To The Ends of the Earth

Campus Crusade for Christ, an Evangelical ministry has a sub-ministry called “Global Ministry Outreach”. They function as the online outreach for Campus Crusade’s ministry. They buy search terms relevant to Christianity, religion and Jesus. Their ads generally direct people to websites like this one. Ads are displayed all over the world and they try to focus their ad buys on under-evangelized and closed countries.

What’s interesting about their ministry is that they give live tracking of events related to their advertising. If you go to GreatCommission2020.com you can see a map of where in the world people are visiting their sites, making a commitment to follow Jesus, providing their email and are engaging in a followup discipleship. All of these interactions are directed toward volunteer online missionaries who receive the email correspondence, answer questions and encourage new believers into an authentic relationship with Jesus. They’re currently putting together a network of churches for new believers to seek out.

This video tells the story of one online missionary.

Global Media Outreach can reach about 1 million people in a day for $60,000 (6 cents a click). I have my own reservations about the method and about the “Four Spiritual Laws” approach. But if you take their reported numbers and divide them by 10 to get a conservative estimate it cost about $45-$55 to find an authentic convert to Christianity. It’s an interesting project and easily the safest and most effective access into closed countries.

Their main competition for keywords is the LDS church.

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24 thoughts on “To The Ends of the Earth

  1. I am not sure why you want to dismiss 90% of Campus Crusade’s effectiveness without any reason other than it works for the result showing a higher cost per convert. It works that way with the LDS missionary effort as well, except that most LDS mission work is within the Christianized communities, not the closed or under-evangelized countries.

    When you understand that the average mission in the LDS church costs each missionary a low of about $6,000 per year, plus about the same for the church in training, materials, support and leadership staffing, et al… Pr/Ads etc.. and the average convert rate is about 7/missionary/per year..
    Then factor in the fact that 50% of their converts leave by the end of the first year or so..
    Round off the cost per missionary year to $10,000 and the attrition down to 2 out of the seven, just to be fair in playing the numbers..

    The cost for each Mormon convert comes out to about $2,000 per convert. Or, using your figure of 10% , that would be less than one convert per year or more than $10,000 per LDS convert. Compared to $45/$55. Sounds to me like Campus Crusade has got something working for them..

    Looks like it works out to about…200 Campus Crusade converts to each LDS convert..
    How about them numbers?

  2. I only dismiss 90% of their converts because we have no way of knowing how many of these activities are authentic heart-changing conversions (as opposed to curious onlookers who lose nothing by continuing to click on each link). 10% might be too low. 10% might be too high. I have no way of judging that.

  3. “The cost for each Mormon convert comes out to about $2,000 per convert. Or, using your figure of 10% , that would be less than one convert per year or more than $10,000 per LDS convert. Compared to $45/$55. Sounds to me like Campus Crusade has got something working for them..”

    I think the LDS churches missionary efforts would be a lot more “effective” if all they needed to do was get people to check a box on a form to convert someone.

  4. I’m with Jared on this one. Mormonism was born out in a region hit with these quickie conversion revival style preaching, and was in part a reaction against it.

    Back in 1964 a survey was done of what happened 5 years after a Billy Graham Crusade to 100,000 people who had decision cards. Depending how you counted only 8-16% of the 100k were not actively involved in a church at the time they signed those cards. Of that 8-16% there was 50% attrition within 1 year. If you adjust for a normed population for things like child birth… the net gain was 387 non attending Christians who still identified themselves as Christian and 810 casual attenders who otherwise would not attend at all. 0 net gain (and possibly a net loss) in terms of active attendance and participation.

    There are some churches that did report much better results, when the focused on the people who signed cards. For example one church that got 400 new recruits, had 60-70 that agreed to attend once, with almost 1/2 still attending a church after 5 years.

    Real conversion takes real work, real time and costs money. Groups like campus crusade preach effectively to people who would have sought out some other group. Even when they hit new people they often lack the intense followup required to bring new people into churches.

