HOW TO USE THIS BLOG: Since this blog covers various Ward Mission subjects, I've made it easier to find exactly what you're looking for by grouping posts together by topic. On the right side of this page (above the photo of the shaking hands), you'll find the list of topics you can click on to find the information you're looking for

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Invitation Sunday Pass-Along Cards

Our Ward Mission Leader and the full-time missionaries asked me to help prepare 200 invitations to pass out this Sunday, in preparation for our "Invitation Sunday" next week.

Their idea is to print information on a larger sized (1" x 2 5/8") address label, then stick it to the blank area on the back of pass-along cards. The missionaries brought over 200 pass-along cards last night and I picked up a pack of 300 white stick-on address labels for about $4.50 at Walmart.

I printed this text on each label:
Please join us for Church services this
Sunday, featuring a special presentation
about the importance of families
Sunday, September 27th, 1:00pm
(I also included the address of our chapel here)

They turned out really nice. We're going to be handing them out after Sacrament meeting and in auxillaries this Sunday.

I think its helpful to have something to give when you're inviting someone...it really makes it seem less awkward...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

If you fail to plan...

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail"

That was a motto that the AP's and Zone leaders used a lot during my mission. It got a little redundant after a while, but the concept is very true and I still think of it often.

This is the first in a series of posts that will be adapted from an article called, "Planning to Belong" by Tana Johnson, Ensign, October 1994. This article is geared toward members who have moved to a new ward, but I think a lot of the same principles can apply to member missionary work.

This first idea relates to getting out there and meeting new people in the neighborhood, community, workplace, school/classes, etc.

Idea #1- Planning in advance to meet people and setting goals
Do "some advance preparation. Before (introducing yourself to)...neighbors, co-workers, (etc), think of two or three questions to ask or several topics of general interest to discuss. Have a short, interesting self-introduction in mind so that...you can give more than just your name. Advance preparation helps us overcome stage fright by making us feel more confident and at ease—and this helps others feel the same way.

Set some specific goals, such as introducing yourself to two or three new people a week or sitting in the (front row) rather than on the back row. (Family) home evening could be devoted to learning ways to get acquainted. Role playing specific situations helps both children and parents overcome their fears of meeting new people"


Friday, September 4, 2009

Garage sale - meet your neighbors!

If you're like me, you don't really know your neighbors. I haven't ever been lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where there is a lot of spirit of community....people seem to keep to themselves and like it that way.

We usually have one or two garage sales in the summer (thanks to 2 kids who outgrow their clothes & shoes like crazy, so we always seem to have things around that we don't need/want anymore).

Last time we had a sale, the neighbor across the street came over and mentioned that he has some things to sell, also, so please let him know ahead of time, the next time we're going to have a sale, and he'll have one, too. I was kind of embarrassed that we hadn't thought to mention it to him on our own.

Anyhow, just a thought...if you're looking for an excuse to go over and talk to a neighbor, you might consider letting them know when you're planning on having a garage sale. You could even make little fliers and pass them out in your neighborhood!

Friday, August 28, 2009

New member packet: Tips for feeling at home in any ward

The following is the text from a page titled "Tips for feeling at home in any Ward", included in our "Welcome to the Ward" packet for new converts. Feel free to use the text in your own "Welcome Packet":

"Most people don't particularly like being the "new kid" at school, work, or Church... it often takes time to start to really feel comfortable in a new situation. Whether you are a brand new member of the Church, or just new to your Ward, it can take a while to get to know people and feel like you "fit in." When you start getting to know people and become more comfortable, your Ward will really feel like a "Ward family." There are some things you can do to help make the transition quicker & easier! Here are 8 ideas to help you feel at home in no time!

#1- Introduce yourself: any people will notice a new face right away, but some may not. Other members may also be new, may have been out of town, etc, and simply may not realize that you are new. Introduce yourself! A simple, "I don't think we've met, my name is _____, I was baptized last week" is very easy!

#2- Volunteer: There is never a shortage of sign-ups, asking for volunteers to help clean up after an activity, bring a salad to a dinner, help someone move, substitute teach a children's class, etc. The more you participate, the more you'll start to feel a part of the Ward. You don't need to wait for an official invitation, either! Look around for opportunities to help someone out (open a door, pick up a baby's dropped toy, etc)

#3- Go to Activities: Church activities are a fun way to get to know people in a casual environment!

