Orem resident Michelle Linford understands that being a member missionary in an LDS-saturated community poses unique challenges, but she doesn’t let that stop her. Sponsored by the More Good Foundation, Linford started her own “missionary-minded” website in January 2008 and developed a strong online presence.
“Because I’ve been around for a while and have some Google recognition, I like to use my SEO position to feature other stories that may not be found as easily,” Linford said.
That’s exactly what she did for Bishop Chris Staggs of the Overland Park First Ward in the Lenexa Kansas Stake, whose conversion story she saw posted on the Everyday Missionaries Facebook group, a social media arm of Clayton Christensen’s “The Power of Everyday Missionaries” published by Deseret Book. Linford, who loves to network, quoted Bishop Staggs’ story on her site and posted a link to his blog, directing her readers to him. The result: a significant bump in Staggs’ web traffic and the initiation of many conversations about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We all have the desire to be missionaries, even in Utah Valley,” Linford said, “but here we sometimes get stuck in a rut. We think, ‘Everybody in my ward boundaries has already been talked to so I’m done.’ But the Internet opens up this whole new realm to share our faith.”
This is the missionary work of the future. This is where terms like “social media” and “networking” are on par with terms like “street contact” and “tracting.” This is exactly what Nat Harward, producer and community manager for Everyday Missionaries, brought to life online. In an effort to expand readers’ experiences with the the practical principles in Clayton Christensen’s book, Nat drove the creation of Everyday Missionaries profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest, giving members forums for sharing their missionary experiences and connecting with each other.
“As Clayton says, a lot of great missionary work and service of ward missionaries is done in private, and so there aren’t a lot of great role models for people to observe and learn from,” Harward said. “The stories in the book provide many great examples, and the Everyday Missionaries community online provides even more — and opportunity for people to add their own. We created the online community for people to share what’s working and not working so we all move forward together.”
Harward said reading the book alone is a great place to start, but there are likely to be some principles people find difficult to apply.
“Some people will get stuck in specific ways that rereading the book won’t make obvious for them to see what to do differently, but having a conversation with someone in the community will,” Harward said.
Harward also produced a series of training videos to teach the book’s real-life missionary concepts.
Clayton Welch, a former ward mission leader in Provo’s Grandview 6th Ward, put the Everyday Missionaries resources to use in his calling. He showed the training videos to ward missionaries and in Ward Correlation Meeting to motivate different auxiliaries to actively participate in missionary work.
“You could feel a difference in the missionary spirit thanks to the videos,” Welch said.
Welch and his wife also use the videos in their FHE (family home evening) lessons and talk about how to apply each principle in their own lives. As a visual learner, he said the videos added a lot to his experience with the book.
“Often times people in Utah Valley assume that there is no work to be done,” Welch said. “These videos helped reignite the missionary flame in me, and reminded me that there is indeed work to be done.”
Linford also feels the urgency of that work, but recognizes that much of what she can do to be a better missionary is simply be a more authentic person.
“There are simple ways to use social media to reflect how our religion influences our lives,” Linford said. “I think that’s really the message Clayton Christensen wants to communicate through Everyday Missionaries. Let your religion freely be part of who you are. It’s OK to open that up. Don’t force people to listen. Just be yourself.”