  5. Jared and CD-host you set your marks on my apprehension to the method. We were called to make disciples not converts.

    BUT. . . if a convert is simply someone who checks a box, then the cost per convert is more like $5. Which definitely trumps all other methods.

    I think Global Outreach recognizes some of the drawbacks and is making attempts to have rigorous followup. But their chief focus is for sure to make sure everyone on the planet hears the message, not necessarily to live the message.

  6. According to David Martin, “The Mormons pay out more per dollar than others for every convert gained” in Latin America (Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish, p. 39).

  7. “BUT. . . if a convert is simply someone who checks a box, then the cost per convert is more like $5. Which definitely trumps all other methods.”

    If we wanted to compare them to the LDS missionary effort (and I don’t really want to, fwiw), then perhaps it’d be better to look at people who ask for a Book of Mormon, or fill out a referral card at a visitor center, or agree to let the missionaries come over and share the first discussion. Essentially, the least committed show of interest. As a missionary, every now and then one of these “light efforts” turned out to be someone who was practically converted on the spot—someone who knew from first contact that they wanted the Gospel. I don’t know it was 10% like Tim proposes (and I recognize that even he was just throwing that number out there).

  8. I think it would be more effective to put this in the conditions of use in every website you can.

    “By visiting this site you agree that Jesus Christ is your personal savior (the Protestant Jesus, not the Mormon Jesus.)”

    That way you don’t have to get them to check the box.

  9. The purpose of a Mormon Mission is only 50% to make converts. The other 50% is converting the missionary. The Mormons equal motive is to take these young kids and turn them into capable future church leaders, RS Presidents, Bishops and firm in the faith for life, Missions, in that sense are quite successful in making converts of the converters, with an incalculable benefit to the church, which depends on its lay ministry to thrive. Certainly, some returned missionaries may yet leave the faith, but the majority are zealous and firm after their mission experience. They marry in the temple, they raise their kids in the church, they fill callings, and the cycle repeats for the next generation. That kind of immersion conversion of the missionary himself is the 2nd leg of why Mormons encourage that right of passage for their youth to serve missions. In that context, checking boxes on a web site is pretty useless by comparison. Any other denomination would give its right arm to have 50K (perpetually cycling every year) of their 19 to 25 year-olds (not to mention senior couples) willing to sacrifice 2 years of their lives, at their prime years when most kids are too self centered to interrupt their lives–AND pay their own costs!–to serve grueling and challenging missions. Even if the missionary only converts himself, the value exceeds the cost involved. Are we really comparing that to checking a box on a web site as if they’re in the same category of cost/value?

  10. Garth said:

    The purpose of a Mormon Mission is only 50% to make converts. The other 50% is converting the missionary.

    We frequently have had missionaries to our home for dinner, and I have never ceased to be amazed at how many of them said they didn’t have a testimony until after beginning their mission. One repeated scenario I’ve heard is that the missionary didn’t have feelings about the Book of Mormon until reading it throughly at the Missionary Training Center.

    On the one hand, I don’t understand why anyone would commit himself to two years of not-so-fun times without fully believing. On the other hand, I forget that many of these young men are under family and/or cultural pressure to go on a mission, and that can be compelling. (FWIW, we’ve always told our boys that it’s up to them whether to go on a mission, and that we won’t pressure them.)

    Garth also said:

    Missions, in that sense are quite successful in making converts of the converters, with an incalculable benefit to the church, which depends on its lay ministry to thrive.

    Not as successful as formerly, or so the anecdotes about participation by young single adults indicate.

  11. I remember a series of articles in the SLT a few years back “Where have all the Mormons Gone?” by Peggy Fletcher Stack.. discussing the high attrition rate.. an estimated 50% of converts leave the church in first year or so..

    the back even further an article by a GA stating that 75% of missionaries make it through their full service.. Meaning 25% leave. the article stated that by end of 2 years, 50% of those who did fulfill their missions were still active..meaning 50% were out of it.. I have the documents buried in my files somewhere, but think I am pretty close to the numbers..

