TRADITIONS, ROOT BEER AND FINDING
I had a business acquaintance who is in excess of 80 years old and sill runs his own business. His sharp mind and active life style really are impressive. He told me a few years ago while he was driving down the freeway to visit a project site, that he began reminiscing. He fondly remembered during his growing up years, his father made it a tradition to take him every Sunday down to the drug store and buy him a root beer float. He learned to love root beer floats which to this day are his favorite beverage. As he drove along, he began craving a root beer float and vowed to get one on the following Sunday. Then a startling thought came to his mind, “Hey, I am old enough to buy a root beer float whenever I want one!” He exited the freeway at the next off-ramp where A&W Root Beer was offered and enjoyed a root beer float. Since then, he does not hesitate to indulge in a root beer float just to make up for lost time while he was living the ‘Sunday only’ tradition.
Traditions can be wonderful activities that bring good in our lives; success, fulfillment, happiness, or whatever. But, traditions can also over time become mindless and ineffective activities.
Before I go any further, I submit the following disclosure. Chapter 9 of PMG, How Do I Find People to Teach?, outlines the Lord’s way of finding “them that will receive you.” (DC42:8) All finding methods discussed there are time honored and will always be required of missionaries. In Holland and Belgium the traditional fall-back method in the absence of other methods of finding people to teach outlined in Chapter 9 is going door to door, knocking and inviting people to hear our message. The basic principle is to stay busy all day, opening your mouth and inviting everyone you can to hear your message. The Lord will lead you to prepared people or He will lead them to you if you keep working. You must always implement finding methods outlined in Chapter 9.
The tradition of door knocking is interesting. During my first mission we kept trackting books where we recorded every door in each area of the city we worked. We recorded: rejected, not home, call back, invited in or other special notes. We would then return to the area to knock on the doors where people were ‘call backs’ or were not previously home. In this manner we would work our way through the city and essentially knock on and talk to people behind every door. We also used street meetings and street contacting as a means to contact and invite people to hear our message. We did our best to broadcast our message to as many people as possible with the idea that those who were open to listening would agree to investigate. With only slight differences these methods are still our tradition.
Times have changed. People here are essentially no different, but they have become so bombarded with noise broadcasted from every direction trying to persuade them to buy something or do something that door to door has become a very inefficient use of our time. The “hit rate” or number of people interested per number of doors knocked has dropped. Street contacting is the same. These are finding activities with low statistical probability of meeting people willing to listen. Most people would actually be interested if they could pull information they want from us instead of being so well practiced in deflecting broadcast information.
We have an obligation to find ways to improve our effectiveness and in today’s world, there is a better way. A steady diet of door knocking is not ideal. Elder L. Tom Perry stated:
When I was a young missionary, we were able to speak with contacts on the street and knock on doors to share the gospel. The world has changed since that time. Now, many people are involved in the busyness of their lives. They hurry here and there, and they are often less willing to allow complete strangers to enter their homes, uninvited, to share a message of the restored gospel. Their main point of contact with others, even with close friends, is often via the Internet. The very nature of missionary work, therefore, must change if the Lord is to accomplish His work of gathering Israel “from the four corners of the earth” (2 Nephi 21:12). The missionaries are now authorized to use the Internet in their proselyting efforts… we invite the young and the old, the adults, the young adults, the youth, and the children everywhere to join with us in this exciting new work …in your area on your own computers and sharing [your] gospel messages online and by becoming involved in missionary work yourselves. (L. Tom Perry, Hastening 23 Jun 2014)
People today want to pull specific information; what they want and when they want it, instead of being showered with thousands of voices. Missionaries knocking at the front door are strangers disturbing someone while their friends come freely in the back door or contact them by the internet. This is especially true in Holland and Belgium because the Dutch and Flemish per capita are ranked among the highest social media users in the world.
Traditional door to door finding in the Belgium Netherlands Mission is changing. The Church has approved and registered a new member web site called Country Communication Pages including a Country Facebook account and a Country twitter account. The content in these sites will be totally controlled by members of the Stakes in the mission and the content will be in Dutch. The Church has called an agent Stake President to be responsible for the Country internet accounts. On Saturday, 25 Jan 2014 at Stake Priesthood meeting, the Den Haag Stake launched this social media project to find the one. As soon as practical the other 3 Stakes will similarly launch their campaigns.
All units will call a social media specialist to work under the direction of the ward or branch mission leader. The members in each unit will be trained and assisted by their respective unit specialist to: establish an LDS account, produce and place their profiles on mormon.org, use their personal Facebook site for missionary work, obtain as many friends as possible on their personal Facebook, learn to place material from the Country web page, and Country Facebook page and twitter sites on their personal Facebook page, review the material on the Country Facebook page and click: “like” and “share”. Members will learn how to effectively add a short testimony as a “comment” about how the attached information has helped them personally and click “share”. A special ‘call to action’ page will be created with the Country Communication pages so interested people have a place to submit their name and address with a request for the free DVD, a free Book of Mormon, a visit from the missionaries, etc. Ultimately, the most important thing is to maximize every opportunity to convert a click to a referral with a name and an address. Missionaries are now authorized to also assist the members at any time to accomplish this on the internet. A member of each Stake High Council will coordinate the efforts in his Stake.
New, smaller pass along cards with a QR code and URL’s for the Country sites will be distributed for missionaries and members to hand out.
A few short months ago the branch mission leader in the City of Gent, Belgium created a Facebook page for his Branch and a ‘call to action’ page. He used stories about his own life on his blog plus articles from “mormonen.be”, as his content. He requested members in the Branch to click “like” and “share” so the messages went out to all their friends on their personal Facebook page and to all their friends if they continued to click “like” and “share”, etc. His work is yielding about 45 referrals per month. Imagine this remarkable result happening in each unit in the 4 Stakes. Imagine missionaries completely booked with teaching appointments and looking up referrals generated by the branch mission leader. That is for the most part what is happening with the 3 sets of missionaries in Gent doing the same program currently being implemented in the 4 Stakes.
This social media project will become the new tradition. It will grow better in the future as we learn and improve. For example, we can do specific campaigns with gift DVD’s, we can evaluate and use Google Ad Words to assist people who are searching to find us, etc. But, missionaries will still need to open their mouths and talk to everyone while traveling to the referrals. You will still need to work smart and fill your day with contacting even by knocking doors when referrals are not home. You do this because you have faith that the Lord has put you there for a reason. This new tradition for finding will help you begin teaching more than 20 lessons per week and baptizing monthly.