As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! We begin with the “End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!
Elders & Sisters,
We love you! We are excited to host Elder and Sister W. Craig Zwick for their tour of our mission this week. To have a general authority and member of the seventy visit us is a tremendous blessing and we look forward to learning from them. Please prepare your hearts and minds to receive their direction and counsel as they help us become more effective in our abilities to teach repentance and baptize converts.
In Romans, the Apostle Paul teaches a powerful lesson, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I call your attention to Paul’s statement that when we love God, we work together towards His purposes. Our purpose is to invite all to come unto Christ and there are many ways in which we can work together. An interesting fact is that the Greek translation for “work together” is synergeo, from which we get our English word, “synergy.”
Synergy is an interesting principle as it means that the whole is great than the sum of its parts. Simply stated in mathematical terms, 1+1=3 or could even be stated 1+1=10. The general idea is that when we work together, the outcome is far greater than doing things on our own. This principle is true in a marriage, a family, in a companionship, a ward council, and for the purposes of my email to you today, our work together with members.
President Monson’s statement, “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.” I love this teaching and it is the will and direction of the Lord as received by His prophet on the earth. We must learn to act in faith and as we work together, we will truly see the most synergy.
I am left to wonder at times if we as missionaries truly understand that working with members is the best way to do the Lord’s work. I have shared with you before that 70% of all baptisms that occur in our mission come from member referrals. The brethren in the worldwide missionary broadcast last year also shared the statistic that when missionaries go about the work on their own, they baptize far less, and convert retention is also less effective. We may not find as many as we work with members, but we see far greater results when we do. It would seem logical then that when a prophet of God stands at General Conference and says, “now is the time for members and missionaries to work together”, we should probably get in line and follow His counsel.
The truth of working with members… Member missionary work takes more time, more follow up, more teaching, and more effort. Members have busy lives and teaching the gospel 24/7 is not on the top of their minds. Members are used to missionaries coming by their home, asking if they know anyone that they could share the gospel with, and then rarely if ever have missionaries follow up. The lessons might be soft or spiritual thoughts, all good, but rarely with the full and powerful effect that they could have. Missionaries visit a member’s home, ask for a referral, when no referral comes (after a single visit), they get discouraged and go back to old patterns of finding on their own. Members feel uninspired by missionaries simply asking for people to teach and missionaries are impatient and go back to other finding methods. Do I speak the truth? There is plenty of finger pointing (if we chose to go anti-responsibility, but we won’t) to go around, but we are problem solvers and don’t settle for the status quo.
Imagine if you and your companionship changed the outcome in your area by having a truly focused and dedicated effort of “working together” with the members. I am often surprised to find how many elders and sisters only know a handful of members in their wards/braches, even after six months of serving in the area. The members that love the missionaries are easy visits and we tend to spend more time in these homes than others. The members that don’t engage with us, well, we can easily shy away from them and make no true effort to enable them to share the gospel. This can no longer be if we are to follow the charge given by our living prophet.
To organize and create the synergy we desire I might start with the following… Get the updated ward/branch list and identify every member (all members including less active, part members etc.) home in your area. As you all know how to do, break up your area into smaller sections so you can group members together for more effective visits and travel. Each week in your weekly planning sessions I would identify 20 members on the list (or whatever is possible in your area) that you want to get to know and visit (set a goal each week). Begin calling each one of them to set up a time to visit with them in the coming week. Yes, you need to call! Texts don’t work, they’re easy to ignore and they’re impersonal. You are building relationships and texts don’t do this. Let me also expand your vision of members to reach out to. You should be reaching out directly to the youth, single adults, it doesn’t have to be the whole family at once. You’ll also want to talk to your bishop and let him know that you would like every member in the ward to have you over for a brief visit. You may use a sign-up list, but that can only be one of the many tools you’ll use to be in the members’ homes. My point, you have a lot of members to contact, how will you best reach out and engage them?
Plan an effective 20-30 minute visit where you get to know them and teach them a powerful lesson on member missionary work (Elder Oaks talk), the Doctrine of Christ (Lesson 3) or the Restoration. Your goal is to earn their trust, earn a referral, and invite them to act. Your lesson should engage them, get them talking about what they love about the gospel and how it blesses their lives. Teach them how to introduce the Book of Mormon, teach them how to use social media, role play with them how they might share the gospel with a neighbor, friend, or work associate. The most important thing you can do at the end of your lesson is invite them to act. I would suggest two invitations given by Elder Oaks that all members can do… 1) “Will you pray for the desire to share the gospel?” 2) Will you specifically pray for opportunities to share the gospel and act with real intent when the inspiration comes?”
After your inspired lesson and invitation, you’ll ask for their commitment to act. You’ll ask them why it would be important for them to share the gospel, what blessings they would hope for, and if there is anything that might stop them from moving forward in faith. You’ll promise blessings that you know to be true as members share the gospel with others. You’ll then take out your planner, you’ll let them know you’ll follow up and ask when would be best for you to see how things are going. You’ll also let them know that you’re there to help and do whatever they need. You’ll be patient and recognize that referrals won’t come overnight. You’ll recognize that member missionary work takes time and that you’ll find some families that will be more engaged than others. You’ll pray for them and help them know how much the Lord loves them. You’ll serve them and let them see that you’re no ordinary missionaries, you’re missionaries who understand that members are the key to establishing the Church and helping others come unto Christ.
I know this is the direction the Lord needs us to follow if we want to teach repentance and baptize converts. We still need to keep all the other finding methods as part of our overall effort as we know we can’t be one dimensional. In our mission, we have over 18,000 members to work with. Each one of these members have friends, families, and colleagues that can use the blessings of the gospel. If we want to have a synergistic effect, where working together far outweighs what we can do on our own, we need to do what President Monson has asked of us. We will do our part, we won’t fall on the anti-responsibility list when it doesn’t go perfectly, we will be tenacious and persistent, we will have faith in the Savior and recognize that this is His work and that it cannot fail. The true synergistic effect comes when we realize that the Savior’s grace is sufficient for both members and missionaries alike. When we do our part, we receive the enabling power of the Savior’s Atonement, allowing us to achieve far more than we could ever imagine. His divine help and strength is real and we need to trust enough to act in faith.
Elders & Sisters, this is not a suggestion or simply a passing thought, it is the way for us to be more effective in our work. My invitation to you today is to begin working with your members more effectively, will you do it? Plan each week to work with as many members as your schedule allows. Inspire them, invite them, commit them, help them, serve and love them. Take them teaching with you, an absolute must! You can do this and you have the power and authority to help them in this great work of salvation. I look forward to the great things you’ll accomplish as you “work together” by loving God and fulfilling his purpose! Love ya!
Please study and review all the assignments given in preparation for Elder Zwick’s visit. To help you with the members… See the attached template and fill it out with the things that will help them get to know who you are and what you love about being a missionary. You can modify as needed an improve it as desired (don’t spend much time on it). I suggest you complete it this week and then share it with the members on Sundays…