Monday, February 18, 2008

Mission Presidents and the Effective Use of Time Management

Mission presidents have very busy and chaotic schedules. They sometimes have as many as ten meetings a day. They need to plan out their schedules carefully. They also need to set goals.

In Preach My Gospel it says: "Goals reflect the desires of our hearts and our vision of what we can accomplish. Through goals and plans, our hopes are transformed into action. Goal setting and planning are acts of faith. Prayerfully set goals that are in harmony with the Savior’s command to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19).
Set goals for each key indicator. You may also set goals for your personal development. Do everything within your power to achieve your goals while respecting the agency of others. The ultimate measure of success is not in achieving goals alone but in the service you render and the progress of others. Goals are a means of helping you bring about much good among Heavenly Father’s children. They are not used to receive recognition." (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 146).

Mission presidents are even encouraged to make sure that their missionaries are effectively using their time wisely. "Occasionally conduct interviews in missionary apartments. As you do so, have your wife or the assistants to the president review missionaries’ area books and daily planners." (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, pp. 153).

President Gordon B. Hinckley talked about the importance of what mission presidents do: "In the early days of the Church, the brethren asked the Prophet what they could do which would be of the greatest worth. The Prophet through revelation gave the response of the Lord:

“And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father” (D&C 15:6; see also D&C 16:6).

I like that language—that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to do missionary work. The thing of most worth is not the buildings we have. It is not this great building or the other buildings in this area. It is not the BYU campus. It is not the welfare program. It is not the educational program of the Church. It is not any of these things. The thing which is of most worth, as the Lord has repeatedly declared in revelation, is the teaching of the gospel of Christ to those who know not its saving message.

You are not going out into a sidebar activity. You are going out to do that which the Lord has said is the most important activity of all of the many activities of His work. God bless you." (Gordon B. Hinckley, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 23 June 2000).

President Spencer W. Kimball tells us what mission presidents' ultimate goal is: "Our goal is to achieve eternal life. That is the greatest goal in the world. We do not want stake and full-time mission Presidents to establish quotas for the missionaries. Rather, we expect them to inspire missionaries to set their own goals, and make them high enough to challenge their very best efforts, and work to achieve them." (Spencer W. Kimball, Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 3 April 1975, p. 6).

M. Russell Ballard tells us why goal setting is important: "I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life and learn to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principle of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life." (M. Russell Ballard, Salt Lake Area Young Adults, October 18, 1981).

President Ezra Taft Benson says that mission presidents need to set a high standard of performance: "Missionaries should have a standard of performance or excellence to which they ascribe and to which they commit. This should be spelled out in specific terms and held up as the minimum standard by which all missionaries are expected to perform. Missionaries should take pride in being in "the best mission in the Church," and being "missionaries of excellence," as defined through inspiration from their mission president." (Ezra Taft Benson, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 21 June 1975).

Concerning mission presidents helping to their missionaries set goals, we learn in Preach My Gospel: "Over time your mission president may establish standards of excellence or mission goals intended to raise your vision and increase your faith. District, zone, and mission standards will help you stretch, work effectively, and reach higher levels of performance. They are not to be used as quotas that impose specific goals on you and your companion."(Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 146).

Ezra Taft Benson describes how mission presidents should work with missionaries in setting goals: "It is the responsibility of mission Presidents to help their missionaries understand themselves in relation to their calling to preach the gospel, and to help them set and accomplish effective goals. However, goals and quotas should not be imposed upon missionaries. The guiding principle here was given by the Lord in Section 58 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. (D&C 58:26-28).

There is a difference between a missionary stating the number of investigators he hopes to baptize and imposing on him a stated number of baptisms by district,zone, or mission leaders. Instead of setting goals or quotas for missionaries, mission presidents should help missionaries learn to set realistic goals of their own." (Ezra Taft Benson, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 27-28 June 1974).

He also expresses the opinion that mission presidents need to learn how to goal set themselves: "The setting of personal baptismal goals by missionaries should be explained in detail with specific illustrations and testimonies of others' successes. Mission Presidents need to be converted to goal-setting themselves, in all phases of missionary work, before they will be capable of converting their missionaries to this concept." (Ezra Taft Benson, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 21 June 1975).