    Doesn’t sound like it is an incalculable benefit to that group of young people who failed in the grand plan..and their families..

  12. Ed Decker: to state that anyone who rejects something didn’t find value in it is so tautologically obvious that I wonder if I didn’t miss the point of your comment.

  13. To Ed Decker; (Is that “THE” Ed Decker?) Don’t know the 2nd article you cite, and perhaps you’re rounding, but don’t you find it suspicious that each of your stats is a derivative of such overtly “rounded” numbers? 75%? 50%? What a coincidence. As to your article by the SLT, which is more plausible, since those stats would actually be logically more credible, and pretty close to the norm in all denominations–I would observe that Christ’s parable of the sewer suggest 50% would be darn good. In the parable, of all the seeds sewn, between the birds, rocks, thorns, and rich soil, only the latter took root and produced. Since we’re using round figures divisible by 25, that would mean the Lord’s projected success rate would only be 25%. If the Mormons apparently double that rate at 50%, maybe that’s better than it sounds.

  14. OK lets look at the data.

    For a child raised Mormon (I’m including all self identified Mormons like Community of Christ and Fundamentalist sects in this data but LDS is 95-99% of totals so pretty much other groups have little impact).

    70% stay Mormon
    15% convert to Non-Religious (Atheist, Agnostic, None, Don’t know, Don’t care)
    14% convert to a majority religion (evangelical, catholic, mainline protestant…)

    It is harder to track for Evangelical because the definition of Evangelical churches changed during the lifetimes of many Americans. But for Protestants more generally:

    54% of the population is Protestant.
    1/12 Americans converts to Protestant.
    1/5 Protestants converts away (lifetime unaffiliatibn counting).

    (by way of comparison .4% of Americans convert to Mormonism).

    Both groups are gaining and losing at about the same percentages. Mormons lose members more often and gain long term converts more than Protestants (relative to size of the population).

    The comparison breaks down worse though when we go to the next level. Mormons don’t look like a Christian group in terms of intergenerational marriage. 74% of current Mormons were raised Mormon. Mormons have the 2nd highest rate of homogeneous marriages of any group but it appears when Mormons marry out they convert out in large measure relative to Protestants. For Catholics the data is more mixed but still bad. It appears the real bleed for Mormons is not handling intermarriage to Protestants well. Their missionary efforts are essentially just keeping the intermarriage problem from devastating the ranks.

    With Protestant the situation is reversed. Intermarriage is a huge net gain for Protestants with respect to just about any group. The data is pretty clear that Protestant churches are more welcoming to the intermarried, when couples intermarry they frequently both become Protestant.

    Further Mormons are rather committed to traditional practice inter generationally. For example 36% of people raised Evangelical believe their subdenomination is the best choice for them. 57% of Mormons believe that, coming in second only to Jehovah’s Witnesses (80%).

    I think if we really want to talk conversions Evangelicals and Mormons aren’t using the same techniques.
    Mormons: convert then marry
    Protestants: marry then convert

    How do you compare?

  15. To Eric; I get your point about missionaries evolving their testimonies while on their missions. I actually had the same experience as did a majority of the RM’s I know. But I find that totally consistent with Paul’s admonition of “try all things, hold fast to that which is good”, and since for most 19 year-olds their first real “trial” of faith may well be their missions, I’m not sure why you find that so surprising. Nor would I equate it all to peer pressure and family expectations alone–though that certainly is true for some. But it’s also true that youth at that age look forward to the adventure. Young people yearn to champion a cause. Their not yet world-weary and too disillusioned. They want to feel they can make a difference in this world. (Note the youth in Occupy Wall Street, or Peace Corps, or World Peace Utopian movements. Zeal is not a problem when you’re 19!) So to me, having lived it myself at 19, I went with a trust that the church was true, but not really “knowing”. Alma 32 says that the planting of a seed follows the exact pattern of evolution that a mission naturally provides. It’s therefore not so atypical to grow from hope to faith to knowledge on a mission, but i would consider that the “norm”, not the exception.