#4- Callings: Generally, every member receives a calling (service assignment). If you don't have one yet, you might consider mentioning to the Bishop that you're anxious to serve!

#5- Encouraging Visiting Teaching/Home Teaching: If you haven't received a home teaching visit or a visiting teaching visit in your home, consider asking the Elders Quorum Presidency if you have Home Teachers assigned to you yet (or the Relief Society President re: Visiting Teachers). Everyone gets busy from time to time, and some people are just shy, but you may be able to provide encouragement to your Home Teachers/Visiting Teachers if you would like them to visit. Introduce yourself to your Home Teacher(s)/Visiting Teacher(s) and say something like, "Hi, I just found out you're our new Home Teacher(s) and we're excited to have you visit us!"

#6- Serving as a Visiting Teacher/Home Teacher: Let the Relief Society President know that you're willing to serve as a Visiting Teacher (women) or the Elders Quorum President that you're willing to serve as a Home Teacher (men). Visiting Teaching and Home Teaching are programs that are meant to help us serve each other and develop friendships. Don't miss out on this opportunity to get to know some other families in the Ward!

#7- Watch for new(er) members: Its not unusual to have new people at Church (new move-ins, investigators, etc) every week. Find someone who is even newer than you and try to make them feel welcome by introducing yourself! You'll be helping someone else feel more comfortable and meeting someone new in the process!

#8- Moving?: If you know you're going to be moving into a new Ward, you can look up which Ward you'll be in by entering the street address onto the meetinghouse locator at www.lds.org. Meeting times and church locations/directions, and phone numbers are usually provided. You can also check with your Ward Clerk (usually in the office next to the Bishop's office after church), who can give you the same information. If possible, contact the Bishop or Relief Society President ahead of time, to let them know you're coming. If you know your new address, have the Ward Clerk begin the process of transferring your membership records to your new Ward ASAP (since the process can take several weeks)"

For more information on our "Welcome to the Ward" packet and what is included, look for the "Welcome Packet" topic at the right side of the page (listed under the picture of the shaking hands)

On the lookout

We're always asking the full-time missionaries what we can do to help them. They almost always say, "Just be on the lookout for new people and say hello to them." We normally do this anyhow, but the fact that they always suggest the same thing makes me think that there is still room for improvement in this department.

Personally, I get a little busy with the kids (especially during Sacrament meeting, when I usually end up out in the hall), so I'm sure I don't do everything possible to make visitors feel welcome. I know that there are some Ward members who are already pretty good at being "on the lookout," but what if we all did just 25% better? How much more welcome would visitors/investigators feel?

Having personally experienced being new in a Ward many times, I'm fully aware of how awkward it can feel. And I'm a member, so a least I know the routine - must be much more foreign and intimidating for a newcomer. I try to remember back all those years ago to when I first attended church. I don't think I felt that awkward, because I was there with a friend and her family, but I do remember how friendly everyone was!

Garden gifts

Just a suggestion for those who have vegetable gardens (you do have a garden, right? LOL):

Sharing a bumper crop of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, etc is a great way to serve your neighbors! When I run down my mental list of people who I can pawn yellow squash onto, I think of my friends and family first, even though they may live across town. Surely there must be people in the neighborhood who would appreciate some extra green peppers! An especially good thing about sharing homegrown produce is that it doesn't require a reciprocal gift or a thank you card (its not like you're taking them something expensive/fancy so they'll feel like they have to get you something, too). Its just sharing.

If you don't garden, or if you haven't produced anything worthy of sharing this year, you might find opportunities to share in other ways (like when your aunt gives you 17 giant squash, or you pick 3 buckets of blackberries behind the elementary school)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What to expect at church (Youtube video)

This is a short (3 minute) cartoon video that explains what to expect when you attend LDS Church services. It's very well done*. I can't imagine a lot of situations when it would best say to your friends, "Well, I could tell you what to expect at church, but here is a video to watch instead!," since you could easily explain all of this yourself, but its a good reminder of what kinds of things non-members might be unsure about. This may give you an idea how you can explain things to help them to feel more comfortable. (Or if appropriate for the situation, you could share the video itself! Maybe post it on your blog or something, so friends can click on it if they're curious but don't want to come out and ask you)

I don't know who made the video, I found it posted on a blog called "A View from the Font"

*My only correction to the content of the video is that the name of the visitor/investigator/new-member Sunday School class is "Gospel Essentials" (the regular Sunday School class for adults is "Gospel Doctrine" - this was mis-stated in the video. Not a huge deal, but the video suggests that you ask where the class is, so probably wouldn't want to have people asking for the wrong class)

Missionary Sunday


Our Stake is having a "missionary Sunday" in about a month, the theme is "Families can be Together Forever"

This is a special Sunday that is designated especially for inviting friends/relatives to attend church. The talks, etc, will be geared towards beginners, so it will be the perfect opportunity for inviting people to attend.

