Goal Tending and Missionary Work

In our ward council last month, the ward mission leader gave a short address on the importance of setting achievable goals. He’s new in the calling and in the ward, and because our ward doesn’t baptize much, momentum is somewhat against him.

As a first step toward reversing this, he assigned us to go to our quorums and auxiliaries and set specific goals for each group, which he can then collate into an all-up ward missionary goal for 2012.

The key to baptisms, he told us, is to set achievable goals and work toward them with faith. It’s a quantitative message which I’ve heard in countless missionary-themed meetings, as I’m sure you have too.

I’ve generally rolled my eyes at such talk, but the way I think about goal-setting has changed significantly in the two years since I started working in the ad industry. You might not know it from watching TV commercials, but good ad agencies are experts at setting goals and measuring results.

Our process is a bit different from how a missionary does it. During the strategy stage of setting up a campaign—before we’ve even briefed our Don Drapers—our planners are having deep discussions with the client about their overall brand- and business objectives, and the specific areas where we can help them.

Sometimes it’s a maligned business that wants to shift perceptions. Or it’s a new brand that needs an awareness campaign. Maybe a company wants to build affinity among a very specific, niche audience (those are the campaigns I tend to work on). In every case, we want to set a goal that we can attribute to our work, that we have direct influence on, and that we can accomplish within the campaign budget.

We also want a goal that is ambitious enough that both agency and client must push to achieve it. This is a means of protecting ourselves from ourselves. Clients want to reap huge returns off of small, safe bets; agencies (like all businesses) want to make as much money for as little work as possible. A good goal empowers me to tell the client “We need to take some risks to hit our goal,” which in turn keeps the agency on its toes.

But while we want an ambitious goal, we must be able to achieve whatever goal we set for ourselves. The idea of setting a goal without having full confidence in our ability to achieve it is crazy; if we don’t meet our goals, we get canned.

So once the goal is set, we hold ourselves to it, and we hold the client to it. We create campaigns and ads with the goal in mind, we constantly track and measure our progress, and we endlessly optimize. We are faithful stewards.

Having learned how to properly set cooperative goals, if I had my mission to do over again, my goal-setting process would be a lot different and I’d be more focused on it. The missionary study materials gave direction on how to set goals, but in reality, goal-setting usually consisted of my companion and me looking at each other and trying to guess which number was in the other’s head. Achievability came second, show of faith came first. What if we set a goal of only 7 discussions a week when God wanted us to teach 10??

I think that shows a misunderstanding of the relationship God plays in the work: He is The Client. He called on me to do some of His work for Him, and he expected my best effort. And like any agency-client relationship, it was His product I was “shilling”; and ultimately, He’s more invested in the outcome of my work than I could ever be.

And if I had my mission to do over again, I’d be constantly optimizing my efforts, based on the data. As a missionary in a difficult area of the world, I became accustomed to not meeting the optimistic goals I set for myself. There was some tweaking and optimizing of missionary techniques, but not nearly enough, simply because many of us were made complacent by weeks and months of fruitless struggling.

Losing the expectation of success is a dangerous trap that is easy to fall into, and not just for missionaries. It can also happen to wards that don’t have a lot of missionary successes. In the case of my ward council, we somewhat hesitantly agreed to talk to our quorums and auxiliaries and set an actionable goal that we thought we could achieve in 2012.

Later that day, I talked through a condensed version of the above with the young men of my ward. We talked about why it might be a good idea for us to set something more reasonable than a “conversion” goal. So if we’re not specifically goaling ourselves against a target number of baptisms, what were we aiming for?

“What about getting people into the building to meet us? Bring a friend to a thing,” one of the Teachers suggested.

We mulled it over for a few moments, and the more I mulled the more I liked it. I looked over at the Bishop, who nodded and smiled as well.

“Bring a friend to a thing.” Easy to remember, easy-ish to do.

