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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Welcome packet for convert child



Today we have a convert baptism of a child (8 years old), so I adapted our usual "Welcome to the Ward" packet to be a little more kid-appropriate. The usual handouts and information are included (see the "Welcome Packet" section for more info), but I made a few changes/additions:
  • More coloring/activity pages (found here)
  • "My Gospel Standards" print-out (found on the Idea Door website, here)
  • Sacrament prayer card*
  • "My Baptism Covenants" print-out (found on the Idea Door website, here)
  • Several age-appropriate "Mormonad" poster cards
  • Picture of Christ with children
*I printed out the Sacrament prayers (printable version found at the Idea Door, here), and glued them onto colorful paper. Then I glued the two prayers back to back, to make a sort of two-sided bookmark. I also attached a little paper piece of bread and a water cup that I made out of scraps of scrapbooking paper to make it easier to tell which side is which. You can see the one I made on the left side of the picture of the inside of the folder (shown above).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Helping new members understand "callings"

For many new members of the Church, the idea of holding a position or "calling" can be a very intimidating thing. The last thing that we want is to have new converts running for the door after the closing hymn so they can avoid a potential "Can I meet with you for a moment?" encounter with the Bishopric... What can Ward missionaries do to help our new members feel comfortable with accepting callings?

Something that we have done is bring up the subject of callings when we're visiting a new convert for one of the early new-member discussions*. This gives us a good opportunity to resolve any concerns that the new member may have. We give brief summary of what a calling is (this a term that we use frequently, but most non-members are unfamiliar with, so it doesn't hurt to explain), explain how callings are extended (and how we are sustained), and why we as members serve in the Church.

I've found there are four general concerns that new members have about accepting callings:

#1- I don't have the gospel knowledge/experience
This is a very common concern. New members are used to dealing with full-time missionaries that can usually answer virtually any question without breaking a sweat. And when they come to Church they see men and women speaking or giving lessons who have had years and years of speaking/teaching experience. How can someone who was just baptized last week be expected to have the gospel knowledge and ability of a missionary or a lifelong member? Well, of course they aren't expected to have those abilities, which is why a brand new convert isn't usually called to teach Gospel Doctrine. Bishoprics are very aware of the limitations that a convert will have as they are learning the basics. There are many callings that are appropriate for new members that don't require an extensive gospel education. Even a calling as a teacher isn't necessarily going to require a mastery of the scriptures... For example, some new converts that I've known have been called as Primary teachers. This provides an opportunity for the new member to learn through teaching, line upon line, and to a (hopefully) less-intimidating young audience.

#2- I don't know enough about the organization/calling
Even long-time members could feel a little panicked at being called to a position in an area/auxilliary that they aren't very familiar with, so this is easy to relate to. A new member may not realize that they will have training and leadership support for their calling. No matter what the calling, there is someone to offer support and answer questions. For example, if a new member were called to be a visiting teaching supervisor, they would receive instruction and support from the visiting teaching leader and the Relief Society President. It would be really helpful for new members to know that they will have this support and that there are also support materials (instruction manuals) and other resources that can help as well.

#3- I might be asked to do something I just can't do
It can help to explain that callings for all members (including new converts) are chosen carefully by our leaders who are guided through revelation (meaning that we may be asked to do something that stretches us and increases our talents/abilities, but we're generally not asked to do something beyond what we can handle). I've used the example that I can't play the piano at all, so I probably won't be asked to serve as the ward pianist - its just literally beyond what I am able to do. On the other hand, as we serve in positions we start to gain skills and become more familiar with how things run, which can give us that background (and confidence) we need to serve in future callings that may require a greater knowledge or skill. Most callings will "stretch" us beyond our comfort zone in some way. I don't believe in turning down callings because they are intimidating. However, I do feel that its appropriate to tell new members that if they are extended a calling that they feel uneasy about, it's okay to talk to the Bishopric member about our questions or concerns. My husband and I learned this the hard way when we were in a new Ward and called to a husband/wife team calling that required regular weeknight meetings. Not wanting to question the call (though we'd never spoken with the Bishopric before that night and they didn't know our circumstances), we accepted the callings (without voicing our concern that every single meeting conflicted with my husband's work schedule). A lot of complications could have been avoided if we would have expressed our scheduling conflict when the calls were extended. So, its important for new members to know that its okay to have questions or concerns - its better to resolve them before agreeing to the calling than to wait until the situation becomes frustrating or overwhelming. This will also give the Bishopric member an opportunity to reassure the new member and help resolve concerns about lack of experience, etc.