I'm working on my in-person invitations, but I've also been thinking how to invite our non-responsive home/visiting teaching families (the ones who don't answer the door or return calls). Since its a special presentation, it seems a little less awkward to tell people about it, since it's more likely to come across as "We'd love to have you come to a special presentation" and less likely to come across as "How come you don't ever come to church?"

I put together a little handout that I'm sending out to our non-responsive home/visiting teaching families, and I think I will make copies available for people at church if there isn't something like it already planned. I scanned a copy of the handout I've made (above) to give you can idea of what it looks like, but the address was cut off, so if you decide to make something similar, be sure to include the Church name & address!

Baptism attendance by Ward members

In the time that we've been serving as Ward Missionaries, we've attended all 3 convert baptisms (along with our children). I've noticed that the same few people attend, and that (aside from relatives) the people who are attending are generally there on assignment. There is always a representative from the Bishopric, Relief Society, Stake Presidency, etc., which is great (don't get me wrong!), but I'm sort of sad that more members don't come to support the new converts.

We've been trying to brainstorm some ideas for increasing member attendance at convert baptisms. The baptisms are already announced in Sacrament meeting, Relief Society, and Elders Quorum. I also send out reminder emails (to everyone whose email I have) in the ward. So I don't really think that its that the Ward members don't know about the baptisms. I've also mentioned this in ward mission correlation (that a member of the EQ and RS presidencies attend), but didn't have a real idea - of course, I recognize that sometimes people are just busy with other things. I just think its a missed opportunity for members to show support and friendship a new member AND a spiritual experience that would be beneficial for everyone in the family.

The only thing we've come up with so far is trying to encourage the full-time missionaries to include more members in the baptismal program. I've also considered making simple invitations to put on the RS display table the Sunday before a baptism (baptisms here are always on Saturday). Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Home / Visiting Teaching Newsletter

My husband and I both have several families on our routes that don't allow visits (and/or just don't ever return calls or answer the door). I send my visiting teaching sisters (who don't want visits) a simple little newsletter that I make up every month with a message, upcoming activities, etc. I feel like a photocopy of the lesson from the Ensign isn't enough. I want them to feel included and know that I genuinely care.

Trying to be helpful, I offered to print out the monthly First Presidency lesson and mail it to the people on my husband's route who don't have visits. I didn't have any way to know whether or not the recipients would read them or throw them in the trash, but I started thinking- what if they do read them? What else would we say to them if we could? What might I include that could spark interest, so that they might actually read subsequent letters? So, patterning after my visiting teaching newsletter, I started making a home teaching newsletter. John and I discuss what to put in it (always including an appropriate portion of the home teaching message as part of the newsletter, instead of just printing off the whole thing) and I do the leg-work.

My number one rule is to always be positive. I try not to include anything unnecessarily condemning-sounding (no out-right calls to repentance, or anything like that). I try to be sensitive, thinking about how a long-time less-active/inactive member or a non-member spouse might react to what I have sent. I don't want to water-down doctrine, but at the same time, outright offending someone by mail isn't going to benefit anyone. I also try to include things that might be interesting to the particular person/family. Since there are different family/individual circumstances and ages in the different families that we serve, there are sometimes several different versions of the newsletter every month. For example, for an older couple I might include information about genealogy, but for a young family I might include information about an upcoming Primary activity.

This month's newsletter included a portion of the First Presidency message from the Ensign, a summary of an article (found on providentliving.org) about improving family finances, list of upcoming ward/stake activities, information about church (meeting times, location, etc), and information about using the family history library (hours, location, general info, mentioned that its free, etc) and using online resources for family history. I try to have a balance of spiritual message and other items that might be helpful to any person/family.

There is also always a note at the end from my husband, which always says something to the effect that he is their home teacher (in case they're wondering why they're getting this newsletter all of a sudden) and that he looks forward to getting to know them, etc. and also includes his phone number.

