The Atlantic reports on an ongoing pilot program the Mormon Church has undertaken to determine the usefulness of social media in their missionary work.
Formerly, young people engaged in their two-year missions were forbidden from any media at all: no television, no telephone calls except for twice a year, no books except for the Scriptures, no Internet use, and only a limited number of handwritten letters from home.
But in 2010, the leadership of the LDS church decided to try an experiment: what would happen if they allowed selective use of social media, including Facebook, and deemphasized the traditional door knocking approach?
“The baptismal rate was almost double,” [Woolley] said of the missionary efforts using the iPods. While the iPods didn’t help missionaries find new people, they were very useful in bringing to baptism people who had already expressed interest. Woolley believes this is because the iPod material made missionaries more effective teachers. They had professional videos illustrating their lessons, and language support. “You’re not substituting the technology for face to face conversations,” he said. “You’re using technology as an adjunct, to better make a point.” Woolley felt that the technology, instead of distracting missionaries, inspired them. “It gave them more enthusiasm,” he said, “because it had more success and they were having more fun.”
Read the whole article here.