If it ain't broke

Posted Jul 24, 2012 | New Media Project


By Lerone A. Martin

Social media are reshaping one of the most picturesque scenes in American religious life: Mormon door-to-door missions.

Americans have become accustomed to seeing the local missionaries, usually donned in crisp white shirts and black neckties, going house to house to spread the message of Mormonism. For over two centuries, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which was founded in America, has canvassed neighborhoods for converts.

However, Erich Kopischke, a prominent Church Elder, recently told reporters that social media might be a more efficient and acceptable way to do home missions. Kopischke said, “Door-knocking is sometimes understood as aggressive proselytizing,” while communicating through social networking is more commonplace and appropriate today. Moreover, the Elder said, door-to-door missions are very time consuming, but “one post on Facebook, could reach 900,000 people in an instant.”

Abandoning the church’s signature form of evangelism may be a mistake. Numerically speaking, neighborhood canvassing has worked well for Mormons. The church is the second fastest growing religious group in America, trailing only Islam. From 2000 to 2010, the number of American Mormons increased 45 percent. The faith now claims over 6 million followers. Nonetheless, the church is pushing to have a greater social media presence for evangelism.

Perhaps the maxim “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” applies here. Or maybe the effort to keep pace with emerging trends will pay greater dividends. Time will certainly tell.

Lerone A. Martin, a research fellow for the New Media Project, is Assistant Professor of American Religious History and Culture at Eden Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, MO.

The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact newmediaproject@cts.edu.



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