Trial of Faith

This is more of a personal note, instead of an idea or suggestion. We had the full-time missionaries over for dinner a few days ago, and before we left they said something about being thankful for all we do. I told them that we feel like we should be doing so much more, but I've been frustrated with recent circumstances, which we then discussed. I feel like there is so much more we can do, but our efforts have all been thwarted and I had run out of ideas of what to do next.

One of the Elders said that it sounded like a trial of faith, kindly reminding me that we are often tested and then the blessings come after the trial of our faith.

That night, only a few hours after they left our home, I began to see the proof that he was right. Several extraordinary experiences happened that evening, and multiple opportunities presented themselves, leading to a chain of events over the next few days that resulted in opportunities beyond what I'd even hoped for.

Welcome wagon update

As I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to come up with a "welcome to the ward" packet specifically for new converts, as sort of a "welcome" gift from the ward missionaries and I've finally gotten around to doing it. We had a convert baptism last Saturday, so I was able to give away my first packet.

I got folders at Walmart for 15 cents. Inside, I included the following:
  • A personalized welcome note
  • Current ward list (printed from the ward website)
  • Frequently called numbers (created on a word document - Bishop, RS Pres, Temple, Cannery, etc)
  • "LDS Lingo" frequently used terms & definitions (created on a word document)*
  • "Common LDS Acronyms" bookmark (that I created on a word document)*
  • "Tips for feeling at home in any ward" (created on a word document)*
  • "The Articles of Faith"(available from church distribution)
  • "The Family- A Proclamation to the World"(available from church distribution)
  • "The Family Guidebook"(available from church distribution)
  • "Magazine Subscription pamphlet" (for Ensign, etc)(available from church distribution)
  • "Pure Religion pamphlet"(available from church distribution)
  • "Prepare Every Needful Thing" (food storage)(available from church distribution)
  • "Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple booklet" (available from church distribution)
  • "How Do I Start My Family History?" (available from church distribution)
  • (I will also normally include a copy of the YW Motto for women, since we recite the motto with the YW every week in Relief Society in our Ward, but this particular Sister already had a copy)
  • (You might want to include Gospel Essential manual and Relief Society/Elders Quorum manuals, if needed. In our Ward, investigators receive these items when they attend class)
All of the items that are listed as being from church distribution were ordered online and were free of charge (also free shipping). I personally ordered what I considered to be a conservative amount (10-20 of each item) for our purposes over the next year, since I don't want to run the risk that they might be wasted. Even though they are provided to members for free, they do come at a cost to the church (for printing, materials, shipping, etc), so being prudent with orders is very appropriate.

All of the *items above will be made available on this blog in the near future for use by other Ward Missionaries (or any leaders who want to do something similar in their ward).

If you have any suggestions for other items that could be included, please let me know. I've asked some of my new member & recently returned (formerly less-active) friends and they suggested some great ideas. One of them was a list of YW in the ward who are potential babysitters. We haven't had any converts with children yet, but I think I will contact the YW Presidency and see if we can put something together for when we do!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Casually "putting yourself out there"

I believe that sharing the gospel should be natural. As natural as talking about your kids and as normal as recommending a good movie. I think the fear of coming across as pushy zealot is what prevents many members from saying anything to their friends. Nobody wants to be a target, and if you've ever been on the wrong end of a pyramid scheme pitch you know how uncomfortable it can be to try to get out of that kind of situation. We don't want to be the ones putting our friends and family in an awkward situation. Will they think of us differently afterward? Will we be able to look them in the eye again if they aren't interested? The very thought is unpleasant. How can we bring up the gospel in a natural way?

If the gospel is part of your everyday life, you will naturally talk about it. We have a relative who has repeatedly complained to other relatives that we "talk about church stuff too much". Knowing this, we have tried not to mention anything even remotely related to doctrine or beliefs in front of this person, since it seems to make him uncomfortable and we go out of our way to respect that. Even so, its almost impossible not to say things like, "Oh, thats our friend Pete, from church" or "We're going camping with our Ward this weekend". To our shock, the complaints continued, even after we were making a conscious effort not to say anything our beliefs. We stopped feeling guilty about it when we realized that completely cutting out all references to the church would be pretty much impossible and an unrealistic thing to expect. We wouldn't ask this relative to stop talking about sports or his job, because those things are part of his life. Pretending that we don't go to church, have friends at church, and attend church activities is ridiculous. The church is part of our lives, a big part. So, while we're still careful not to discuss doctrine in front of this person, out of courtesy, we're not ashamed to talk about our lives and the church that is such a big part of it. Thats just who we are.

