Monday, December 8, 2008

Thinking Outside of the Box Series: Unusual Missionary Techniques

I read a fascinating article by Greg Hill "Singing Elders Take Korea by Storm" in the Church News about a group of singing missionaries back in the 1970s who toured Korea and recorded record albums as New Horizon that financed a girl's orphanage. Some of the young girls also toured in a band called the Tender Apples. The mission president Eugene P. Tlll stated that back in 1974 Koreans awareness of the LDS Church was 7% and when he finished in 1977 was as high as 70%. The use of bands on the mission ran only during the time of this particular mission president. Mary Perriton, the Daejon Korea Mission president's wife describes a reunion concert they recently performed.

A lot of time mission presidents or missionaries try innovative things to find large pools of investigators to teach. I am not advocating the rejection of the current missionary program but enhancement to it by thinking outside the box. Innovative mission presidents and missionaries can have great success. I remember Richard G. Scott's success during the war in Argentina as one of my friends literally baptized thousands. I also remember the Hartman Rector Jr. days of baptizing hundreds in the San Diego Mission. I don't want to replicate poor teaching but I would like to see the enthusiasm and excitement return like the Kimball era.

My own mission president M. Russell Ballard used yellow buttons with question marks based on Elder Franklin D. Richards use of the golden questions "What Do You Know About the Mormon Church? and Do You Want to Know More?" He used a method where we literally blessed the home of part-member families through the priesthood and invited the Spirit in. We replicated William Bradford's Lacing Together Program where we went out with invitations of newly baptized members and invited their non-member family and friends to their baptisms. We had a special campaign where Reformed Egyptian Golden Book of Mormons were purchased with dozens of members writing their testimonies with a picture in them. We had the large auditorium which we filled to capacity by going door to door to invite neighbors to hear from Randy Bachman of Bachman Turner Overdrive, Miss Canada, and N. Eldon Tanner speak about why they were Mormons. I personally think we would have had greater success if Randy had performed. In fact I don't see why Mormon artists don't help out in the missionary cause like Bono or Willie Nelson for humanitarian relief or maybe even a NieNie Concert. I was an usher for a two week run for Saturday's Warrior. It was a great missionary tool and fun to watch. We were even asked for a short time to take people's groceries out to their cars.

My wife likes to tell me how she and her companion in the Toronto Montreal Mission had great success in the cold of winter as they went around with guitars singing at people's front doors. She said that people would see them as sweet young sisters and would open the door and let them in to save them from freezing.

I am convinced that missionaries need to have variety in their approaches. I was especially pleased to see the success of group teaching in the West Indies Mission. In that mission they are currently baptizing hundreds through the use of group teaching methods. Large groups of people are taught simultaneously and baptized as a group. New members are coming in record numbers.

A fascinating description of group teaching was reported in Robert L. Hamblin, “Sharing the Gospel with Friends: A Group Approach,” Ensign, Apr 1982, 37. I have been considering developing a missionary model from this piece which I will call the Dr. B. Missionary Model of Dynamic Group Teaching. It is interesting that if you can describe it that missionaries can change the dynamics of their approach.

My favorite example was teaching a couple of missionaries the Challenge by Alvin R. Dyer. One missionary literally baptized one thousand people and the other about one hundred people. It wasn't anything beyond what was in his book I just turned them on to being better challenging and testifying missionaries.

We can also tackle another model based on David Stewart's Qualitative Ways of Teaching that we need to do a better job at making sure new members have an adequate doctrinal basis. You can check out his new e-journal on missiology with his initial offering Growth, Member Activity and Convert Retention in the LDS Church: Review and Analysis. Stewart definitely is swimming against the tide of traditional missionary methods. Who knows someone out there might be the next Kohlberg of the LDS faith. Stewart might generate some practical models also.

I realized that it is difficult in countries like Korea to baptize many people so sometimes unusual methods can bring good results. My daughter had moderate success in her field as all the missionaries would teach English lessons from which they would find investigators to teach. I used an unusual approach on my own mission to baptize several people. For a few months we went around playing ping pong with investigators. For each hour we played they had to guarantee us one hour of teaching. We baptized a beautiful family of four the Burkhardt family.

Two missionaries in my field taught dozens of lessons to factory workers in their break room at a Campbell Soup Factory. I don't know how they ever got them to let them in but they would teach day and night.

There is nothing so frustrating for missionaries to have to do standard tracting when member referrals dry up. I used a twist on less active members giving referrals. As a ward mission leader I would take the proselyting missionaries who told me they had zero contacts to my totally inactive home teaching families. I would go in and ask them do you have any friends the missionaries could teach. They had dozens of contacts. I would have them write a short note to introduce the missionaries. They immediately would go from zero investigators to ten or twenty with a few baptisms. I learned this method when I was a World Book Encyclopedia salesman. I could always get people to refer me to their friends even if they didn't buy from me.

I am interested in exploring other unusual methods that are being used throughout the world. I will be writing a few posts about some methods I have been toying with.

Missionaries are encouraged to brainstorm. Brainstorming is really nothing more or less than thinking outside the box. You never know when a missionary or mission president or general member might come up with some excellent ways of revitalizing missionary success.


Matt W. said...

We did a variety of different things on my mission. Some I didn't like.

When I was new on my mission, My trainer was fond of techniques where one companion lied and said they had to go to the bathroom while the other set an appointment. We only did that once before I said never again.

My trainer was also fond of "Johnny Lingo" finding, where you ask for directions to where Johnny Lingo lives as a conversation starter. This too did not meet my approval.

We tried "Can I climb your coconut tree" finding, but I cut my hand open with a machete, so that had to end.

Our whole mission went through a time where the missionaries were to always have a book of mormon in hand while outside, but the area authorities asked us to discontinue because we ran out of book of Mormons in our language (that was really cool, BTW)

We also refused to teach when the father wasn't home (if there was a father) and instead made return appointments as the lesson was for the whole family. (we never had a situation where the man was home and the wife wasn't)

Finally, we went through a period where we ended every conversation by asking for a referal.

I think one thing that was good was that we were constantly changing what we were doing. I think this is important.

I'd go over different teaching techniques too, but I'm low on time right now...

Raymond Teodo a.k.a. was_bedeutet_jemanden said...

I agree with what Matt W. said. It's good to break the monotony by trying new, innovative things. Unfortunately, I didn't learn this until towards the end of my mission....

One idea I had that my companion and I tried was getting small cardboard cut-outs of the Savior and carefully writing a scripture from the Book of Mormon on the back (usually of a Book of Mormon prophet bearing his testimony of Christ), and placed our names and phone number on the bottom. We then proceeded to stick them at public bus stops, street lamps, walls were advertising was allowed, etc. While we never got any phone calls, it did make people notice, as many people stopped to read what we had written on the back. It was kind of our way of inviting people to hear the lessons in a "non-confrontational" way.

Floyd the wonderdog said...

While in Korea, I had a Korean companion. We would hold street meetings where he would preach in English and i would translate into Korean. We had an Elder who sang quite well. He would sing to draw a croud then we would contact the people.

But the best was when we were playing basketball outside a local high school. The coach came out and asked if we wanted to play inside. We went inside and he brought out the team. It was the girls team. Coach wanted us to continue playing against his team on an on-going basis. Our ZL said the MP gave us permission, but he lied. We taught them some techniques. They placed in nationals. We actually got several referrals from that. I think we baptized a member of the school board.

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