Member Missionary Plans Accelerate Church Growth in British Columbia


By Anthony W. Middleton, Jr.,

 Canada Vancouver Mission President 2005-2008


     In response to Preach My Gospel calling for members to become more effective inviters of their non-member acquaintances, the wonderful saints in British Columbia, Canada, have developed many wonderful member missionary ideas.  Several of those ideas were spotlighted by an article in the August 2007 Ensign, “How to Be a Great Member Missionary.”  Since then several additional and even more successful member missionary approaches have evolved with the Lord’s inspiration.


Vibrant Leaders Necessary for Success


     First published in 2005,  Preach My Gospel called for local Church leaders to develop their own Mission Plan.  Embracing that challenge, the British Columbia stake presidents quickly developed four principles to guide their ward and family Mission Plans:


1.     The plan should involve every member, not just the ward missionaries.

2.     It should have measureable goals.

3.     It should be simple.

4.     Local leaders, families and individuals should create their own Mission Plan, as Preach My Gospel counsels.


     As local leaders counseled and educated their members, many different Mission Plans were developed.  Because local wards and branches had authorship, they sensed ownership of their Mission Plan and worked vigorously to implement it.  It was noted throughout the province that bold leadership and participation by the bishop or branch president made a huge difference in the acceptance and implementation of each plan by members, as was called for by Preach My Gospel (PMG pg. 218).


     Stake and district presidents soon realized their pivotal role in boldly guiding  bishops and branch presidents into assuring that all members were becoming inviting member missionaries.  They also saw that bishops and district presidents were assuming oversight over the work of our full-time missionaries along with all missionary-related programs in the ward or branch.  Full time missionaries soon attended PEC and Ward Council meetings, consistent with the counsel of  PMG, to better coordinate their work with all ward priesthood and auxiliary heads, and Zone Leaders began meeting at least monthly with stake and district presidents to assure that stake and district activities had missionary goals.  President Bennie Soll, the Surrey Stake President,  began meeting with the Surrey Zone Leaders weekly, going over in each meeting the progress of every investigator in the stake, and from time to time he called ward leaders to make suggestions as to how their missionary efforts might be improved—the Surrey Stake missionary success then began rapidly escalating.


The Simplest Mission Plans Worked Best


     A wonderful variety of Mission Plans were developed in response to the exhortation in PMG, encouraged by the stake and district president’s leadership.  Dozens of Plans were created;  most were very innovative.  They were accepted and acted upon with varying levels of enthusiasm by the members.  Those that were lengthy and complex seemed to be embraced at first, but gradually fell into disuse.  It was noted that the simpler the Mission Plan the greater was the likelihood that it would be accepted by members and that it would endure.  Sister Linda Walker of the Vancouver Stake pointed out that it was a “KISS” principle (Keep It Simple Saints).


     Elder M. Russell Ballard made the same observation in the June 2007 Mission President’s Seminar in Provo, Utah, when he counseled, “If you are going to increase the numbers of convert baptisms…keep it simple.  The devil loves complexity.”


Development of Stake and Ward Plans


     The first stake guidelines for a Mission Plan were developed by President Paul Christensen of the Abbotsford Stake.  He and his stake leaders had several points in their Mission Plan guidelines, the most bold and innovative being a call for each family in the stake to commit to bringing at least 3 non-member acquaintances on a Spiritual Tour of their chapel.  The Spiritual Tour had been developed by the Tacoma Washington Mission in recent years, and consisted of giving the First PMG Lesson (the Restoration Lesson) while walking through the Church building and explaining the significance of each room to the investigator.  A powerful tool, it allowed the investigator to experience first hand their potential new spiritual home while boldly presenting the basic beliefs of our Church.  With great wisdom Elder M. Russell Ballard had asked that the Canada Vancouver Mission adopt the Spiritual Chapel Tour. 


