New Missionary In-field Training Extends MTC Experience
Heather Whittle Wrigley, Church News and Events
Beginning in August, a new effort will bring an additional 12 weeks of training to missionaries who have just left their missionary training center for the mission field.
Richard Heaton, director of the Provo MTC, explained that the new in-field training is not new programming, but rather an extension of the training missionaries receive in the MTC.
“The First 12 Weeks manual points trainers and their new missionary companions to the resources in Preach My Gospel that they most need in their first 12 weeks,” he said. “It’s a roadmap to how to get up to speed and become fully functional as servants of the Lord as rapidly as possible.”
Mission presidents are to begin implementing the in-field training for new missionaries materials—which includes three training documents and new companion study video segments—almost immediately.
Instructions for Mission Presidents advises mission presidents how to implement the new training for new missionaries. As time and distances permit, mission presidents will train the trainers during each transfer before the trainers meet their new missionary companions. Then, mission presidents should train the new missionaries with their trainers.
This booklet emphasizes the difference between training received in the MTC and the in-field training that will take place: “MTC training focuses on providing missionaries with many opportunities to teach. … The first 12 weeks in the field will include a major focus on the doctrine from the missionary lessons in chapter 3 [of Preach My Gospel].”
However, the in-field training still seeks to bring the training received in the MTC and the training received in the field together in a seamless continuation of lessons and learning.
“Missionaries would get out and their companions would say, ‘Forget it. This is how we do it here,’” said Tracy Watson, director of proselyting for the Missionary Department of the Church. “In-field training for new missionaries provides a foundation that will help a new missionary teach with power and contribute to the overall effort in meaningful ways far sooner.”
The four-page Instructions for Trainers begins with this admonition: “The responsibility to train a new missionary is a sacred trust from your mission president and from the Lord. A missionary’s first companion has a profound, lasting influence on the development of the missionary’s attitudes, habits, and ability to fulfill his or her purpose.”
Each new missionary’s trainer will receive a copy of the booklet, which gives tips on being a positive example and guidelines on studying and proselyting together, training a new missionary, the additional 60 minutes of companion study required in the first 12 weeks, personal study, and language study. New missionaries and their trainers are expected to train together daily, explaining, demonstrating, practicing, evaluating, and repracticing principles from Preach My Gospel.
In trials in six United States missions, Brother Heaton said, the Missionary Department was encouraged by how readily new missionaries accepted the challenge to move faster.
“We saw new missionaries feeling much more engaged and involved in the spiritual progress of their investigators than we’ve seen before,” he said. “We saw them studying more effectively and getting much more out of Preach My Gospel than they have in the past. Their comfort level in participating and their willingness to take the lead increased.”
In those trials, many senior companions commented that their new missionary companions were progressing much more rapidly than they (the senior companions) had as new missionaries.
The First 12 Weeks for New Missionaries and Trainers is the third booklet in the new program and the one that is supplied to each new missionary and his or her trainer.
It opens with a call to the new missionary. “You will continue to build on the foundation established at the MTC by understanding and living all of the principles of missionary work found in Preach My Gospel,” it reads. “Strive to become the kind of missionary who could, if called upon, train a new missionary by the end of your first 12 weeks in the mission field.”
For the first 12 weeks, new missionaries and their trainers follow a suggested schedule of study from the manual, which lists what sections and topics to study in Preach My Gospel. It also provides suggestions on how new missionaries can apply what they are learning in their proselyting.
Brother Watson has already seen success come from the in-field training materials and said it is changing the culture of missions in a meaningful and positive way.
“I witnessed a new missionary on his first day in his first appointment participate in teaching in such a way that it had profound effect on an investigator who was later baptized,” he said. “We also saw that this approach has the potential in all missionaries to elevate the work. Across the board, new missionaries were far better teachers than what we had witnessed before, they adjusted more quickly to mission life, and they were able to participate much earlier in leadership assignments.”
The manual focuses on eight “Fundamentals from Preach My Gospel: Teaching More Effectively”:
- The Doctrine of Christ—the Missionary Purpose
- The Role of the Holy Ghost in Conversion
- Revelation through Prayer
- Revelation through the Book of Mormon
- Revelation through Church Attendance
- Teach People, Not Lessons
- We Invite, They Commit, We Follow Up
- How to Begin Teaching
The First 12 Weeks for New Missionaries and Trainers also includes assignments to watch companion study video segments from an accompanying DVD. “Using the Preach My Gospel DVDs is an integral part of the in-field training for new missionaries,” a letter from the Missionary Department read. “Portable DVD players are being sent to every mission between early June and the middle of August 2011. Each mission will receive one portable DVD player for each companionship.”
In August, the program will be rolled out in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Other languages will follow.
“This in-field training program is helping missionary materials become more complete, aligning the training that happens in the MTC and the training that occurs in the field,” Brother Heaton emphasized. “As new missionaries engage in this process, they’ll be comfortable sooner in seeking, recognizing, and acting upon the inspiration from the Holy Ghost.”
Brother Watson sees it as a fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to “hasten [His] work in its time” (D&C 88:73): “There’s no question this change has great potential to do that kind of hastening of the work. I believe we will see more converts come to the Church because of this training and learning experience.”