While on my mission, I attended a zone conference at which my mission president gave a workshop on leadership. He drew two columns on the chalkboard, and on one side, he listed the things a good leader does, and on the other, the things a great leader does. I still have my notes from that day. Many years later, I thought I could use the same approach for teenagers, but instead of using “good” and “great,” I thought I’d compare “ordinary” with “extraordinary.” The result was the little book, How to Be An Extraordinary Teenager. A year or so later, I wrote another book using the same idea, How to Be An Extraordinary Missionary. The only problem with a title like that is it makes it sound as if I, as the author, had achieved “extraordinary” status. No, I was fairly ordinary, but I hope I had some extraordinary moments and learned some extraordinary things.
Last month while speaking in Draper, someone told me about their favorite chapter in the extraordinary missionary book. Here’s that chapter excerpted from How to Be An Extraordinary Missionary:
Ordinary missionaries know what they’re supposed to teach. They have the concepts and the scriptures in mind, and they know how to present the gospel in an organized way. They know the order of the lessons backward and forward. They become so good at teaching lessons that their scriptures practically fall open to the verses they need at the right time. Their focus is on the principles, the scriptures, and the examples. They enjoy teaching the lessons and wish they could do it more often.
Extraordinary missionaries love the lessons as well, but they know that who they teach is more important than knowing what to teach. They don’t just “teach lessons” or “share a message.” They teach people the lessons or share a message with people. Sure, they know what they’re supposed to teach. But their focus is not as much on the topics, principles, and scriptures as it is on the people— their problems, hopes, and desires to find the truth. Extraordinary missionaries always focus on the families or individuals they teach, with a prayer in their hearts. They ask for discernment, guidance, and inspiration to teach the people they meet with kindness, sensitivity, and power. They know that their investigators are the reason they learned the lessons in the first place. Extraordinary missionaries know that the old saying is true: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee. – Alma 31:35
You’ve been reading an excerpt from “How To Be An Extraordinary Missionary.” The entire book can be purchased here.
Heather Mecham says
This is true for any teaching setting in the church.
Dorothy Hemmert says
This is great and our family enjoys watching your videos. My favorite is “Heroes” you see, I am a convert of 33 years to the Gospel and I still learn more each day.
My husband is one of those Extra ordinary missionaries and is an extra ordinary teacher for the 12 and 13 year olds. You are amazing and I get so much our of reading and hearing your literature and it brightens my soul and strengthens my spirit to hear and witness our Heavenly Fathers teaching of Him.
Thank you for being an instrument and inspiring leader in setting our Father in Heavens work to go forward and lift so many and to light the world.
Doesn’t this apply to more than missionaries? My husband tell people he is a professor. The normal question he gets is “What do you teach” and his stock reply is “students.” He does this to be funny, but the truth is, he is an outstanding professor because he teach students, not accounting. He makes the accounting interesting for the students. They love him. Many have gone back years later and said what a difference he made in their lives.
What about Sunday School? Relief Society? Priesthood? Aren’t those teacher there to teach members?
And Primary? I have seen Primary Leaders who mean well get positively irate when students don’t sit still and pay attention. They call sitting still being “reverent” and if you squirm, you aren’t “reverent” and you are disappointing Heavenly Father. OUCH! Some children, especially boys, or oversugared children, really can NOT sit still. So the whole class loses it’s reverent status? If we were teaching children instead of lessons, we would remove the child,
Personally, I think a better response it to take the child into the hall, reaffirm Heavenly Father’s love for him, reaffirm YOUR love for him, and humbly ask for his help. Saying you understand how hard it is to be still, that you need him to try to sit quietly so the others aren’t distracted. Talk from HIS viewpoint: You are around your friends, it’s exciting to be here, it’s kind of boring sometimes, etc. Maybe a secret signal if he is getting out of hand. Extra attention and hugs are far more productive than hairy eyeballs. I’m just sayin’…