#4- I'm just too shy to teach
This concern is a little more difficult to resolve, since you can't really tell a person to just stop being shy... I find that many new members are afraid to be asked to teach because they have never been a fan of public speaking or they are just generally shy (and this may be made worse if they are also concerned about lack of experience/knowledge). Most new members won't be asked to teach right away, but some will. In this case, refer back to #1 , #2, & #3 - explaining how callings are administered and that they will receive support from leadership can really help put a shy new member at ease.


*In our Ward, the Ward missionaries present the new-member discussions to the new converts and we try to incorporate the visiting/home teachers when possible. Generally, the Ward Mission Leader determines how the new-member discussions are handled, so your Ward may have a different arrangement (for example, in some Wards the full-time missionaries teach the new-member discussions, in other Wards the full-time missionaries and Ward missionaries teach these discussions together). Consult your Ward Mission Leader.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The importance of Church activities for investigators

We make an effort to make sure that our newer members attend Church activities as often as possible. Being a member of the Church is more than just attending meetings on the Sabbath - the gospel and the Kingdom of God on Earth (the Church) becomes part of our daily lives. For new members, attending social activities outside of Sunday services/classes is an important part of integrating into Church culture and feeling part of the Ward/Stake family.

In a slightly different way, the same concepts apply to our non-member investigator friends. When they come to activities (like Ward parties, for example) they meet more Ward members (including Ward leaders) and can develop relationships with people they have already met.

In addition, they may be able to overcome any previous misconceptions that they've had about what Church members are like. When investigators only have contact with the missionaries outside of Church and then only see Church members when they're dressed up for Sunday meetings, they may wonder - Do members of our Church always dress up? Are women are expected to wear dresses all the time? Activities are a great way to show that we do wear jeans and we're generally pretty fun people!

Ward missionaries, Ward leaders, and other Ward members can encourage investigators to attend activities by #1- making sure they know about upcoming activities (when, where, etc) #2 offering a ride (if appropriate) #3- offering follow-up reminders (fliers or verbal reminders) in classes or personal phone calls.

Monday, July 12, 2010

July/August Newsletter Ideas

Last month I did a post on sending out a "New Member News" newsletter specifically for new converts and investigators preparing for baptism. Basically, I try to include any information they might need to know for the upcoming month or so. For example, in March and September I include information about the upcoming General Conferences (what is Conference, where/when you can view it, what to expect, etc).

For July/August newsletters, I recommend the following topics:


  • Pioneers (brief history of the Pioneers - we have a lot lessons/talks/hymns about Pioneers during this time of year, so I try to explain why)
  • Pioneer Day (why we celebrate it and info about any related Ward/Stake activities)
  • Other Ward/Stake Activities (be sure to give all possible information about time, date, location, appropriate dress, anything they need to bring, etc)
  • Gospel Essentials (Sunday School) Lesson Schedule
  • Welcome to New Members &/or Info About Upcoming Baptisms
  • Ward Missionary/Ward Mission Leader Contact Information

Even if you don't go with a formal newsletter format, it is great to make this type of information available to all of your new members.... by handout, Sunday School announcements, phone calls, etc. Most activities will be announced in one way or another at Church, but it doesn't hurt to give a little extra effort to make sure that our new members have all of the information they need.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fellowshipping New Converts - 13 Easy Ideas That Any Member Can Use!

President Gordon B. Hinckley placed a heavy emphasis on convert retention for many years. He repeatedly taught that the involvement of ward members is vitally important to helping a converts remain active in the Church after baptism. Full-time missionaries come and go, but ward members (especially ward missionaries) are a constant that converts should be able to rely on for continuing encouragement, support, and friendship.

