Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Evolving missionary efforts. 

November 14th, 2017 by Bookslinger

In  recent years we’ve seen tweaks and changes to the church’s formal missionary efforts or program.

In 2002 the effective requirements or minimum standards for missionary service were made stricter.  Then the “Preach My Gospel” missionary manual came out which tweaked the formal missionary lessons, and not only expanded the activities of full-time missionaries, but also made instruction of the missionaries themselves more centralized and explicit (as opposed to the instructions coming down “back channel” through the mission president). Shortly after PMG came out, there was an overhaul of the Youth Sunday School, and the lessons taught in the Aaronic Priesthood/Young Women’s classes.  The Youth (ages 12-17 in the LDS church)  were expected to teach more of these lessons themselves in this new system. Then the minimum age was lowered for missionary service, one year for males, and two years for females, which lowering caused an approximately 25% increase in the total number of full-time missionaries after an initial even-larger surge. (The surge was the result of two age-cohorts of males going on their mission simultaneously, three age-cohorts for females.)

I suppose the approximately 25% (post surge) increase was due to not “losing” so many men between the ages of 18 and 19 as they went off to college; and that the lowering of the age for females from 21 to 19 changed their calculus of mission-vs-marriage – they could more easily do both and not have to gamble with a choice.

I note that the age change that went into effect in 2012, was exactly 10 years after the 2002 changes to mission prep. Which meant that the new  18 year old missionaries had the full new program of mission prep since their baptism at age 8.  There’s a lot of maturing that happens between the 18th birthday and the 19th, basically freshman year of college.  The new missionaries were not going to have that prior to entering service. I think the 10 year gap between 2012 and 2002 was to make sure they had their entire membership under the stricter training to understand the seriousness of missionary service. The new training was to make up for the loss of one year of chronological maturity.

Ten years was likely enough time to let the stories of “wild and wooly” (pre-2002) missions die out, so the stories and negative traditions wouldn’t be transmitted from recently returned missionaries to their slightly younger peers.

Ten years also allowed time for pre-mission behavior to be correctly channeled/controlled/corrected among all ages of youth from 8 through 18, so that the 8 year olds of 2002 would not be adversely influenced by the examples of older youth.  They would see how their slightly older peers were expected to behave.

Therefore,  I believe that age group, the 18 year olds of 2012, marked almost a new breed of missionary. Of course there was a “ramping up” effect from 2002 through 2012, but those years marked the beginning of the transition, and then full implementation.

If I remember correctly, 2008 was the year that the new Youth curriculum was implemented.  So the 18 year olds of 2012 also had all of their four years of Seminary under the new system.

I have not seen a break-down of the 25% increase figure for male/female.  My guess is that it’s a greater percentage for the women, and less than 25% for the men.

A recent tweak has been the publication of updated standardized mission interview questions, which leave less room for interpretation by the prospective missionary and local leaders.

As I get older, the missionaries look younger every year.  But I have to admit that they seem more emotionally mature than they did a dozen years ago.

Comments (6)
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November 14th, 2017 08:40:20

November 14, 2017

The Come Follow Me curriculum was launched in 2013. I was a Sunday school president at the time so I remember it well. And I was very blessed to have a couple teaching the youth who had both served missions with the Preach My Gospel manual.

November 14, 2017

Eric, What was it that came out around 2008 for the youth?

November 14, 2017

“As I get older, the missionaries look younger every year. But I have to admit that they seem more emotionally mature than they did a dozen years ago.”

I agree. It is a marvel to me. Makes me think that Someone knows how to raise young people for these days.

November 14, 2017

Our ward has had three missionaries return home early in the last year. I believe they were all under 19.

I have concerns that some parents have failed to heed the Brethren’s counsel, when the lowering of the minimum age was announced, that it was a minimum age and that many prospective missionaries would to better to wait another year or two.

I am hopeful the new interview questions will help with that.

Paul Mouritsen
November 15, 2017

Despite these recent changes, our basic methods for doing missionary work have not really changed in three generations, and they are not especially effective. We have not really learned how to use social media effectively, or network in communities, or plant new churches, or reach out to the 75 percent or so of the world’s population that live in countries where we cannot openly preach the gospel.

I keep thinking that there are big changes coming in the near future. To use an analogy, in the last decade and a half, the church’s family history program has undergone an astonishing transformation. The speed and ease of doing family history work has probably increased 100 fold. I look for something like that to happen in the missionary program.

November 15, 2017

Paul, yeah, I’m cogitating on a post in that direction.

Significant changes in wards will need to be made so that we can _receive_ investigators and converts. The solutions might include church-planting as you mention. Also possible are new-member branches that overlay existing urban/suburban wards, not necessarily on a one-to-one basis.

We’ve gotten so tunnel-visioned that we don’t see what we’re doing wrong. We (rank and file, not the Brethren) don’t understand what part of our missionary efforts are the way the Lord wants it, and which parts are tradition/culture, inertia, and making-do. The Brethren get it and understand, and I think everyone down to stake president level knows. But collectively, as rank-and-file, we’re not living up to our privileges. I touched on it in a previous post on sociality, about arriving to chapel at the last minute, and leaving at first opportunity.

Imagine a secret investigator, or a “secret shopper” showing up at your chapel 15 minutes before the first meeting of the block schedule. (Is that universally sacrament meeting now?)

ask yourself these questions:
– what will happen from his/her/their point of view?
– what will they see?
– how will they be treated? Remember no one is going to introduce him/her/them as non-members/investigators, and they don’t know anyone.

We have “visitors welcome” carved in stone, or cast in concrete on chapels now. But are they actually welcom_ed_?

if any members of stake presidencies read this, hire some “secret shoppers”, real non-members, to show up 10 to 15 minutes before sac meeting, and stay through at least the 2nd hour/class. Do that for as many chapels as you can, all on the same day, so word doesn’t get out and people get advance warning. I bet you will be shocked at the feedback.

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