Five minutes later, we had agreed on a definition for thing (a youth activity, church meeting, service project, seminary, or mutual night—the boys decided that scouts doesn’t count). Two minutes after that, we had set a goal: One friend per month as a quorum, which worked out to one friend per year for each of us.

It felt good, but just a bit daunting, the way goal-setting should. If we can get 12 visitors out to our activities and meetings this year, that will be something to be proud of, and perhaps change our missionary mindset about what our responsibilities are. We’ve already started optimizing to drive results (we’re planning our mutual activities from now on with the specific goal of getting non-members to attend). And we’re fully expecting The Client to take an active role in our new campaign.

On the crawl-walk-run spectrum, it’s definitely a crawling goal. The missionary-age me would say it shows a lack of faith that we’re not putting a hard number on baptisms. The pragmatist in me says that Job No. 1 is to jumpstart our missionary momentum and give ourselves some small successes to celebrate.

Comments

  1. Great idea, Kyle. Metrics we can achieve with reason and see progress. Makes me want to jump on board. Hereabouts it might be transformed to something like this: make a friend this year. Most of us have a closed system with regard to face to face (nonmember) friends. Something like this would help me get a broader view of things and help them see a Mormon up close, aside from the wonderful tangible and intangible support friends can offer and receive.

  2. StillConfused says:

    Baptism goals actually bother me. If someone chooses to join a faith, it should be because that person really wanted to… not because someone else was trying to meet a goal. I would rather have one baptism in my entire life that was truly what that other person wanted and sought out than to have a bunch of goal-baptisms.

  3. isnt mutal night = scouts?

  4. I’ve decided there’s a reason we send people on missions at 19 or 21. It’s so that we why baptism goals don’t work and we can move on from that.

  5. I especially like your Client analogy. Thank you for this post.

    “On the crawl-walk-run spectrum, it’s definitely a crawling goal. The missionary-age me would say it shows a lack of faith that we’re not putting a hard number on baptisms. The pragmatist in me says that Job No. 1 is to jumpstart our missionary momentum and give ourselves some small successes to celebrate.”

    Setting “crawl” goals with your Teachers is highly preferable than “run” goals. Missionaries are under a specific charge to set “run”-like goals; their time is truncated to their service, and are only given certain authority/gifts/help during that service time. Regular ward members have the luxury of being able to set goals in the “crawl” or “walk” region, since they are rooted into the community and will be able to spend more than a few months cultivating people for the gospel.

  6. It seems to me that being true friends is everything. And, of course, we do not make friends in order that they join our religion. When they show no interest in our religion, we are still their friend. No less their friend. So, it seems to me that the way forward into baptisms is to ignore baptisms.

  7. I like this perspective on missionary work. I’ve never been comfortable just pulling baptism numbers out of the air, as I’ve usually seen done, and instead prefer something like your goal that is achievable, requires some work, and is an easy one to visualize. And building goals around specific actions or activities that can build up to an ultimate goal, like “invitations to a thing”, makes us less likely to feel like we are caught in a cycle of failure.

    Queuno, not all teacher age boys are into scouting, and you pretty much need to have an alternative YM program for them, or they start staying away. In our ward for years, we’ve divided up our YM 14 and over by their interest in scouting. If they are still actively pursuing their Eagle, and are on track to complete, they stay in Scouts. If they are only a first class scout at 14, then we have separate mutual activities built around Duty to God, usually combined with our Priests, as we have had limited numbers of young men.

  8. Queuno, I was using “mutual” to refer to our once-a-month combined activities

  9. The reason why this scenario works better than baptism goals is that you simply cannot make a goal for someone else. “Bring a friend to a thing” is better than making a goal for yourself that depends on someone else’s agency. An even better goal for these young men might be “ASK a friend to a thing.” Making a goal over which one has no control is extremely self-defeating.

  10. Kyle, this is so good that my 3-year old daughter just peed her pants.

  11. Awesome. Really.

  12. I feel slightly uncomfortable making baptism goals. In our ward, we made a goal of having x number of members complete a mormon.org profile in 2011 and that has worked pretty well. It made the members evaluate their testimonies as they wrote them for public consumption. It helped our ward get more baptisms than we’ve had in many years.

