people) had been on a short-term mission trip in the past year, and 3.6% claimed to have participated in an STM as teens.
There are independent Short-term Missions Organizations (STMs) as well as denominations and individual churches that facilitate these trips all over the world. Many individuals going on short-term mission trips raise partial or full support from family and friends to help pay for their trip. Costs include not only travel, food and lodging but often associated project expenses as well. In recent years, a number of services like have been established to help individuals raise support for their short-term mission trips using online email and social media tools.
There has been attention paid to the shift in the form of modern short-term missionary work, which takes shape in the conflation of spiritualism with contemporary military metaphors and practices. Missionary work as spiritual warfare is the latest iteration in a long-standing relationship between Christian missions and militarization. Spiritual warriors are aggressive prayer intercessors who can pray openly in public spaces with a goal of imposing change onto another party or group. The fact that the intensification of militarization in recent years has extended to the missionary practices of some charismatic Christians does not mean that all missions, short-term or otherwise, need be implicated. But contemporary military metaphors and practices as a generative force animating the sphere of Christian spiritualism is becoming more and more notable as social militarization of everyday life increases, and should be questioned in the context of efforts to spread a particular religious faith.
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