A Successful Missionary

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Page 10 of the new Preach My Gospel:

Your success as a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize, and confirm people and to help them become faithful members of the Church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost.

Avoid comparing yourself to other missionaries and measuring the outward results of your efforts against theirs. Remember that people have agency to choose whether to accept your message.

There it is in black and white.

I am still surprised at how many missionaries, ward mission leaders, bishops, stake presidents, and mission presidents measure their success by baptisms alone.

But how else would you go about measuring commitment??Ǭ† Why the need to measure in the first place?

10 thoughts on “A Successful Missionary

  1. Ah, the never ending battle.

    I have asked myself this question many a time. Certainly, while I was on my mission, I really felt that there was too much of a numbers game among the missionaries. After looking at the situation, I came to realize that there is probably no way to measure progress without looking at the numbers. The problem in my opinion is not the numbers, but how the numbers are used. Are these numbers looked at as a goal, or are they used more as a tool to reach the goal?

    The goal being what is listed there in black and white on page ten.

  2. A frustrating example. There was a poor guy on my mission who actually spent almost 2/3 of his time in the mission office. Elder Barrus. They let him out for his last two months and he came into my zone. He was training a new missionary and was assigned to a ward that had previously been “afflicted” with some pretty lousy missionaries for almost a year. He went to work right away, and in the “right” way. He had some pretty lofty baptismal goals, and felt a little frustrated when he went home without having reached them.

    Next set of missionaries comes in. Within a few months there are many baptisms in that ward. (More in that ward in a few months than in the rest of the stake for the previous two years in fact) Everyone in the ward, the stake, and the mission are raving about the missionaries that are doing all of this baptizing.

    I’m the guy who gets to do the baptismal interviews, and EVERY ONE of them asks me about Elder Barrus – if I’ve heard from him, how he’s doing now that he’s home, if I have a phone number so they can get in touch with him.

    The next person baptised in that ward that wasn’t “found” by Elder Barrus was a full 8 months after he left the area. While I think he’s probably beyond the need to measure the success of his mission by the number of baptisms, I’ve made sure that he’s aware of the impact that he had on that area in a very brief period of time. I guess it’s hard for us to process the idea that what we see on the surface isn’t necessarily the whole story, and we (and I) mess up our judgements on a regular basis as a result.

  3. I wonder if the best measurement is a sense of satisfaction. I guess it’s hard for Salt Lake to use this to measure church growth though.

    Wanna know how I measure success?

    Halfway through my mission we taught and baptised Mike. He was great to teach: very accepting, willing to keep commitments, asked lots of good questions.

    The week after he was baptised, he was ordained a priest. He blessed the sacrament the following week and his calling was to lock up the church ever Sunday night. Within two months, he was called as the elders quorum secretary.

    A year later, my companion-at-the-time and I were going through the temple for one last session before going home. While we were standing in line to get our clothes, in walked Mike. He was there to get his endowments.

    A second story. One of our converts, 18-year-old Tyler, was ordained a priest the Sunday after he was baptised. The following week, he blessed the sacrament, taught a new member discussion, and taught a youth Sunday School class.

    A year later, he sent me a letter telling me he was going on a mission to Australia. Since then, his parents have joined the church.

    These two experiences mean way more to me than the 50 baptisms themselves I helped with.

  4. Those are all really good examples.

    Leads me to my last question. Why are we even measuring baptism at the mission / companionship / ward / stake level?

    Let Salt Lake worry about that stuff if they can’t find anything more productive to do.

  5. “Avoid comparing yourself to other missionaries and measuring the outward results of your efforts against theirs.”

    This would be a good line to memorize and use on Nazi MPs.

  6. A successful missionary is someone who learns to come unto Christ and invites others to do the same.

  7. I agree JM. Missionaries shouldn’t really ever have to look at or worry about the numbers. That stuff should purely be in front of the GAs. Numbers are one of the best ways to determine if the way missionaries are doing their work is effective. If, teaching in one manner seems to boost baptisms, then clearly that way is an effective tool. If while working in that manner retention numbers go down, then clearly there is a problem.

    I think that Numbers should not be a factor for the average missionary. Many missionaries in my mission were numbers oriented. We had really high baptism numbers in my mission, but the retention rates were really bad.

  8. “We had really high baptism numbers in my mission, but the retention rates were really bad.”

    Do experiences like this lead you to believe that these new members become aware of something after they join that changes their opinion about the church. Is it a case of not being adequately informed?

  9. rick,

    My observations lead me to believe that it is mostly a result of disinterest.

    Leading up to the baptism, they have all this attention given to them. It really feels like they are wanted and needed by an organization / community.

    After the baptism, the missionaries drop them because they move on to teaching other people, the ward members soon forget about them, and they are pretty much abandoned and left to fend for themselves in this new culture they joined into.

    After that, they may find some history or doctrine that raises an eyebrow, but coupled with the resentment to being dropped after baptism, it leads to them harboring hostile feelings towards the orgainzation.

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