    As part of the ward mission plan, we also had to make a baptism goal because that is what the leadership wants. I did share one of my favorite quotes from Dallin H. Oaks to illustrate my feeling on baptismal goals (but our ward still made one):

    “I reminded the missionaries that some of our most important plans cannot be brought to pass without the agency and actions of others. A missionary cannot baptize five persons this month without the agency and action of five other persons. A missionary can plan and work and do all within his or her power, but the desired result will depend upon the additional agency and action of others.
    Consequently, a missionary’s goals ought to be based upon the missionary’s personal agency and action, not upon the agency or action of others. But this is not the time to elaborate on what I told the missionaries about goals.”

    from “Timing”, October 2003 Ensign – http://lds.org/ensign/2003/10/timing?lang=eng

    It appears that “Preach My Gospel” does condone making baptismal goals. My attitude is that if we make goals that we control and do all we can to attain those goals, then we will feel good about ourselves. A ward could do a LOT of missionary-oriented things in 2012 and have no baptisms. Another ward could do nothing related to missionary work and end up getting many baptisms.

    It is an interesting dilemma that we are faced with of making goals that do not entirely depend on our own actions.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, this is great, Kyle. Missionary goals give me the hives, but this is the kind of thing I could get behind. (And I agree with BiV that the thing that bugs me about baptism goals is the lack of any control we have over that specific choice.)

  14. BiV, I like your comment, and we talked about goaling ourselves against invitations. IMO, it sets the bar TOO low. To continue the ad metaphor, it’s the difference between impressions and engagements–measuring success by the number of ads served instead of the number of ads clicked.

    Under this model, if 5 people refuse an invitation, I’m still on the hook to invite a 6th…7th…until someone says yes. It’s true that other peoples’ agency comes into play here, but the barriers are much lower. For instance, we went ice skating for our combined activity last week. Who says no to ice skating?

  15. observer fka eric s says:

    I have a very hard time with goals in any situation. To me, goals suggest that the motive to act comes from achievement of the goal rather than from a natural desire to do the act. Ideally, what we call a “goal” should really just be the natural result(s) of a desire to act in a circumstance.

    Goals also seem somewhat disingenuous. Goals motivate people to do things that they would not otherwise do naturally on their own. This is why gimmicky goal-setting schemes eventually lead to a disconnect with many people. Take Covey’s “sharpening the saw” stuff from the 90s. It fell out of popularity because he wanted people to make everything in their entire day–every minute–into some sort of goal-oriented achievement moment. Its completely unrealistic to expect people to perform like that given human nature.

    There is no evidence for goal setting in our canon. Instead, we read about exclamations of inner desire, like “bring[ing] as many souls unto Christ” as I can. There’s no goal there, no quantitative thought; only heart and spiritual motivation to act.

    But organizations need goals, again, because only few within the organization have a constant, inner buring desire to act absent other incentives. I’ve always been amazed at the motivational disparity that exists in a ward with respect to missionary work. Some live for it. Others do it in their own, less visible ways. While others would be perfectly content if they never spoke to another soul about Christ. Within the church, I think goal setting is a very dangerous area because it can be tracked, quantified, manipulated into stats, sliced and diced, etc. And whether goals are met or not met often becomes a reflection of an individual, quorum, auxiliary, ward council, ward, stake, region, and ultimately the church. This reflection then leads to judgment and evaluation, which leads to . . . . and sometimes the simple beauty of worshiping Christ gets lost in the effort.

  16. Kyle, great post and great ideas. Thanks for this perspective.

    I remember years ago I was called as WML while in grad school (and attending once again the ward of my youth — I was in my late 20’s and felt like a deacon all over again…). I strolled into PEC and challenged those there to set specific baptismal goals and promised with all the fervor I could muster that if we did so righteously the Lord would lead us to the pure in heart who would accept our message and the baptisms would follow.