I think its possible to put yourself out there without being obnoxious. Here are a few absolutely painless, casual ways to make yourself available for questions (and maybe even put yourself in a position to talk about gospel topics in a non-threatening way, if appropriate). Anyone can do these things, and none of these ideas will make you come across as a pushy fanatic!:
  • When you send Christmas cards and/or family newsletters, include an appropriate quote from a General Authority or a scripture)
  • Put a picture of the temple up in your home
  • Keep a copy of the Book of Mormon somewhere where friends can see it
  • Read the Book of Mormon in public places (on lunch break, on the bus, at the doctor's office)
  • Include the Church's website addresses (www.mormon.org or www.lds.org) on your facebook page or as part of your email signature (put something like, "Interested in learning about what Mormons believe?," then list the address or a link)
  • Wear your CTR ring or other church-themed items/clothing (BYU t-shirt, YW necklace, etc)
  • When someone asks what you did last weekend, mention that you went to church!
  • Give applicable Book of Mormon names to pets and animals (often starts a gospel conversation - people want to know where you came up with a name like Abish or The Brother of Jared!)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"I excuse not myself"

Today for Gospel Essentials class I taught a lesson about the Word of Wisdom. We had a handful of new members, a few returning less-active members, a new investigator and her less-active husband (at church for the first time). This was the first time I've had any new investigators in the class since I started teaching, several months ago.

Many of the lessons are pretty innocuous (topics like "honesty", or "prayer" that aren't likely to upset anyone - the sort of thing you might learn about at any Christian church). Then there are the lessons that are about things particular to our church (temples, pre-mortal life, etc) that would be different concepts for investigators, but still nothing to get upset about. And then, there are the touchy subjects: Tithing, Chastity, and the Word of Wisdom.

These are the same topics that can be nerve-racking to bring up to some people when you are a missionary. Knowing that you're about to explain the law of chastity to an unmarried couple that lives together, or the word of wisdom to a heavy smoker, isn't an easy task. You don't know how they're going to take it. This can be even more awkward when a brand new investigator comes to church and is presented with important ideas that you haven't had a chance to teach them about yet.

It also reminded me of the my full-time missionary days, when I'd worry about what investigators would think about the lessons/talks at church (and hope that the members didn't say anything crazy or too "deep"). I try to consider that when I teach a lesson.

To keep myself from worrying and over-analyzing, I remind myself of two things:

#1- The first time I went to church, as an 18 year old, I went to a Young Women's class with my slightly younger member friend (we were the only two in the class that day) and was presented with a lesson on temple marriage. The poor sister teaching must have been mortified (as I'm sure my friend was) to have me there for that particular lesson when I hadn't even had the first missionary discussion. I remember feeling slightly suspicious about the whole concept of the temple, since it seemed to me that it wasn't fair that only certain people could have access to the possibility of eternal marriage (of course, later I learned that everyone will eventually have that option, whether during this life or after). However, I never could deny that it was true, even if I objected to the idea (or I thought I did, anyhow). We can't recognize the truth unless we hear it, so we can't be afraid to say it, even if we are nervous about how someone will react. Could that teacher have guessed that over the next several years I would be baptized, serve a mission, and marry in the temple?

#2- The Lord said, "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same" (D&C 1:38). This scripture always reminds me that the Lord is the one who gives us the commandments, not man. He doesn't change his requirements because he's worried about someone getting offended or upset. He tells it like it is, and we have to, also. We can be sensitive to the feelings of others and do our best to present our message in a way that is easy to understand, but we can't water things down to fit the ways of the world. The honest in heart will hear the gospel message and accept it, whether it goes along with their current lifestyle, or not. "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself" is a mantra that I say in my head when I start to get nervous, and that helps me. Its not my gospel, it is Christ's gospel.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Seeking and Searching

I recently came across a talk on LDS.org which was given when I was in grade school (about 9 years before I even stepped foot inside an LDS church), but is still just as applicable today. I had never considered the difference between searching and seeking, but Elder Russell explains it well:

"The Lord requires us— yes, you and me— to locate the less-active members and help them to return to the fold.“For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out” (Ezek. 34:11). Yes, we are to both “search my sheep” (locate them) and then “seek out” (bring back) less-active members and families, with unending and unqualified love. And in the process, we and they shall learn the true meaning of “ye shall … find me, when ye shall search for me” (Jer. 29:13).

