Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Rebecca Irvine, author of MTC at Home: Preparing the Lord’s Future Missionaries. We welcome her to our family of guest post authors.
“Think of the power of our future missionary force if mothers considered their homes as a pre–missionary training center (MTC). Then the doctrines of the gospel taught in the MTC would be a review and not a revelation. That is influence; that is power.” (Julie Beck, Mother’s Who Know)
The Missionary Training Center (MTC) offers a vigorous instruction and preparation program for new missionaries. In 2012, in an effort to prepare for higher numbers of missionaries, Church leaders cut back on MTC training time by a third. This shifted, in part, the impetus of preparing future missionaries from the MTC to parents and leaders.
While discussing his future missionary service, my 16-year-old son revealed his biggest fear as having to teach doctrine to people. “I’m scared to have to teach people things I am just learning myself,” he noted. In learning about this fear, my husband and I determined we needed to help prepare our children to be confident and competent missionaries. In doing so we trust in the scripture, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30).
Following are five things we are doing to help make our home a missionary training center:
Be Familiar with PMG
The primary training manual for missionaries is Preach My Gospel (PMG). It is available online for free, or can be purchased for low cost in bookstores (in both regular or mini format). Missionaries use this manual to:
- Learn how to find investigators,
- Know what to teach,
- Know how to resolve investigator concerns,
- Recognize how to improve themselves,
- And understand how to communicate with their companion.
Parents can use PMG in the home as either part of family scripture study time, or as the basis for FHE lessons. By letting teens lead in these teaching situations, they also will become more familiar with this key handbook.
Use Role Playing Techniques
Missionaries spend several hours each day in the MTC practicing the PMG lessons in various role play scenarios. As I have used role playing techniques at home and as a college professor, I have found most people feel awkward at first. However, practicing definitely helps. Parents can use role play on a variety of occasions—at the dinner table, during FHE, or even in the car. Ideas of role play scenarios to try include:
- Inviting (to be baptized, to read the Book of Mormon, to attend Church)
- Resolving a concern (investigator is not sure Joseph Smith is a prophet)
- Teaching a gospel concept (have them role play teaching you what they were taught at Church on Sunday)
Daily Family Scripture Study
Continuous regular scripture study will help build a foundation of gospel knowledge, as well as strengthen cohesive bonds of family unity. Despite these incredible blessings, many families find scripture study difficult. The key is to be flexible but persistent. Many parents prefer to get scriptures done first thing in the morning. But with hectic and varied a.m. schedules, morning study does not work well for every family. Our family has had to re-evaluate our scripture study time each new school year. We experiment until we find a time that works at least five days a week. (Editor’s Note: Also see the post by Teresa Osorio about the Best Mission Prep Class Ever: Reading the Book of Mormon with Your Children or Jimmy and Heather’s experience of Reading the Book of Mormon as a Family.)
Family Home Evening (FHE) is the best opportunity parents have to give their children opportunities to teach. The current youth curriculum the Church is using, Come, Follow Me, applies strategies designed to involve teens more actively in the teaching and learning process. If parents use the same type of teaching techniques the benefits are threefold for youth: stronger testimonies, more teaching experience, and deeper understanding of Gospel doctrine. All three of these blessings help prepare youth to be missionaries.
Develop Social Skills
Missionaries spend much of their days interacting with the public. In preparation for this, parents can plan opportunities for their children to improve social skills. Behavior during dinner appointments, interaction with mission and ward leaders, and the ability to handle rejection are some abilities to consider.
Technology plays a role strongly related to missionary social skills. Recent studies have shown texting causes apprehension in using verbal communication among youth and adolescents. Delaying or limiting cell phone usage among teens may help to prevent this. In addition, modern missionaries are often required to use social media in their service. Parents should help their youth understand both how to use common social media sites as well as to exercise proper etiquette online.