    Until the mission many LDS kids (let’s be honest, that’s what they are) were mainly on auto-pilot. But I would suggest that MOST of them would not likely use the phrase that “they didn’t have a testimony until after beginning their mission” or that they “didn’t have feelings about the Book of Mormon until reading it throughly at the Missionary Training Center.” I think they had a young testimony. I think they had feelings about the B of M. This gave them an acquired “presumption” that the Church was true, or the book of M was genuine, but NOW, having lived it, studied it, immersed themselves in it for 2 years–that presumption or “seed”, if you will, has blossomed. After all–these kids are friggin’ 19. NINETEEN! Can you show me very many 19 year-olds that are really cognizant of what they really believe, one year out of high school, and many still living at home? Seminary, and youth groups, and firesides and 19 years of Primary, SS and YMYW can certainly lay a lot of rich soil, but should we be surprised that their eyes are still not wide open to their full testimonies? The mission adds the fertilizer, and the warmth, and the light which completes the harvest. If the Baptists, or Pentecostals, or Lutherans want to strengthen the retention of their youth, they should copy the Mormons.

  16. an estimated 50% of converts leave the church in first year or so..

    Ed I think you are being a little unfair here in the Peggy Fletcher quotes. Mormons baptize early in the conversion process. They lose about 80% of the people in the first 2 months over Word of Wisdom: quitting smoking, coffee, alcohol, other drugs. Oddly about 1/3rd of Mormon converts smoke at the time of their baptism, I’m not sure why Mormons are converting among the smoking for example but its not shocking that they can’t get people to quit that fast.

    If they just baptized later the numbers would look a lot better in terms of convert retention.

  17. Garth, speaking of the growing testimony of LDS missionaries, said:

    But I would suggest that MOST of them would not likely use the phrase that “they didn’t have a testimony until after beginning their mission” or that they “didn’t have feelings about the Book of Mormon until reading it throughly at the Missionary Training Center.”

    I agree, not most. But of the missionaries I’ve talked with, it isn’t unusual either. Considering the sacrifices one has to make to go on an LDS mission, I’m surprised it happens at all.

    Overall, though, I suspect that the pattern you talked about (a nascent testimony grows during the mission experience) is the norm, so I’m not disagreeing with your most recent comment.

    CD-Host said:

    Oddly about 1/3rd of Mormon converts smoke at the time of their baptism, I’m not sure why Mormons are converting among the smoking for example but its not shocking that they can’t get people to quit that fast.

    If they just baptized later the numbers would look a lot better in terms of convert retention.

    Or perhaps it would make more sense to focus less on adherence to the Word of Wisdom as the mark of a true believer and more on becoming like Christ. Just a thought.

  18. I think if everyone waited longer to baptize their retention rates would improve.

    Non-denominational Evangelicals typically get baptized years after conversion. It’d be interesting to see the retention numbers of baptized Evangelicals.

  19. Or perhaps it would make more sense to focus less on adherence to the Word of Wisdom as the mark of a true believer and more on becoming like Christ. Just a thought.

    Eric, this is why I like you. 🙂

  20. “…an estimated 50% of converts leave the church in first year or so…”

    “70% stay Mormon
    15% convert to Non-Religious (Atheist, Agnostic, None, Don’t know, Don’t care)
    14% convert to a majority religion (evangelical, catholic, mainline protestant…)”

    “Oddly about 1/3rd of Mormon converts smoke at the time of their baptism…”

    Where do these statistics come from?

  21. Gundek —

    BrianJ was right. The stats in your first paragraph came from Pew. The 2nd half (in response to Ed) came from the paper by Peggy Fletcher he cited.

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