Tommy Moon, director of missions at Northwestern College, has earned a doctorate from George Fox University after successfully defending his dissertation March 17. He will graduate with a Doctor of Ministry degree in leadership and spiritual formation from the university’s school of theology, George Fox Evangelical Seminary, during commencement ceremonies May 1.
Moon’s doctoral project is entitled “Never the Same: Using Short-Term Missions as a Tool for Spiritual Formation.” As part of his degree, he created two manuals for Northwestern: one for team leaders of the college’s Spring Service Projects, and the other for “missionary interns,” or students in the college’s Summer of Service program.
Moon, who spent 17 years as a missionary in Puebla, Mexico, before joining Northwestern’s staff in 2007, describes himself as one of short-term mission’s strongest supporters—and most vocal critics. While with CAM International, he was involved in church planting, youth ministry and leadership development. He also served as a professor at Puebla Bible Seminary. During that time he hosted numerous mission teams from churches and colleges.
“It is probably the ‘goer’ who receives the most benefit from a short-term mission experience,” Moon says. “As a result, we should be intentional about designing it so it provides more than a temporary spiritual high. We should maximize the short-term mission experience in a way that contributes to the student’s overall spiritual formation.”
Moon adopts Robert Mulholland’s definition of spiritual formation as “being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” By that definition, Moon says, spiritual formation is mission-oriented. Approaching short-term missions from that starting point makes the student the humble learner and the people on site—the missionaries and nationals—spiritual mentors. “By focusing on their spiritual formation, students actually become better short-term missionaries, or short-term servants,” he says.