I tend to be more of a cynic than I probably should be, but I believe there is no such thing as genuinely pure motives. We are all flawed and imperfect people. These flaws get blended and twisted into any decisions or actions we take. It’s hard to be self-aware when it comes to our motivations, but it’s essential to try and be honest with ourselves about it. I know one gentleman who likes to help needy organizations financially and has the deep pockets to do this. He’s unambiguous that his motivation is all about the photo op, he wants to look good to those around him, and on social media. At least he’s honest about it. (He is not one of our donors.)
If you do a quick google search on motivations, you come up with a wide range of articles with very similar threads. People are listing “The four motivations,” “The ten motivations,” etc. The examples of motivations given are frequently: money, lust, power, fear, popularity, guilt, altruism, generosity, pride, etc.
Almost everyone who participates in short-term missions wants to help, but WHY do they want to help. I once straight up asked a teenage girl who happened to stop by my office why she came on the trip. “My mom forced me to.” I was a little surprised, but I do appreciate honesty. (Fear of mom was the motivation.)
In helping to run a large(ish) non-profit with a range of donors and visiting groups, our team meets a substantial range of individuals. When we meet with group leaders, we hear a lot of the same phrases. “We’re just here to serve.” “What works best for you.” etc. but usually within a few minutes of listening or watching we can begin to see their underlying priorities and motives. Many groups come in with their agenda well before meeting with us or finding out what the real needs are. They have an agenda, and they are NOT going to be moved.
Some group leaders are all about having their team experience a great week. If while having a great week they happen to serve the children in our care, great, but it’s clearly not their priority. They show this by not asking questions, by not thinking about how their activities impact our home, by planning their week around themselves. “I know your kids have homework, but my team REALLY wants to do a craft and VBS with your kids between 2 pm and 4 pm so we can go into town later.” “We know it’s cold outside, and some of your kids are sick, but we really want to push through with the water games we had planned.”
It is very common to have a group, or many individuals in the group, be more focused on the perfect photo op. I’ve seen people pick up a shovel or wheel barrow just to take a photo and then walk away. I’m not exactly saying mission photos get staged all the time but…photos get staged all the time. If you want to see your team’s real motivation, ask them to put their phones away for a few days and don’t take pictures. Rebellion is the usual response. Why do any of us post things online? Is it about encouraging others, or about competing with others to look like we have the perfect life?
Some groups come in assuming they know better than our team how things should be run. They are here to “save us from ourselves.” (pride) I’m aware we have a LOT of room for improvement, and we do learn from others all the time. But when someone comes in less to help, and more to judge or criticize what we do, it gets old fast. We appreciate input or questions but we live with the children in our care, we live in our community, we understand the culture, we have an intimate knowledge of the needs and challenges that go on every day.
We do appreciate the short-term mission teams. Most groups are a huge blessing, and we could use some more! This rambling blog on motivations has the goal of causing self-reflection. Why do we do what we do? This question applies to short-term missions, as well as every other area of our lives. Our motivations have a dramatic impact on every relationship in our lives. It is the lens we use to view and interact with our world.
Motivation can be boiled down to just one question: Who am I serving? Am I serving myself, or am I serving God? If we’re honest with ourselves, this is not an easy question to answer. For almost everyone, it can be a sliding scale. We (I hope) are all trying to serve our Lord more each day, but that gets blended into so many otherworldly motivations. Approval of others, comfort, jealousy, pride, greed, etc. always creep in. I know I question or doubt my true motives all the time.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Phil 3:8
The paradox is, the purer our motivation, the greater blessing we ultimately receive. The more we try to follow in the pure example of service that Jesus gives, the more our emotional needs are met. As we grow closer to Christ, the worldly motivations fade away. Money, pride, power, etc. really do become worthless compared to the things of God. This is a worthy motivation.
Any donations to support our mission efforts are greatly apprecated. A dollar or two through the “donate” button would mean a lot. Thanks.
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