We've had several more convert baptisms in our Ward since I last posted about our "Welcome" packets! I've been thinking about how we, as Ward members, can help investigators make the transition from being taught by the Elders to being active Ward members. Anything we can do to build a relationship prior to baptism is a positive thing. It occurred to me last week that it would probably be more effective to give these "Welcome" packets out ahead of time, instead of waiting until the actual baptism. Besides giving the person/family additional information that will help them learn more about the Church, it also gives me an excuse to make another visit to the family (especially if I haven't been one of the members/Ward missionaries attending the discussions with the Elders).
I've recently updated our "Welcome to the Ward" Packets to include some new information. I remembered to take pictures before handing them out this time, so you can get a better idea of what we're doing:I'm using inexpensive (less than 30 cents each) solid-colored pee-chee-like folders that you can get at any store with a school/office supply aisle. We have two ladies being baptized this week, so I've used purple this time and I was a little more generous with the flowers/hearts than I would be for a folder I'd make specifically for a man, so consider this a "feminine" version! The "Welcome to the Ward" label is a printed on a label sticker (name-tag size) and I've added some embossed paper flowers that I made around the edges (though you could use stickers or a more decorative label).
This is what the packet looks like inside. I include a card with a handwritten personal welcome from the Ward Missionaries. I've flipped it over in the photo above so that the convert's name isn't showing, but you get the idea!
I make the cards, but I'm crafty and have time to do that, a store-bought card would be just as nice! I think a handwritten note is important so it seems personal, since most of the packet is just print-outs.
Another sticker-label, this one I put inside - I also added a punched-out heart for a more personal look."Upcoming Activites" (NEW!): This is something that we've added because its always good to make sure that new members have a good amount of information about activities (so they'll be more likely to attend!). I make sure to include extra information that sometimes isn't included in advertising posters or announcements (like who specifically is invited, whether it is casual or Sunday dress, etc). We've also included a section called "What does it cost?" because I've had several newer members ask me about the cost of attending Ward dinners, etc. lately. I realized that we long-time members just assume that everyone knows that there isn't a charge, but if you're coming from a church where they use activities as fundraisers, thats a big change! (Nobody wants to bring their family to a Spaghetti Feed and be surprised to find out that they're charging $10 a plate!). I explain a little about how each Ward & auxillary has an annual budget and that is where the funding for activities comes from. I also explain that there may be rare instances where there is an optional cost (such as craft classes with a cost for supplies at a Super-Saturday type activity), but that an optional cost like that is always advertised ahead of time. (Text of the "What will it cost" section will be included in the "Welcome Packet" section at right)
"Tips for Feeling At Home in Any Ward" (see text posted in the "Welcome Packet" section at right)
"LDS Lingo- A Glossary of Terms Frequently Used by Church Members" (text will be posted in the "Welcome Packet" section at the right)
"New Member Discussions/Home and Visiting Teaching" (NEW!): This was created in response
to some misunderstandings that some of our recent converts have had during the past year-
#1- We normally like to start the New Member Discussions fairly soon after baptism, but we had one family tell us that they didn't "need" the NMDs because they were still being visited by the
Elders occaisionally, and if they had any questions they would ask their member friend. I was shocked that they felt that the New Member Discussions were optional. I made sure that we personally visited them and all of the other new members ASAP after that, and let them know that the NMDs were part of their learning experience as new converts and that the Bishop wanted to make sure that they received all of the NMDs during the first year as part of their preparation to prepare to attend the temple. That cleared up the misunderstanding nicely, but now I know that it is something that we need to mention to all new members. In addition to having a Ward missionary personally contact the new member and explain the NMDs to them, I also explain in this sheet what Ward Missionaries are, what the NMDs are, and that one of us will be contacting them to schedule NMDs once a month or so (beginning after their baptism), so that it (hopefully!) won't come as a surprise!
#2- We had one new convert very confused about the difference between being a Ward Missionary and being a Visiting/Home Teacher. I had already explained it to her, but I think the terms we use are easily confused (I've heard many new converts refer to either Home Teachers or Visiting Teachers as "Home-Visiting Teachers" as if they were the same program) . This was probably made worse by the fact that I showed up for her first NMD with her Visiting Teachers. Not long after that, she was asked to be a Visiting Teacher herself and she paniced, mistakingly thinking that she would have to teach NMD's. I figured that it couldn't hurt to include a written explanation of what exactly Visiting Teaching and Home Teaching are, who will be contacting them for visits (a set of Home Teachers for each family and a set of Visiting Teachers for each adult woman), what those visits will be like, etc. (Text of this New Member Discussion/Home & Visiting Teaching document will be included in the "Welcome Packet" section at right)
Some of the handouts/pamphlets/documents that I include (all ordered free of charge from Church Distribution): Church magazine subscription info, Family Guidebook, Pure Religion (info about humanitarian aid), Family Proclamation, The Living Christ, Relief Society Declaration, etc...
NOT SHOWN: Current Ward directory (printed from the Ward Website) with attached instructions for registering for the Ward Website (text for instructions will be included in the "Welcome Packet" section at right)
NOT SHOWN: List of frequently used phone numbers (Ward and Stake leaders, the Temple, Deseret Industries, etc) and websites (www.lds.org, providentliving.org, familysearch.org)
NOT SHOWN: A copy of our most recent "New Member Newsletter" (there will be a separate post about our New Member Newsletter, coming soon!). I make sure that everybody gets a copy of the most recent newsletter as soon as there is a baptism date set, but I figure it doesn't hurt to include an extra copy...
ALSO NOT SHOWN: For families with young children, I try to include something fun, like coloring pages that I've printed out from the Primary section of the Church website and Articles of Faith cards with a picture of Jesus (these cards are available to purchase at a small cost from Church Distribution).
So, overall, the cost to us as Ward Missionaries is minimal - the folder, the cost of the ink/paper used in printing the documents, the cost of the labels, a card, etc. Decorations like stickers, etc are optional, of course. I think the opportunity to visit each new convert and provide them with information that they can read through in their free time is very valuable!
For more information on our "Welcome to the Ward" Packets for new converts and what is included, see the topic section labeled "WELCOME PACKET" on the right side of this page, above the picture of people shaking hands.