It is true that there has been case after case where a short-term volunteer or mission team inadvertently caused more harm than good while on mission. In order to maximize one’s efforts and minimize the negative fall-out, one should be familiar with some of the most common cross-cultural pitfalls. One of the best resources to get started in understanding cross-cultural principles and contexts for short-term teams is a book by David Livermore.
Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-term Missions with Cultural Intelligence by David A. Livermore. If you are going overseas, this is a MUST read. The book provides excellent insight on how volunteer teams can approach cross-cultural ministry with a stronger awareness and overall cultural intelligence. The principles outlined by Livermore are also applicable to working with in Mexico or with people groups in the United States. Livermore thoroughly researched both short-term teams as well as the people groups the teams engaged in ministry. He also addresses the debate regarding the efficacy of short-term volunteer teams, and in the end… he feels that short-term missions is worth it, when done with cultural intelligence.