     Over the next few weeks our other 6 stakes and our one district adopted similar goals, either to commit to bring 3 non-members per year on a Tour or, in the case of the Vancouver Stake led by President Thomas Walker, to bring 4 non-members per year.  Each ward and branch wrote their own Mission Plan, with their stake and district guidelines incorporated, and each family was urged to write their own Mission Plan.  Ward Mission Plans were brief enough to be written on a 4 x 8 inch card, which then was laminated  with a magnet on the back of the card to allow it to be affixed to each member’s refrigerator as a reminder.


Sister Lena Ma Demonstrates the Way


     Sister Lena Ma, a member of the Wah Yan Chinese Ward in Vancouver, had become an extraordinary member missionary since being converted.  Over a 10 year period she had been responsible for bringing 20 converts into the Church.  Her approach was bold but very simple—she enthusiastically

extended an invitation to “come and see” (John 1:39) to essentially all her non-member acquaintances.  The success rate she noted was very similar to the success rate we found from all inviting members in British Columbia—1 of 7 invited to a Church-related event came (while 6 of 7 declined), and 1 of 7 who came to an event went on to baptism.  The key to Sister Ma’s success was that she did not become discouraged by the 6 of 7 who chose not to come, but kept on inviting.


Ward Mission Plan Ideas from British Columbia


     Understanding that an article this short neglects mentioning many of the inspired and dedicated local leaders who stepped forth magnificently to lead their members to become effective missionaries, due to insufficient space,  we mention a few whose ideas were especially important, that their ideas might inspire similar efforts by member leaders in other parts of the world.  When the importance of brevity and simplicity were appreciated, wards began developing Mission Plans which fit easily on a 4 x 8 inch card, as mentioned above.  It was then distributed to every member family, so that its appearance on the refrigerator could serve as a frequent reminder of the role of the member as a missionary.


     It quickly became apparent that wards and branches needed frequent activities to which their members could invite their non-member acquaintances.  Monthly activities, or more often, became the goal of several wards, and the objective of making the activities well-done but inexpensive became a goal.  Some activities used were:


·        Spiritual Chapel Tour Day—held on a Saturday at the Maple Ridge Ward, 8 Tours were needed for the 30 people in attendance.

·        International Potluck Dinner in the Westbank Branch—60 non-members attended, including the mayor;  a similar International Dinner in Prince George had similar results.

·        A Fall “Corn Roast Dinner” in the Sidney Ward—52 non-members and 10 less actives attended;  a similar “Corn Roast Dinner” produced equally excellent results in the Kamloops Second Ward.

·        A Genealogical Fair and Chapel Tour in the Kelowna First Ward—100 non-members were in attendance.

·        A Spring Choir Festival in the Port Alberni Ward featured 8 separate choirs—5 from non-LDS churches, 2 non-denominational choirs, and the ward choir.

·        A “One Fold, One Shepherd” original program in Prince George, written by Bishop Frank and Sister Shirley Penny, featured a reading by the Stake President, John Young, of scriptures telling of Christ’s role in the Old and New World—10 non-members and 3 less active members came, and 6 Chapel Tours were given.

·        An “Every Nation..Every People” original musical production, written by Sister Ruth Yates with music written by Sister Shelley Murley, featured performers from the Vancouver, Surrey and Abbotsford Stakes, telling of the immigration to British Columbia of thousands of people from numerous lands.  The production ran for two nights, and attracted hundreds of non-members invited by their member acquaintances.

·        A Chinese New Year Celebration, featuring a dinner and celebration program, in both the Vancouver Wah Yan Chinese Ward and the Richmond Ward—each resulted in several dozen non-member attendees brought by members.

·        A Ping Pong Tournament organized by the Coquitlam Ward Mission Leader David Zuskin, with many non-member participants.

·        An original musical production by Vanderhoof members—attracted 40 non-members invited by their member acquaintances.

·        Cattle branding in Vanderhoof—20 non-members helped by their member friends and the full time missionaries.

·        A Luau dinner and program in the Richmond Ward—over 50 non-members (over 250 in all) at a standing-room only activity organized by Mission Leader Woody Williams.  Following the program Bishop Travis Wolsey took all in attendance into the chapel and there presented the Restoration Lesson from the pulpit.

