Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Missionary Work Via the Internet

On Sunday, June 23rd at the Seminar for New Mission Presidents the church announced that missionaries would be able to proselytize via the Internet and give guided tours of meeting houses.  Deseret News explored the experiences of missionaries who tested these new programs in “Online missionaries? LDS meetinghouse tours? Been there, done that.”  The experiences were positive.  While the cynic in me concludes that of course they would be positive, that same cynicism leads me to conclude that the Church, after testing these programs, has concluded that the benefits easily outweigh the costs.  Not only did I enjoy the article, but I enjoyed the comments as well and recommend them to anyone interested in the topic.  I will focus my comments on use of electronic communications.

The use of Facebook and blogs will change the geographic assignments of missionaries to areas at least a little as noted by two missionaries from the Montana Billings Mission.

…Eric Whitlock of Gilbert, Ariz., who served as a full-time missionary in the church's Montana Billings Mission from 2010-12…said…he felt impressed to reconnect online with a friend from home who, it turned out, was going through a spiritual crisis. "As soon as I was able to get on Facebook, I was able to talk to him and help him stay on track, and today he's serving as a missionary himself,"

Another Montana missionary reconnected with a family friend who was living in England. He started teaching her the gospel online, eventually turning her over to missionaries in England. She joined the church and is now serving as a missionary in Estonia.

Missionaries have always communicated with friends and family via mail, but Facebook is much faster.  In a comment, boyztomany noted the positive impact that Facebook had in an area in wh8ich his son served

My son was in the Canada Vancouver Mission (2010-2012) They were a test mission. He set up a facebook account for his area and used it to contact members/non-members. They used it to advertize young single adult activities that non-members/inactive members began coming to more frequently.

In another comment, Red enthusiastically endorsed the new program stating

There are missions out there that average 1/2 a baptism in 2 years because "knocking" is so lame and ineffective.

People are too paranoid to let someone in their house. They also are too concerned what their neighbors will think of them if they let the Mormons in.

Networking will be 1,000 times more effective.

If Red meant they will be 1,000 times more effective baptizing, he exaggerates but perhaps not if you include satisfaction in service.  If baptisms increase just ten percent, given the increase in missionaries to 85,000, next year the church could experience 432,000 convert baptisms.  A twenty percent improvement leads to 470,000 baptisms. 

The new tools may have a big impact on retention.  It is easy to imagine a new member friending three or four people in the ward and becoming more connected to their families, interests and church activities.  Socialization of new members has always been a challenge.  It has become easier. 

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