    My bishop (who had years earlier been my young men’s president when I was a boy) kindly but firmly told me that baptismal goals were off the table. He said he didn’t know anyone who had invited more people to hear the gospel than he did (and then he enumerated quite a few) — all without baptisms. I couldn’t tell him he had no faith. I stammered a bit and and retreated. And learned a remarkable lesson from a kind bishop (one I held close to me the next two times I served in the same calling in the years to come).

  17. “Goals motivate people to do things that they would not otherwise do naturally on their own.”

    That’s a strange reason for rejecting them. As is motivational disparity. I think that brings up other purposes for goals beyond motivation–they can be consensus-building, descriptive of predicted ends, and even covenant-based, right?

  18. I don’t like assigned goals, either, or any goals that get portrayed in charts or graphs. If my priesthood file leader wants to talk to me, personally, and in private, and if that discussion results in a goal that I accept for myself, that’s well. But any other goal (or challenge or quota) is, in my mind, contrary to the Lord’s way.

    Ww always want some excuse not to do it the right way. Why can’t an elders quorum president do a personal priesthood interview with a quorum member to talk about his priesthood and encourage him in his duties? This seems like the right way, and the Lord’s way. In such a discussion, there could be no assignment — just an invitation — and the invitation might be turned down, as the member himself might have some other cause he feels more important — that’s fine.

    But back to the original posting, a ward mission leader assigning goals to the leaders of other organizations is sad. If he wants ward missionary work to improve, he needs to start doing the work himself. His example, and his invitations to others to help, seem like the right way to me.

  19. observer fka eric s says:

    Kyle, I should have prefaced with how I do appreciate this topic. It’s one that I think of often and wrestle with, and wish that there were others around that I could discuss it with.

    So yeah, ideally, motivation to act should be borne of the soul. If setting an achievement goal is in conflict with that then it seems like an unhealthy approach. But I didn’t mean to suggest that disparity is a rejection reason. It was just an observation. Disparity is significant to me in this discussion because goals are *usually* not tailored to disparate approaches to doing missionary work. For example, a stake will set a goal, or a region, or the church will set a goal for all members. When this happens, motivational disconnect occurs. I’m not a socialist but I like some of the stuff Marx would whip out. I think it was him that developed the idea (paraphrasing) that productivity and the human condition worsen when people are subjected to doing things that they feel completely detached from. Like factory workers making fortune cookies. I think the same can be generally said for goals, subject to rare exceptions.

    If you want to motivate people to do something, then just motivate them. I have never read that Joseph Smith, his contemporaries, or any prophets up until about the 1940s spoke in terms of goals. (This doesn’t mean they didn’t; it just means it doesn’t appear much in history much if they did). They spoke in terms of building Zion, of spreading the gospel, in more quantitative motivational terms that would move people to act on their inner spiritual inclination. Some arbitrary number, like . . . 10 this year! . . . just doesn’t seem to motivate or resonate with me.

    I see covenants differently. Covenants are a commitment. A commitment involves someone other than oneself, and is made usually for the benefit of all involved because they come to a point where they desire to make such commitments. I’m not sure what you meant by consensus building or descriptive of predictive ends. Could you ellab?

  20. Sure, and your own ellaboration helped a lot. By consensus building I just mean everyone has agreed to work toward the same ends. Very important in situations like client relationships: We’ve agreed on where we want to end up. In the quorum setting, we agreed that bringing friends to church is an area worth emphasizing.

    Descriptions of predicted ends is similar (but terribly phrased, sorry!). Continuing the ad metaphor, we can tell clients “X will very likely be achieved if we do Y and you do Z. So if you want X, you should do Z.” In a sense it’s motivational (do Z!), but we’re really just explaining cause and effect, based on our past experience. I think the main difference between that and covenant making is that covenants in the gospel sense are guaranteed, not predictive. But we’re still working toward a joint end with a third party, who is telling us what the Zs are that we should be doing to get to X. I agree with you that, ideally, we’ll do the Zs because we want to, not because they’re leading to X.