·        A sit-down Mother’s Day Dinner in the Wah Yan Chinese Ward, organized by Ward Mission Leader David Chan.  There were more non-member families than member families.  Family photos were taken in an attractive setting as the families arrived, which were later delivered to the families by the full time missionaries.  Chinese music and dance were presented, and the non-members were placed at tables with members to allow them to socialize and answer questions about the Church.


Campbell River Ward Pioneers Recognition of Members Who Invite, Every Sunday


    Of the many ideas developed by local leaders, the one that has been the most effective and has been embraced the best by the ward members in which it was first used is the Mission Plan developed by Ward Mission Leader Bill Mackie and Bishop Leonard Aspden in the Campbell River Ward.  It calls for all members to invite their non-member acquaintances to a Church-related activity, each member inviting frequently with a goal of extending an invitation to all their acquaintances.  They also began recognizing each member who invited someone through the week each Sunday at the beginning of their class or quorum meeting.  They did so by holding a drawing of the soon to be built Vancouver Temple mounted on a black background before the class, then inviting each member who had invited someone to place a gold star on the black background to “illuminate the temple.”  The concept endured and was increasingly embraced by the members.  The idea could be described in a simple one sentence Mission Plan:  every member will strive to invite a non-member acquaintance each week to a Church-related event.


     Nearly every member in British Columbia knows over 100 non-members well enough to say hello as they pass on the street; being a good member missionary requires that each of them be invited to come and see at some point.  Inviting one of their acquaintances weekly, a member will take a few years to invite every non-member they know.


     Other wards and branches throughout British Columbia began adopting variations of the Mission Plan.  The Richmond Ward Mission Leader, Woody Williams, placed a large silhouette of the Vancouver Temple near the ward bulletin board, and then placed a small paper brick on the temple outline for each invitation offered, starting at the bottom, to “build the temple with our invitations.”  Other wards and branches followed with their own unique variations on this same theme.


Why Does Weekly Recognition on Sunday Work?


     Multiple scriptures make it clear that each member should invite everyone they know.  “And at all times, and in all places, he shall open his mouth and declare my gospel” D&C 24:12 (and also Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15; D&C18:41; D&C 19:37; D&C 28:16; D&C 80:3; etc.)  In the past, members motivated to invite would identify in their mind’s eye one or two acquaintances they felt would surely say yes to an invitation, would then do many things to friendship them, and upon inviting the friend that friend would decline (in BC, 6 of 7 who were invited declined).  The member might have the same experience with a second acquaintance, and would then judge themselves as either poor missionaries, poor judges of potential investigators, or both, and they would throw their hands in the air figuratively and would stop inviting.


     Knowing that in British Columbia 1 of 7 who are invited comes to see, as was the case with Sister Ma and all British Columbia member missionaries, then 6 of 7 decline.  The weekly public recognition of each member who had invited gave them in effect a public “pat on the back” for having made the invitation even if the person invited declined to come.  That simple exercise kept members motivated to keep on inviting weekly, working through their list of non-members until they found that acquaintance who was “the elect of the Lord” (D&C 29:7), who would say yes.  In no instance did we hear of a member who had lost a friend whom they had invited if that friend declined to come.


     At the April 2008 General Conference Elder David A. Bednar called boldly for members to become effective member missionaries when he stated, “ultimately it is my responsibility and your responsibility to find people for the missionaries to teach.  Missionaries are full-time teachers; you and I are full-time finders.  And you and I as lifelong missionaries should not be praying for the full time missionaries to do our work!”



     In British Columbia a pair of full time missionaries rarely covers more than one ward or branch.  They very quickly worked   through the ward’s part-member less active list (though very important to do), and then were dependent upon member referrals and tracting to find.  While tracting was necessary in British Columbia it was not very effective—estimates were that tracting produced one baptism for every 5000 doors knocked upon.  Clearly  member referrals were the very most effective way to grow the Church in British Columbia. 


     The Lord has inspired both members and full-time missionaries in British Columbia to embrace the teachings He has given to our Church leaders through  Preach My Gospel.  As more and more of the British Columbia Church members understand and are embracing their central role in finding, the Church growth is rapidly accelerating,  and  the Lord is truly blessing British Columbia!