Some years ago (more than I’d like to admit), I was a young mother with two small children. My husband had been offered a job in another state so we moved our little family. We hadn’t lived in our new ward for long when the missionaries stopped by. We invited them in and they shared a short message with us about being member missionaries. They then asked us to make a list of 10 names and to pray about the names until we had a list of 5 names. They said they would return the following week and for our list of 5 names and the times we could set up appointments for them to teach the people on our list.
After they left, I was utterly overwhelmed. I had a strong testimony of the gospel and certainly wanted to share it, but I was new in the area and suddenly felt all this pressure to not only meet people, but try to set up appointments for them to learn about the gospel.
We prayed about it, but I felt so stressed about the request from the missionaries, I couldn’t feel any promptings. When the missionaries returned, we explained that we had prayed, but didn’t have any names to give them yet because we didn’t know many people in the area. Giving them names wouldn’t have been any more helpful than having them tract out people themselves. They weren’t pleased, but agreed to visit us again when we felt we had some names of people who would truly be interested in the gospel.
Since that time, we’ve moved and we’ve met with the missionaries on numerous occasions. The missionaries now ask us for names of people we know, that we’ve prayed about, and that we feel would be the most receptive to the message of the gospel. No pressure, no stress. The trick isn’t in quantity of names referred to the missionaries, but the quality, or the readiness, of those names.
Spencer W. Kimball said, “Usually we must warm our neighbors, before we warn them properly. Our neighbors must experience our genuine friendship and fellowship.” (Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 140).
Statistics show that the most effective missionary work in The Church comes from member referrals. Why? Because when we refer our friends and neighbors, people who know and trust us, barriers are removed and the missionaries can spend their time teaching people who are genuinely seeking the truth rather than tracting out people who have no interest.
It takes time and effort to build a friendship. We can’t simply run into someone’s life and expect him to be interested in the gospel. We must show our friends and neighbors that we love them and because we love them, we want to share something that is important to us. They will be much more receptive to the gospel when they feel we are sharing it because we love them.
Return to the neighborhood.