    This entire comment makes me out to be some performance-obsessed management consultant. I’m really not.

  21. “There is no evidence for goal setting in our canon.”

    D&C 103:30-34 on recruiting a body of five hundred for Zion’s Camp is one to consider. Particularly the part that “men do not always do my will,” so there were also lesser quotas to consider meeting and an absolute floor of one hundred below which the undertaking had failed and could not proceed further. A quota, lesser fallbacks, and the possibility of failure even with a goal stated in the voice of the Lord.

  22. Kyle M., I have a hard time with goal setting but your approach is the only one that makes sense to me and I have appreciated the slightly different perspective you have used this topic here. My question is more practical than an effort to critique the post in any way. Engaging in that type of discussion with the young men is a quite different enterprise to doing the same thing with an Elders Quorum or a High Priests group who are already very skeptical of numbers in general in the Church context. Any thoughts on this dynamic and how you might approach it?

  23. Stephanie says:

    I feel similar to observer about this. I think the key is how the goal is to be accomplished rather than the actual goal. For example, in losing weight, making a goal to achieve a certain weight might not be helpful because there are aspects of weight that are out of our control, and there are lots of unhealthy and potentially damaging ways to lose weight. Setting a particular number does cause people to do crazy things to get there. I think the same thing happens with baptisms (particularly related to full-time missionaries). How many people have been baptized who weren’t truly converted?

    I think a better approach would be to look at what leads to baptism and set that as a goal. I know that is what you are getting at with inviting friends to church, but I am thinking more along the lines of personal conversion. What things can I be doing in my life to be personally converted to the point that I want to share the gospel with my friends? It’s probably not as simple as that, but I think that would be a good place to start.

  24. Loved this — oustanding post. Thank you. God is The Client. I love that.

  25. Aaron, I’m not sure. It’s definitely easier with a small group of YM who are preparing for missions (and who have fun activities to invite friends to).

    Stephanie, that’s a great point. It’s an interesting idea to treat personal conversion as a kind of “leading indicator” for missionary success. I’m not sure how that fits into a goal-oriented, checklist culture, but maybe that’s a good thing.

  26. ji (#18): The current counsel (at least in our Stake) is that ward mission leaders should motivate missionary efforts via the ward council — doing exactly what was described in the OP.

    Mission story: Towards the end of the month, I received a call from the APs. They asked me to encourage my two investigators to bump their baptism date up by a week so that the mission could attain it’s monthly baptismal goal.

    I informed the APs that we had counseled our investigators to prayerfully consider a date for their baptism, they had done so, and had selected a date in the subsequent month. If God wanted them to be baptized in the current month, He would likely tell them Himself.

    “Bring a friend to a thing” is brilliant. It’s specific, it’s achievable, and it’s non-threatening. Or, as I put it in a recent sacrament meeting talk on missionary work, you need to hold hands before you get engaged.

  27. I think a ward mission leader setting missionary goals for another ward member is like a husband setting a weight-loss goal for his wife (continuing with the example from 23). Rather, the ward mission leader serves and encourages and sets an example, and then other ward members govern themselves. This sort of approach works better for me.

  28. Aaron, maybe the equivalent for adults would be to set a goal to invite somebody over for dinner. It isn’t even an invitation to church, and you don’t have to talk about church while they are at your table. It is just a baby step on the way toward making a new friend, as WVS suggested in comment # 1.

  29. Bonjo (no. 26) — I understand that approach, but it seems to me that the ward mission leader just passes his responsibility onto the elders quorum president and Relief Society president and others and requires them to bring in the missionary results. I prefer an approach like in my no. 27. I also appreciate your response to your APs, when you did not follow counsel for the sake of a goal.

  30. ji, when every member is a missionary, every missionary is a haranguer cheerleader.

  31. Chris Gordon says:

    I’ve struggled with this concept a lot in my time as WML and in quorum leadership. It’s a battle and I hate the feeling it instills within me as a leader to be sort of the sales manager for the ward council.