In the July 1975 Ensign it says: "“One vital ingredient in time management is prayer. Especially in Church assignments, take your plans to the Lord and be receptive to his inspiration. Then do things his way. Inspiration always comes easier after you’ve done everything you can by yourself—after you’ve set goals and organized your plan of action. Giving your time to the Lord is like giving tithes and offerings. If you give freely, with all your heart, you won’t miss it, and you’ll be able to do more with the time you have left.”

Spencer W. Kimball talks about mission presidents taking the time to think about what they are doing and planning their activities: "You mission presidencies, in your preparation, need to take time between each of your assignments to go to the emery stone and sharpen your ax. When I was a little boy, the pain of my life was the haying time when the numerous knives of the mowing machine has to be sharpened, when my older brother sat and held the blades to the emery stone while I stood on my feet and turned the great emery stone until my back ached and my legs were tired and my hands were blistered. I was glad when I was older and could sit on the seat and hold the knives against the stone while someone else turned it.

The beloved preacher said, "If the iron be blunt and he do not whet the edge, then must he put two more strings." (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 27 June 1974).

President Kimball also instructed mission presidents to let the missionaries set their own goals: "I feel that we must use a goal program and let every missionary make his own goal. In the past it seems the mission presidents and sometimes visitors have set goals for people and that isn’t quite right. I believe the mission president should not set the goals for the individual missionaries. Let them have the privilege and the responsibility" (Spencer W. Kimball, Regional Representatives’ Seminar, October 1974).

In addition he said to let it be spontaneous and come from the missionary: "We must find ways to inspire and teach better ways of doing missionary work. We see no objection to every missionary setting himself a goal. We do not want others setting his goals for him--it becomes too mechanical. But there is no reason why each
missionary should not set his own goals." (Spencer W. Kimball, Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 5 April 1976, p. 5).

President Kimball said on the subject of goal setting to be careful you don't baptize unprepared people: "I want to talk to mission Presidents for a moment. Some years ago there grew an error in the method of proselyting, and thousands of people were baptized who were not converted. This raised the eyebrows of the Brethren in Salt Lake. We asked them, the mission Presidents at that time, not to do that anymore. We want people to have a testimony. We want them to understand something about the gospel. But when we showed concern about these numerous improper baptisms, the pendulum swung all the way across, and there were many of the mission Presidents that felt they shouldn't discuss the possibilities and the goals for the future. That's the trouble with pendulums; they nearly always swing all the way or the other direction.

We expect that every year there will be a great increase in the conversions and baptisms, and we hope you mission Presidents will take that into account. We do believe in goals. Why, we live by goals. When we are in athletics we always have a goal. When we go to school, we have the goal of graduation and degrees. Why, our total existence is a goal. You're going to eternal life. That's the greatest goal in the world. We are not against goals, but we don't want you mission Presidents to set up quotas for your missionaries. Inspire them to set up their own goals and to make them high enough to challenge their very best efforts." (Spencer W. Kimball, Buenos Aires Area Conference, 9 March 1975, p. 53).

Also he says, "I am not convinced that mission Presidents should ever set goals for missionaries. They may set goals for their mission if they like and for themselves, but let the missionaries set goals for themselves and then the president will praise and give them adulation for succeeding in the goals which they set." (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 20 June 1975).

Elder James E. Faust agrees: "Missionaries should have goals but they should not be imposed by the mission president, his assistants or the zone leaders. I am persuaded that the missionaries will be more dedicated to their work, will be more committed, if they have set their own goals, and happier in their labors than if goals are imposed upon them. The best motivation is self-motivation." (James E. Faust, New Mission Presidents' Seminar, 21 June 1996).

Ezra Taft Benson concurs: "There are a number of good reasons for encouraging a missionary to develop his own goals. Once he makes an honest appraisal of his strengths and weaknesses, the missionary is in the best position to decide what he must do to become more effective. Goals set by a mission president might not be realistic for some missionaries. Moreover, goals imposed by another may offend or discourage the missionary. Most important, the missionary is entitled to inspiration in choosing his personal goals; and when he has sought the Lord through prayer and meditation, he will be motivated best by those goals he selects himself and commits himself to attain." (Ezra Taft Benson, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 27-28 June 1974).