Elder Russell also describes the process by which less-active families can be approached and encouraged to return to activity:

#1- (The servants of the Lord fast and pray)...that the Lord (will) indicate to them the choice families to be visited

#2- The chosen families (are) then (contacted and arrangements are made) for visits.

#3- "The servants of the Lord...visit the less-active families"

#4- (The servants of the Lord) assure them of the redeeming love of the Lord and their love for them. They speak not only by inspiration, but by a higher law, in which the Spirit of the Lord speaks through them. Through constant prayer in the heart, what is said is by the Spirit of the Lord.

#5- The family remembers that the Lord truly loves them and (recognizes) that the servants of the Lord love them as well.

#6- Then the Lord returns the family to the fold.

"Touching the Hearts of Less-Active Members," Elder Gardner H. Russell of the First Quorum of the Seventy (November 1986 Ensign)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Welcome Wagon

There may be some cities that still have this, but I think the popularity of the "Welcome Wagon" died down after the internet made information so available. Used to be that when you moved into a new house the "Welcome Wagon" would arrive with informational pamphlets about city services, school info, coupons for local businesses, and maybe some key chains donated by a car dealership. Basically, they would bring you information about the community.

In a previous ward, I was in the Relief Society Presidency. We were very close to a chiropractic college, so several times a year we had a large number of young families move in at the same time. In the spirit of the "Welcome Wagon", we would put together folders for new move-ins. It wasn't anything extravagant or expensive. We would copy a (fairly recent) ward phone directory, a copy of the most recent Relief Society monthly newsletter (that the secretary put together), a list of important contact phone numbers in the ward (Bishop, RS President, Missionaries, etc), a local (free) family magazine, information about the nearest temple (directions, hours, etc), and a list of local attractions (zoo, parks, museum, etc) & their hours/cost, etc. We put everything in a plain colored Pee-Chee style folder (with pockets inside) and attached a label (printed with something like, "Welcome to the ______ Ward!" Members of the Presidency would present a folder to each new Sister when they made "welcome to the ward" visits to their homes.

We made a dozen or so of these ahead of time so that we could grab a few as we needed them.

This idea could easily be adapted for a "welcome" folder for newly baptized members. You may want to coordinate with your Bishopric, RS Presidency, or EQ Presidency to organize something like this. Or you (with approval from your leaders) may want to take the project on yourself. It would be great to have folders for both new move-ins and some for newly baptized members! Newly baptized members have probably already been in the area for some time, so the contents of their folders would be different (they wouldn't need a list of local attractions, for example).

Here are some ideas of what to put inside folders for newly baptized members:
Ward list, list of important ward/stake contact phone numbers, a Gospel Principles Book (student manual for Gospel Essentials class), recent copy of Relief Society newsletter (for Sisters), current handouts/upcoming ward/stake events, pass-along cards to give to friends, maybe a welcome letter?

If you'd like to put together a "Welcome Wagon" folder to give to new move-ins and/or newly baptized members, here are a few additional suggestions:

-I would usually buy a large quantity of the colored pee-chee style folders during the early back-to-school sales (usually July). They come in basic colors (red, blue, yellow, green) and are usually around 10 cents each during the sales...they are a LOT more if you buy them any other time of year! Try to make a guess-timate of how many you will need for the year. Buying enough for the whole year when they are cheap will help to keep your costs down.

-A lot of wards/stakes don't use annual printed Stake directories anymore because the cost is high, and by time that they are printed much of the information is already out-dated, anyhow! You can easily print a current ward directory from your ward website (accessible to all church members through www.lds.org). If you print the whole directory as-is, you're going to have a lot of pages to print & copy. There is an option to print an abbreviated version, which is really all you need for a phone directory...its the same thing, except that it lists only the adults, so its a lot more compact!). You will probably will want to update your master copy several times a year, since phone numbers change frequently these days!

-Finally, I should probably mention that since you're a representative of the Church, items included in your folder should not be commercial in nature (unlike the original "Welcome Wagon"!) For example, it probably wouldn't be appropriate to include advertisements for a business (such as an AVON catalog or a coupon for $10 off pest removal services), even if its a business that you (or another ward member) is associated with. This isn't meant to be a sale pitch, and it should not be used that way. Even if its meant innocently, it will come across as inappropriate (because, frankly, it is). In our Relief Society folders, we included information about local zoos, etc, because although those are businesses, we felt that in our particular circumstances, our suggestions were generally informational in nature, instead of being sales-pitches. In general, it would probably be best to get the final approval over the contents of your "welcome" folder from your local leaders, just to be on the safe side.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

GET OUT THERE!