    In theory, I have no difficulty in setting goals that rely on other people’s agency to fulfill if I’m setting appropriate stepping stone goals that people can do with their own agency. In the mission field, it’s the same concept that I have a goal to get 5 referrals and in accomplishing that goal I will ask for 20. That’s a bit simplistic, but I think there is room to allow for the faith component if the goals set are done with judgment.

    In that vein, the “make a friend” goal or the “invite someone to a thing” goals are awesome bridges to the ultimate goals of baptism. Most trainings from the GA level I’ve seen on the subject involve goals around key indicators with “actions to affect key indicators” being the appropriate “crawl/walk” level goals.

    What I have seen to be the missing understanding among much of ground-level ward leadership is the near impossibility to jump from standing still to running, no matter how great the talk or how powerful the message.

    I do think that stake and area leaders are getting it, though. Our big missionary-related goal last year as a stake was for each family to have a non-member friend over for a BBQ who they hadn’t invited over previously. If they felt crazy, they could ask the missionaries to be there but the SP had given instruction to the FTMs NOT to do much more than just visit and chat. I love that goal, our family did it, and felt awesome about it.

  32. I love this idea. Goals were something that became such a sore spot for me on my mission because of the ideas that both Kyle and BiV said. First, it became a huge leap for me. We’d be sitting in our apartments trying to plan the week, with one person in our teaching pool, no prospects, and taking a stab in the dark saying “Durr, I think we can teach 10 DISCUSSIONS this week!” There was no conceptualizing, no evaluation of how that would be done, just stating it. And going along with what BiV said, how can you make a goal when it involves someone else’s ability to choose? And I think that one of the interesting things about missionary life is simply the fact that goals are driven into everyone, but, like Kyle said, nothing is done to evaluate why that goal wasn’t achieved. You just move on. And if someone finds success in one area, everyone jumps on it, instead of analyzing WHY exactly is one thing successful or not? I really pray for the day that missionary work is less driven by numbers, and more driven by effectiveness.

    Second, I love those kids. “Bring a friend to a thing.” So simple. So effective. We drag out the same old “missionary tactics,” such as handing out Books of Mormon, or inviting someone to church, or inviting someone to hear the lessons. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But we don’t think outside the box. Like Tom’s ward (#12), making a profile on Mormon.org thinks outside the box, is something attainable, and allows people of different comfort levels to feel like they’re participating in missionary work. It also allows people to articulate their beliefs in a non-threatening way.

  33. A business associate, not LDS, who was raised in Salt Lake mentioned to me that he generally avoided most all social overtures from those known to him to be active LDS. Why? In the end, long or short, up or down, winter or summer, …in the end, to him ALWAYS came the question at some point, “What do you know about the LDS Church?” Or, something like that. He had absolutely NO interest in the Church. When his zero interest in the church became evident, the phone stopped ringing.

    Anecdotal stories abound on all sides – including mine. Other non-LDS people living among LDS I am sure have different even opposite experiences.

    A non-member husband married to an LDS woman mentioned to me that he grew tired of the home teachers who were assigned to his wife… They arrive with back-slapping, friendship hugs for him with energetic invitations for hunting and fishing. A year later when the home teaching districts are changed and the once long lost friend of a home teacher is transferred to a new family, he seems to be forgotten.

    A young, but wise bishop once stood up to address the priesthood in our ward. He was the final speaker in a missionary oriented meeting. The meeting was filled with all of the tools of the LDS missionary trade – goals, open houses, splits, BoM distribution, invite a friend to this, that, or the other… The young bishop spoke for just a few minutes. He made no adverse comments on what had been said.

    He merely said that the brethren should first strive to get their heart right and learn to love others. He said that this is not an easy task. He suggested that we all read the life of Christ in the Gospels and imagine that we are following him — in his very footsteps. Second, he said, develop relationships for the long-term. Relationships that will extend and grow well beyond the time when we realize that they have no interest in the church. He ended with his testimony and sat down.