"President [Spencer W.] Kimball expressed the hope that we might have "better interviews, more searching interviews...." Through effective personal priesthood interviews, a mission president can do much to help his missionaries set worthwhile goals. He can help a missionary understand the obstacles that might stand in the way of effective missionary work--obstacles such as bad personal habits, unclean thoughts, or inadequate knowledge of the scriptures and the discussions. When the missionary can recognize these obstacles, he can set about overcoming them through progressive personal goals." (Ezra Taft Benson, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 27-28 June 1974).

Mission presidents need to make sure that their missionaries are productive and keep on task in their missionary labors. President Kimball said about staying on task: "I asked one of the brethren once how he was getting along in a certain mission, and he said, "It's wonderful mission, wonderful missionaries. They are doing everything but preaching the gospel." There are so many leaks of time and effort that the net product is greatly reduced. Each mission president should study prayerfully his own program and be sure that there are no leaks these wonderful missionaries give to the Lord. (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 20 June 1975, p. 4).

On another occasion he said: "It will be your responsibility to see that the missionaries are inspired, motivated, and indoctrinated. It will be your responsibility to see that the schedules are stimulating and productive. It will be your responsibility to see that your missionaries do not waste time and that you do not use the missionaries generally for errand boys of extra, unnecessary work. There must not be a waste of manpower; there should not be six or eight or ten missionaries in the mission home doing the work there when three or four can do it. Missionaries in the office should also be proselyting missionaries in every mission. Sometimes the productive work of missionaries is diluted as would be a liquid poured into a sieve." (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 20 June 1975, p. 4).

President Ezra Taft Benson suggests that mission presidents set mission specific goals and their own personal goals: "Each mission president should also develop his own personal goals and goals for the mission as a whole. The mission goals should be in harmony with the goals of the missionaries and the mission president should make them known to the missionaries. He might well ask the missionaries to help him achieve his goals just as he helps them achieve theirs. In the process of setting goals and carrying them out, mission presidents should remember to work within the framework of priesthood correlation. It is important that you establish a close relationship with stake or district priesthood leaders if you are to have their full cooperation. If there are established stakes in your mission, get acquainted with the stake president as soon as possible and offer assistance in missionary work. Attend stake conferences and sacrament meetings whenever possible. Talk missionary work enthusiastically everywhere. Attend regional meetings and offer assistance in the missionary phase of the regional meeting. Invite stake missionaries and leaders to zone conference to share the enthusiasm and testimonies borne there. Encourage the stake president to make suggestions on how missionary work can be improved in his stake area. Encourage your assistants and zone leaders to develop a good working relationship with stake mission leaders. Do not forget to express appreciation for the cooperation you receive from local priesthood leaders. A letter or telephone call of appreciation is always appropriate." (Ezra Taft Benson, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 27-28 June 1974).

Henry B. Eyring warns: "There is a danger in the word someday when what it means is “not this day.” “Someday I will repent.” “Someday I will forgive him.” “Someday I will speak to my friend about the Church.” “Someday I will start to pay tithing.” “Someday I will return to the temple.” “Someday …”

The scriptures make the danger of delay clear. It is that we may discover that we have run out of time. The God who gives us each day as a treasure will require an accounting. We will weep, and He will weep, if we have intended to repent and to serve Him in tomorrows which never came or have dreamt of yesterdays where the opportunity to act was past. This day is a precious gift of God. The thought “Someday I will” can be a thief of the opportunities of time and the blessings of eternity....

By serving Him this day, you will come to know Him better. You will feel His love and appreciation. You would not want to delay receiving that blessing. And feeling His love will draw you back to His service, wiping away both complacency and discouragement.

As you serve Him, you will come to know better the voice by which you shall be called. When you go to sleep at the end of a day, the words may come back in memory: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things.” I pray for that benediction on this day, on every day, and on our lives."

