Missionaries Living with Members: A Pilot Program

A couple missions in Wisconsin and Colorado are apparently part of a new pilot program in which some missionaries no longer have their own apartments, but live with local members who meet certain qualifications. The program appears to be aimed at reducing housing costs for missionaries. There is some modest compensation to the members, but much less than market prices for rent. I’d like to know if any of you are aware of the pilot program or have any experience with the concept.

From my perspective, it seems like quite a burden to put on both the members and the missionaries. It’s sort of like having distant relatives stay with you for a prolonged period of time, but relatives who have strict rules. For example, the host family can’t simply play whatever music they like to listen to when the missionaries are around, and that’s one of the least of the awkward issues that can crop up when families share a home with elders.

Might be a great concept for some purposes, but I’m not comfortable with it. Any insights or experiences you care to share?

I suppose one could think that a benefit is the added supervision from having members nearby, perhaps reducing the risks of bad behavior. But it seems like many typical homes could provide an awful lot of temptation when the owners are away – cable TV, Internet access, the old Harley in the garage, etc. Most missionaries are completely trustworthy, but it’s hard for me to overlook the risks and inconveniences to both parties.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

14 thoughts on “Missionaries Living with Members: A Pilot Program

  1. A ward I was in in Fullerton, CA did this… not sure if all the missionaries were in member houses.
    In this case, the elders felt a little weird about it, because it was a young couple (early 20’s). They always had to announce that they were coming out into the main part of the house so as not to catch the wife unaware. It just seemed like an odd set-up to me because she was almost the same age as the elders.

  2. Missionaries were living with my mother and me 10 years ago, in Anaheim CA. I had the impression that it was common in the mission.

  3. For those that have served a foriegn mission this may have been a very common arrangment. I served in Chile from 82-84 and was located in a member’s home a number of times.

    I do admit that this is more of a cultural thing there, a common practice to rent out an extra room. It was great to be able to interact with the members like that.

  4. I served in California from 91-93 and we ended up swapping some area with a neighboring mission. The neighboring mission had missionaries living with members to save money, and it was terrible. We pulled all of the missionaries out of the member’s homes and put them into apartments, 4 per 2 BR apartment.

    Some of the missionaries lived in spare bedrooms and shared common areas, and some of them had completely independent living arrangements, like Mother/Daughter houses. But, in almost every case, there were serious difficulties in the arrangements.

  5. I couldn’t do it. If and when Bill and I go on a mission, I will have a hard time just living with him.

  6. We did this in one of my areas in the Chicago suburbs. I hated it. The husband and wife were always arguing, and one day the wife took their baby and left him. We mentioned to our district leader that he might want to pass on up the chain of command that we were technically living with a single male at that point. A couple weeks later she moved back in, and when we mentioned it to our district leader he told us that he’d forgotten to pass it on.

    My companion and I were double-transferred and elders were put into the area. I found out later that the living situation only lasted about another month before they got an apartment. Apparently the elders were very uncomfortable with the situation because it was only the wife home most of the time. In addition, they held district meeting at the house, and after about half an hour, the wife would come in and tell them that their meeting had gone on too long and they needed to leave.

    So I’m not a big fan of the idea.

  7. Oh, I should add one thing I did like about it:

    They had a Nintendo, and I got very hooked on Super Mario Bros. I only played on p-day or a little in the evening after we came in, but obviously I really shouldn’t have. It was a lot of fun, though.

    This is probably another reason why missionaries with members is a bad idea.

  8. A sister in our ward had been housing the sister missionaries for many years. She used to be the RS president, and I’m guessing she is widowed. The basement of her house is basically a small apartment with it’s own kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom. The sister missionaries have their own entrance to the house. It seems to be a fairly amicable arrangement, as it has been going on for many years.

    I have heard of these sorts of pilot programs taking place on and off for at least a decade.

  9. Anon at 12:57pm,

    That sounds like Sister L. Are you in my ward, WR, on the West side of Indy?

  10. These pilot programs sound like thriftiness gone amok! Pleze- I can see this being an issue in Korea, Japan, Paris or London where rent is sky-high, but in the midwest and Colorado?

    I think this idea is half-baked! One can just pray that if the missionaires are unlucky enough to have to do this, that they’ll be safe and not hindered in their work- despite the fact that the mess is totally preventable!

    More things to consider:
    A) opposite sex being left alone together (appearance of evil). W/ sister missionaries, there is the appearance of polygamy. *liability
    B) Missionaires need quiet study hours.
    c) Jealousy and bickering in the ward over the “rent” and who gets (or doesn’t get) the missionaries.
    d)Missionaries aren’t supposed to pick up or hold children on their laps (it’s in the white bible)*liability!
    e) Missionaries are NEVER supposed to babysit. *Liability!
    f) Missionaries are supposed to be proselyting 24X7 except the few hours a week of service. They don’t have time to give regular elder-care, aren’t qualified and aren’t humanitarian missionaries. Staying in an elderly nest would entail a great deal of responsibility. *liability
    g)Teenagers strive for independence- they probably went through a stage of this before leavig on a mission. Putting nin-TEEN year olds back into a subordinate family position sounds counterproductive.
    h)Missionaires are PR people- and whomever they live with will also be associated with church PR- their reputation, their actions duing that time, etc. will ALSO be under scrutiny.
    i)AFS and other exchange programs are highly selective about screening host parents. Missionaries and district leaders aren’t.
    j) most wards don’t have more than a handful of people who have extra rooms. That’s a pretty small pool of people to be picking from. Are we really going to find a great family 100% of the time? Methinks not!

  11. I would have no problem with missionaries staying in our home. We do not view much TV at all and then it is mostly BYUTV and the hallmark channel.

    We have had couple missionaries stay with use before while they were looking for an appartment or house to rent. They usually stayed from one to three months in our home. We have two extra bedrooms and and extra bath so it was not an inconvience at all.

    We just gave them a key to the house so they could come and go as they pleased.

  12. they started this where I live late 2007. They did it on my mission though back in 1998. I think its a horrible idea. Not only appearance of evil problems BUT evil occur. I witnessed or knew of the lonely young wife apostate elder occurring once to often. More common was the elders playing video games. Sure it saves a few bucks, but at what cost. Not worth it in my mind.

  13. We had Elders move in with us a few days ago. So far so good. They are very polite, and considerate. They have their own entrance and bathroom, but we have to share the kitchen. We set up a schedule so that we hardly cross paths in the kitchen. On the evenings they don’t have dinner appointments we invite them to eat with our family. Other than that they are on their own for food. We have signed up to keep them here for three months then they would move on to another family. I feel priviliged to be housing the Lord’s servants, and I think they are good examples for my two young sons.

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