"I am hopeful that a great effort will go forward throughout the Church, throughout the world, to retain every convert who comes into the Church. This is serious business. There is no point in doing missionary work unless we hold on to the fruits of that effort. The two must be inseparable. You have people in your wards who can be friends to every convert. They can listen to them, guide them, answer their questions, and be there to help in all circumstances and in all conditions" (Gordon B. Hinckley, "Some Thoughts on Temples, Retention of Converts, and Missionar Service," Ensign, Nov 1997)

We know that we should be doing something to help our new converts remain active, but what exactly are we supposed to do?

Imagine learning that a long-time friend from your high school (who you haven't seen in many years) will soon be moving into your town. Think of the ways that you might offer to help and how you could help make your friend's family feel welcome. What would you do for your friend? Help them move into their new house? Bring them dinner or treats? Maybe you could show them around town - take them to the school their children will be attending, tell them which grocery stores are best, or help them find the nearest branch of the bank they will use? Would you be willing to introduce them to people in the neighborhood or maybe host a "welcome" BBQ for them? Even after the initial move-in, you would probably continue to check on them from time to time, to see how they were handling unpacking and offering additional help, if needed. None of these things would seem out of the ordinary for one friend to do for another.

The same principles can be applied when member missionaries help new converts make their transition into active membership in the ward. Similar to the scenario of having a high school friend move into the area, we can help the new member get "settled" in their Church "home" by showing kindness, helping them learn the ropes, and introducing them to other members in the ward. Like any friend, we simply want to help them "get settled."

Here are 13 examples of low-stress ways that any member can help a convert feel welcome in the "Ward Family"
:
  • Attend convert baptisms and congratulate the new member(s)
  • Offer a ride to a Church activity
  • Ask them to help with planning a Church project or activity
  • Make sure that they know about upcoming ward/stake meetings & activities
  • Invite them over for dinner and/or Family Home Evening
  • Make sure they understand a unique term/concept that comes up in announcements or during a class (like "Girls Camp" or "Food Storage")
  • Learn the names of everyone in their family and greet them by name
  • If they miss Church, give them a call to see if everything is okay
  • Send them a birthday card
  • Contact the ward missionaries or full-time missionaries and ask if you can come with them when they have a "new member discussion"
  • Say hello to them at Church
  • Sit with them in class or at an activity
  • Take them a loaf of bread or cookies to say, "welcome to the ward"

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Entertaining visiting children / Sacrament meeting


It is always a good thing when investigators to bring their children to Church. However, many kids aren't used to sitting quietly for that long, especially without entertainment! I've found that most parents who just beginning to attend Church are usually unprepared to keep them in their seat for over an hour.

We can help make attending Church a pleasant experience for new families, but one thing that is never pleasant is having half the ward staring at you because your children are racing each other up and down the aisles. I've been caught under-prepared for this situation a few times. I always wish that I could help in some way, but there is only so much doodling a child can do on the back of one Sacrament program, then things start to get ugly again!

There are small things that any of us can do to help in a situation like this by coming to Church armed with a few extra items that are low-cost and easy to obtain (you may already have some of these around the house). The following ideas probably won't work with every age group (like infants or pre-teens), but should definitely help keep the 2-10 age crowd occupied for a little while without distracting too much from the spirit of the meeting.

Bring one (or more) of the following:
  • Coloring book (preferably gender-neutral, or a variety)
  • Pad of plain paper
  • Activity pages and/or coloring pages from the Friend magazine*
  • Crayons or colored pencils
  • Stickers
You don't need to haul in a ton of supplies in every week - I usually just keep a few coloring/activity pages and some crayons on hand in my bag or notebook. I also have an extra stash in my car (just in case it looks like I'm going to need it - I definitely won't have time to run home if a new investigator family shows up with five kids!). This is just a small thing, but it can make a big difference in making Sacrament meeting more peaceful for our investigator families.

*I prefer to use Church/gospel-related pages (like the one shown above) that support the purpose of Sacrament meeting (instead of something like a "Transformers" coloring book). You can print these pages at home for FREE from the Church website's Friend magazine printable "activity archive" section (click here to link to the page) or a non-official church site like ldscoloringpages.net - both have pages arranged by topic, so you can choose a variety of pictures and activities that you think would be appropriate. I usually choose general topics like "Service," "Family," or "Christ" instead of more in-depth subjects like "The Word of Wisdom" or "Joseph Smith receives the Priesthood" (which may be less familiar to a new family).