When we were first called as ward missionaries, my husband and I weren't given a lot of specific instruction. We were told that our main responsibilities would be friendshipping and teaching the Gospel Essentials class (not every ward missionary will teach this class, this is specific to our ward at this time. Often the class is taught by the ward mission leader or a seperately called teacher). The Church handbook of instructions says that we are supposed to find people to teach and assist the full-time missionaries in teaching, but doesn't give a lot of specifics, either. What EXACTLY were we supposed to do??? We decided that we should come up with our own ideas to make the most of our time.

One of the first ideas we came up with was simple - attend activities! What a fun "assignment" (if you can even call it that!). We haven't always been the greatest at attending every activity in the past, but since we became ward missionaries we've gone to everything we can - even activities that we would never have gone to in the past. For example, our ward had a Scout fundraiser dinner last month. We'd never been to anything like that before, but in the spirit of trying to "get out there", we bought tickets for ourselves and my parents. My parents had to back out at the last minute to go out of town, which left us with 2 extra tickets. It turned out to be a really good thing after all, because on a whim I called one of my newly assigned visiting teaching sisters and invited her and her non-member husband to join us. To my (pleasant!) surprise, they came and we had a really fun night getting to know them.

Participating in activities is a good way to get to know non-members and less-active members in a casual setting. Keep an eye out for anyone who looks uncomfortable or awkward and see what you can do to help. Even if there aren't any non-members or less-active members there, you can always use the opportunity to practice getting to know people (there are probably ward members that you don't know well because they are recent move-ins, serve in an auxillary, etc)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Have we met? PAIN FREE introductions

We moved quite a bit when I was young, so I went to a lot of different schools. To make things worse, I was painfully shy. If you've ever been new in a ward, you know a little about that awkward, unsure feeling. Even if you've been a long-time member, there's always the unknown when you're new. Maybe you're not sure where the Gospel Doctrine class meets, or what the Relief Society President's name is, or what day the Cub Scouts meet... Its unpleasant at first, but you usually pick up the details of your new ward in a short time.

Imagine, if you will, how much more awkward being "the new kid" would be as a non-member visitor, returning less-active member, or new member in your ward. If you're lucky, you're in the kind of ward where people are falling over themselves to meet newcomers and want to become lifelong friends with everyone. Unfortunately, that just isn't happening in most wards. I really don't think its ever intentional. Some people are reserved/shy. Many are so preoccupied that they don't even realize that there is a new person at church. Worst of all, many members assume that "someone else" is taking care of it. (Oh, that unreliable "someone else"...they never seem to follow through!)

I've been in a lot of wards. I've been in wards where nobody seemed to care that our family was there. It probably wasn't true, everyone probably assumed that "someone else" was greeting us, showing us around, and befriending us. One particularly large ward we briefly attended had just been created from combining two smaller wards, so most people didn't even realize that we were new to the area. Half of the ward were strangers to the other half anyhow. Everyone seemed to have friends already (from their prior ward) and for us it was an extremely lonely 9 months (and we are active members!). I remember that I burst into tears when our home teachers called us for the first time, asking for appointment to visit us. They called the week we were moving away. We could have really used some friends during the previous 9 months, but by then it was too little, too late.

So let's all resolve right now to never let that happen to another one of our brothers or sisters. Everyone should feel welcome, ESPECIALLY newcomers, who probably feel especially conspicuous and vulnerable. If you see someone you don't know, they're probably new. There is always a possibility that they aren't new, which could potentially be embarrassing. And we want to avoid embarrassing.
Imagine this scenario:
"Hi, are you new?"
"NO. I've been in the ward for 5 years. I think you're my home teacher"

Yikes. Awkward.

Well, I try to avoid awkwardness and embarrassment in general, so here is my approach to this situation. When I see someone I don't know (sitting near me in class or in the chapel, standing out in the lobby before church, sitting alone at an activity), I say something like, "Hi, I don't think we've met. My name is....." Thats step 1. After that, without fail, they always introduce themselves to me. Usually they just tell me their name and don't really offer any additional information. So I move on to step 2. I ask, "Are you a member of the ward?" which I quickly follow with "I'm fairly new in the ward, so I don't know everyone yet". This keeps things from getting awkward in pretty much every situation. If the person is new, they may be relieved to hear that you don't know everyone either. If the person is a long-time member of the ward, they won't feel embarrassed that you don't know them because you're "fairly new". If the person is less-active, they usually are quick to say so.

