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

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!)