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Lingle, Robert E. How returning short term missions volunteers impact the local church. (dissertation) St. Louis: Covenant Theological Seminary, 2003.
Summary: From interviews with STM participants from Georgia Baptist Convention, author concludes that.STMs benefit local church in a variety of ways, churches respond positively to STM volunteers, STM volunteers recruit new volunteers, the role of the pastor is very important in Church-sponsored STM groups, STMs help the local church to be closer to missionary activities, volunteers who decided to go on an STM said they felt a "personal call" to do so, volunteers experienced personal change on their trips.
Methodology: Author chose the 26-church Washington Baptist Association (in central Georgia) as the study group, and out of this chose 8 churches from which to select interviewees. Between 3 and 11 (avg. 7) people were interviewed at each church, and interviews were recorded on tape.
- Accounts of previous STM participants were the highest motivating factor for people to participate in STMs.
- STM participants gained a more complex view of missionary work-realized that it's more than just preaching, that everyone in another country cannot automatically be categorized as "lost."
- Fellow church members who stayed behind were excited about what their STM volunteers were doing.
- STM participation increased churches' general missions awareness: one later lent their building to a Laotian congregation, one sent a container of supplies to Ghana after an STM there, others support pastors and congregation that they met on STMs.
- "Not all persons expressed it in words, but there was a pronounced attitude" that STMs improved one's relationship with Christ.
- Interviewees did not have much to say in response to "How have you affected others in your church regarding how they view their own culture?" Author writes, "These STM volunteers were crusaders for Christ and seemingly felt no compulsion to get involved with cultural issues or to change anyone's ideas about waste," although the experience did change their own attitudes. STM volunteers did say they were impressed with both the materialism and the material blessings of living in the US, and with the "commitment and inner peace of believers who had so little."