I used this approach a few months ago when I saw a young mother (who I'd never seen before) trying to keep her child occupied in the hallway during Sacrament meeting. When I had introduced myself and mentioned that I was new, she said, "Well, we haven't been very active lately". Its hard to know what to say to that, so I tried to change the subject slightly. In my most cheerful voice, I said something like, "I haven't been to church very much lately either because I was on bed-rest with my pregnancy. How old is your baby?".

Now, I AM "fairly new" (less than 1 year) in my current ward, so that "excuse" works fine for me right now. There are probably dozens of other reasons you could use. "I have a calling in Young Womens, so I don't know all of the adults", "We've been doing a lot of traveling, so there are a lot of new people I don't know", "I'm usually away visiting other wards for Stake Primary, so I don't get a chance to meet many people in our ward", you get the idea!

If it helps you, you can also play out several of these "Have we met?" scenarios in your head to get practice. You don't need to memorize anything, just get the general idea.

So there you have it, a painless approach to introducing yourself to a stranger in any church-related setting. I don't mean these "lines" and "excuses" as trickery at all, so please don't take it that way. I've read several books about communication and presenting yourself in a positive way. To me, these are methods aren't meant to deceive anyone, but rather to help me to be more outgoing without worrying so much about being embarrassed by saying the "wrong" thing. Its a stepping stone to help you start a conversation.

Even the simplest conversation can make the difference between a good first day in a new ward and a bad one. Don't wait for "someone else" to do it!

Who should you approach FIRST?

Every once in a while, missionary work comes up in a Sacrament meeting talk or a Sunday School lesson. Now if you're like me, the first thing you think is, "Well, I would help, but I can't think of anyone to talk to" Now, for me, that is usually true. We've moved pretty frequently, I don't work outside the home, I have a newborn baby, I homeschool, and I've never had the greatest luck in moving next to amiable neighbors. So, aside from relatives, do I know anyone in the area outside the church? Not really. Its not that I'm trying to be exclusive, its just that I'm kind of a home-body at this stage in my life.

Even if you do work outside the home, or volunteer, its not always appropriate to directly speak to people in those situations about our beliefs. Or maybe you feel uncomfortable doing so. Or maybe you've already tried and didn't receive what you'd consider a warm response! According to the Church Handbook of Instructions, one of the responsibilities of a ward missionary is finding people to teach. Seriously- don't panic! It will be okay - I've got a very, VERY EASY idea for you...

Are a visiting teacher or home teacher? I'm guessing you probably are. (If you aren't, call your RS President or EQ President RIGHT NOW and tell them that you want to be! There are never enough visiting/home teachers to go around and there are so many families that could really use a visit!). If you have a visiting/home teaching route, you're most likely assigned at least one less-active or part-member family. Am I right?

Did you know that the full-time missionaries often contact less-active members and part-member families? These members are some of the best resources for finding people to teach. Why do you suppose that is? These families are almost always a source of new investigators because they usually have non-member family members who are already somewhat familiar with the church and probably know other members. Because of their previous contact with the church, they are much more likely to be receptive to learning more or taking the next step (attending church, baptism, receiving the priesthood, temple ordinances, etc)

This same concept can work in a similar way for ward missionaries. I typically have had 2 or 3 sisters on my visiting teaching route that are less-active. For me, contacting these sisters is less intimidating than approaching a non-member neighbor or co-worker, since I know that they already have a history with the church. Their involvement may range from "hasn't been to church in 40 years because she was offended" to "wants to come to church but needs ride." At least I know (I tell myself as I'm dialing the number of a sister I don't know) they haven't requested that their name be removed from the church records, so thats a "positive"! Don't be scared to contact these less-active sisters / families. Everyone needs a friend in the church and you may be the only one who's ever been willing to reach out and try.

Everyone needs a friend. Being a friend is a really big part of missionary work. When we have something incredible in our lives, we naturally want to share that with others. Christ is the ultimate example of friendship. He is an unconditional friend to us and He invites us to follow Him. Lets follow His example - Contacting your visiting / home teaching families is a great (and easy!) way to start!