Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box Series: Family History as a Missionary Vehicle

I got to thinking about how we could increase baptisms in a dramatic way that could bring in hundreds of thousands of new members over the next decade or two. We have spent tens of millions of dollars on genealogy programs and microfilming records but we haven't really tapped family history as a missionary vehicle. We actually use it in a passive way when it can be an active source of new members.

This past decade the number of new converts has been declining despite a couple of different missionary plans. Most observers attribute it to such things as the religious inclination of the general population. The amount of missionaries has actually increased since in the 1970s there were only thirty thousand missionaries who brought in about 200,000 per year which is still the number but with 50,000 missionaries. The message has remained similar but the delivery has been streamlined. I think that the message might need some supplement since there are people out there that has a strong interest in family history rather than your more traditional gospel or theologically topics. It is also less threatening to may people. I tell relatives who contact me about family history that I am LDS and how they can go about doing it and none of them seem cognizant of the religious implications nor do they bring them up.

I actually feel that family history as a missionary topic is less threatening to them and can be an icebreaker that naturally evolves to the reasons for doing family history. You could use full-time missionaries to deliver a component of their discussions to this topic or you could develop a radically different organization for doing this.

In thinking outside the box if I were developing an alternative program to the traditional missionary vehicle. I would develop a member-based family history missionary vehicle. In this program you would have the family history coordinator taking the program in an organized way to nonmembers rather than to members in their wards. Family history missionaries would answer to the family history coordinator. The family history coordinator and the ward mission leader would do a weekly correlation with the missionaries and auxiliary leaders. A series of four or five lessons could be presented to the nonmember. On the last lesson the full-time missionaries could be present who would make a presentation for a transition to a continuation of more traditional lessons or to commit them to coming to church or joining it. If it is keep low-stress the investigator would then opt-in or out. I think it would be a win-win as they would have at least a few generations done and we would have a large pool of possible converts.

It would be a way for proselyting missionaries to develop larger pools of investigators since many people would willingly submit to having family history missionaries help them with their genealogy. Also you could increase usage of our facilities on nights other than mutual as this could be a six-day of the week type of operation. Family history missionaries could do it around their schedules and the interested parties. It could be done in either of the two's homes or in a formal setting.

In terms of operation you could have several by-products even if you didn't convert many of the people you could still develop good feelings for the church with good public relations. Formal seminars could be taught. The investigators could be mobilized to assist in extraction programs as volunteers. By working side by side with LDS it would help break down a lot of stereotypes and contribute in a socially positive way.

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