    I see little to no merit in goals of any kind in church missionary work. Others may have different experiences, but my experience suggests that they have little long-term effect.
    Earl

  34. Missionary goals. Way back when, when each stake had a quorum of seventy, I was an acting president. The head president went around the table and asked for missionary goals for the coming year. Each of the other presidents made outlandish goals of double or triple the last year’s number. Then it came to me. The year was partially gone and I knew who was in the queue for baptism and then said I could commit to about a 10% increase.

    There was silence in heaven for the length of a minute. The president argued with me and I responded with rationality. I was not made president, my acting status was revoked. At the end of the year my number was dead on.

    There was a stake president who took it as his goal to baptize a whole stake’s worth of converts in North Phoenix some 40 years ago. In one stake conference he wept at the podium, full of faith, that the goal was obtainable. He was released shortly thereafter, well short of his 10 year tenure.

    The lesson: you can not win making goals on baptisms.

  35. “But while we want an ambitious goal, we must be able to achieve whatever goal we set for ourselves. The idea of setting a goal without having full confidence in our ability to achieve it is crazy..”

    EXACTLY! It is crazy! It’s a weird little dance we all do, with both partners knowing the futility of it all. A waste of everyone’s limited time. Time we could have spent really talking about a family in need instead of magically drawing numbers out of the air. At the last ward council we were told that each quorum/auxiliary needed to provide “a quality referral”. Don’t even get me started on the wording….

    When we have the full time missionaries to dinner, I always inform them that I currently live with 3 investigators and they’re sitting at the table with them right now so please go ahead and teach my children. They don’t like to hear this and start pressuring me for names of neighbors, co-workers, our baptism goals for the year, etc. One time I was so frustrated that I turned to my 16 yr old daughter–who recently told me she’s not sure that she even believes in God, thank you very much!–and encouraged her to ask the missionaries any question she had about the gospel. She then said that she has never felt the spirit in her entire life, ever, and so had no questions. One of the missionaries then began to talk to her as if she truly was an investigator. He told her she had probably felt the spirit several times, needed to work at it a little, gave her tips on how to be more aware of it, etc. All things we had taught but coming from a peer, made such an impact on her and actually increased her testimony in the gospel. This elder did missionary work with an investigator–exactly why he came on a mission in the first place–but I’m pretty sure he didn’t see it that way. No one seems to, except for her grateful parents. Your approach, Kyle M, is a sane response to an entire system and mentality that is whack. Thank you for the post.

  36. Thanks for the comment, kc. I’m glad your daughter had that moment, whether it showed up on the missionary’s weekly report or not (probably not).

  37. I definitely agree that, in general, goals should be set for things that you actually have control over (and I wish somebody would explain that to the managers at places I’ve worked…).

    As one counterexample, I have seen baptism goals work in a way that, in hindsight, could only have come from inspiration.

    In one area on my mission, there had been no baptisms in the district (one ward, two branches) for a year or so. Our DL decided we should set a goal to have one baptism in each unit in the following month. It seemed kind of insane on the face of it, but we agreed to accept the challenge. We all worked hard, prayed hard, fasted, etc. And amazingly, we ended the month with four baptisms, some of them coming about in arguably miraculous fashion.

    So it does seem to me that there may be times when inspiration dictates setting a goal for numbers of baptisms.

    But in general, and certainly if done without inspiration, I think it often is a Bad Idea.

  38. Great post, Kyle, and interesting discussion from all who have contributed. In my ward’s 2012 mission plan, we (members of the Elder’s Quorum) were asked to “bring a friend to a thing” in the coming year, our “thing” being a trip to the visitor’s center of the Laie Hawaii Temple to watch the Joseph Smith movie (Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration). When I mentioned this goal to the quorum (I’m the EQP), the guys were receptive to it.

    In contrast, when I mentioned a goal of 100% home teaching for December for the quorum (our usual is in the 20-30% range), it was as if I had hoisted a 1000 lb. weight on their backs.

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