Jonathan M. Prince’s book, “Every Member a Friend,” focuses on what members, full-time missionaries and local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can do to improve their approach to missionary work.
Citing recent trends in religion, Prince points out that although the number of full-time missionaries has doubled over the past 35 years, the number of convert baptisms has not changed. And this trend is not just isolated to the LDS religion, but religion in general. Increasing numbers of people do not identify with organized religion.
As a former full-time missionary, seminary teacher, bishop, high councilor, stake presidency member, mission president and ward mission leader, Prince says he has a solution: Friendship.
Here are some tips from his book on how it works:
1. Be a genuine friend
Everyone needs to feel they belong, and this is what Prince attributes to both a decline in new church members and an increase in inactivity. He said that we need to be friends first, and bases his beliefs off of what the Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism.”
Prince made sure to note that members must befriend others for Christ-like reasons, not to accomplish numerical goals.
“We must recognize friendship as one of the Savior’s primary ideals for living,” he wrote.
2. Prepare people to receive the gospel
Traditionally, full-time missionaries have hoped to be led to individuals who’ve been prepared to receive the gospel, following a “find, teach, baptize” model. Prince suggests that missionaries prepare others to receive the gospel, following instead a “prepare, teach, baptize” model.
He noted that a large part of the preparation is through encouraging local members to befriend those in the community.
3. Allow things to develop naturally5 comments on this story
Prince said that missionaries shouldn’t pressure investigators to commit to baptism too quickly, and members shouldn’t focus on talking about religion. He says that these things will come up naturally.
He also noted that if a person shows no interest, continue the friendship for the sake of the friendship.
“We are friends for the sake of friendship, not for the possibility that they might have interest in the church,” he wrote.
“Every Member a Friend” outlines several more tips for members, missionaries and church leaders, with anecdotal stories to support each one.