Church leadership announced a change to the missionary department in January of this year, unifying the application process for both Church-service missions and proselyting missions. Applicants are first considered for proselyting missions, and those who have needs that require they serve at home will be called to Church-service missions. Up to this announcement, most prospective missionaries never considered a Church-service assignment. Service missions are an inspired opportunity that benefits communities and the missionaries who serve them.
Our state has an advantage over many, as the Arizona Church-service Mission has been in operation for 3 ½ years and has expanded to include 6 separate areas. According to the Church’s official service mission manual and guidelines, service missionaries live at home, adjust their lives to specific mission standards, and report to their service assignments in their local communities.
Their impact is greater than anyone outside their ranks would know. The Church benefits from improved relations with other religious groups and communities at home. Elder Mark Pugmire, who serves the Arizona Central Service Mission with his wife, Sister Laurel Pugmire, says, “One thing that surprised us was how complete and wonderfully accepting the interfaith community has been for our missionaries. They’re thrilled to have our missionaries. That was a surprise, for me.”
Members’ and missionaries’ view of service missions is shaped first by leadership and how they address the application process. Sister Pugmire explains, “Many of our [prospective service] missionaries experience some anxiety about leaving home.” With this change in the assignment process, “there is a possibility you may not be a service missionary, you may be a proselyting missionary.”
Church authorities make the final call on where a missionary will serve. “I think for a lot of those young people, that’s a fear they can’t overcome. It’s very hard for them. We want [leaders] to be aware of this program so we can get in front of the mission application and talk with these young people and explain about a service mission, the process, and try and help them understand that apostles are inspired, and they’ll make the call that’s best.” As with all mission assignments, bishops’ and stake presidents’ comments are vital in helping General Authorities know what factors should be considered in making these calls.
Missionaries called to Church-service missions can look forward to representing the Church positively among other religious groups, charitable causes, and community-focused organizations. When the Pugmires were first called, they built up the program, encouraged young people to participate, and helped overcome prospective service missionaries’ barriers to serve. Much has changed and will continue to change. Elder and Sister Pugmire, as well as the leadership of the Arizona Service Mission, look forward to more opportunities and more incoming missionaries.
Elder Pugmire says of their missionaries, past and present, “They’ve made a big name, shown their light, and have been a positive influence for the church.” They will continue to do so.