Dallin H. Oaks in 2001 cautions us: "All around us we have the good examples of those who seek permanent treasures—those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matt. 5:6) and put the kingdom of God first in their lives. Among the most visible such examples are the men and women who set aside their worldly pursuits and even say good-bye to their families to serve missions for the Lord. Tens of thousands of these are young missionaries. In addition, I pay particular tribute to those who serve missions in their mature years, some as mission leaders and some as what we call couple missionaries. Their remarkable service evidences their priorities, and their impressive example is a guide to their families and to all who know them.

Our priorities are most visible in how we use our time. Someone has said, “Three things never come back—the spent arrow, the spoken word, and the lost opportunity.” We cannot recycle or save the time allotted to us each day. With time, we have only one opportunity for choice, and then it is gone forever."

President Spencer W. Kimball cautions mission presidents not to let parents pickup their kids distract mission presidents and waste their time. "You must see that their time is so carefully monitored that they will not have time not opportunity to become casual. Too many visitors sometimes visit your missions. I think there are times when you would be in the right way to excuse yourself from them. People from the Church who come sightseeing and want somebody to take them around--you have not the time. You have a big job to do, to bring the gospel to all the people in your area. You cannot be nursemaids or guest leaders to take people around and show the sights. There has been a tendency to do that in many places, and the president seems to feel many times that he had the obligation to take them around or have his missionaries do it." (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 25 June 1976, p. 13).

He also warns to be careful with how you use your office staff: "We hope you Presidents will organize carefully and well. Do not over-fill your office force. Do not use your missionaries for messengers commonly, more than is absolutely necessary. You are responsible for their time and for their efforts." (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 25 June 1976, p. 13).

Spencer W. Kimball summarizes the importance of why time is important to a mission president: "This is the work of the Lord that we are doing. We're called to go out and be his servants, special servants, and to give all our time and energy. What a glorious thing it is to give all of your time to the Lord, to have no other responsibilities and that, it seems to me, is one reason why mission Presidents are so devoted. They have had this experience to not have a worry about their finances or other things and they have grown and developed. The Lord has given us the command. The Lord has said this is our duty. So we go forward with this in our minds. May the Lord bless you brethren and sisters. We call down upon you the blessings of heaven as you move from this place to your missions. It is true. There is no question about it. The Lord lives and his Father lives and he watches all our doings and he will appreciate it and show his appreciation for it." (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, June 1977).

Dallin H. Oaks tells mission presidents to do things for the right reasons: "A few years ago I heard an illuminating admission by a mission president. He was an educator by profession. When he left his professional position and took up his duties as a mission president, he brought large stacks of professional materials on training and leadership. He intended to use these materials to help his missionaries. At his first mission leadership meeting, he assigned several zone leaders to present some of these materials to the assembled missionaries.

As the meeting wore on, the mission president sensed that something important was missing. He realized, he told me later, that he was trying to accomplish his mission leadership training by following a professional model instead of by doing it in the Lord's way. He stopped a missionary in the middle of his presentation, apologized to him and to the group for making the wrong assignment, and asked a missionary to bear his testimony. As they went forward this new way, the Spirit of the Lord settled over the meeting. Testimonies and resolves were strengthened, and the necessary leadership training was given. The mission president had learned the importance of doing the Lord's work in the Lord's way." (Dallin H. Oaks, The Lord's Way, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991, pp.1-2).

I think the Preach My Gospel helps us realize that mission presidents and their missionaries have a stewardship that is accountable to the Lord. "The principle of accountability is fundamental in God’s eternal plan. We will all stand before the Lord at the last judgment and give an accounting for what we have done with the opportunities He has given us (see Alma 5:15–19; D&C 137:9)."(Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, p. 150).

When Melvin J. Ballard was on his deathbed. He raised himself up and said: Above all else brethren let us think straight." Mission Presidents need to be careful of the most valuable resource that they have which is time. My mission president M. Russell Ballard use to share that story and tell we must have the Spirit so they we can work smarter not harder. Mission presidents need to follow this advice in the effective use of their time. Straight thinking mission presidents plan each day wisely so they can be productive servants of the Lord.

No comments: