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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ideas for Increasing New Member Fellowshipping

"Among those converts who fall away, the attrition (loss) is steepest in the two months after baptism. When a convert is baptized, there is no time to lose. Fellowshipping efforts must begin well before baptism and must increase in intensity in the months following baptism" ("The Role of Members in Conversion" By Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, March 2003)

Unfortunately, it seems as if the opposite thing is often happening with new members. We tend to think that the most important fellowshipping happens before baptism, and then sharply drops off afterward. While the new member will (hopefully) have visits from home teachers (and visiting teachers) once a month like the rest of us do, that just isn't enough contact for a brand new member.

Members often mistakenly think that the full-time missionaries will cover this need as they continue with their regular and frequent visits to the new convert. Individual missionaries eventually move on to new areas, and for those that stay in the area, its appropriate to eventually wean away from frequent visits to new members. In some cases, it can be a very swift transition that leaves the new member feeling confused and abandoned. I have heard too many people comment that they felt as if they were "dropped" after their baptism. I know that this is not intended by the ward members and full-time missionaries...Instead, we may just expect the new member to be totally integrated into our "culture" when they are baptized and that they should naturally adjust to the change.

This is the area where ward members (and specifically ward missionaries) need to do a MUCH better job. When I read Elder Oaks' advice that member fellowshipping should "increase in intensity" after baptism, it made me consider my own efforts. For example, if I personally have one or two contacts a week with an investigator before their baptism (by phone, at church, in person, or online, etc), I can consider how I might increase that effort after baptism. An extra phone call or visit would be all that it would take to double my contact with that person.

"Our experience has shown that members can have a powerful influence in this process (when they model) gospel living..." One idea that our family came up with that goes along with this principle is inviting new members to come to our home for a Family Home Evening. This combines the concept of fellowshipping with the modeling gospel living that Elder Oaks mentioned.

I first considered inviting investigators for FHE immediately after they had set a date for baptism, but when I remembered that "fellowshipping efforts must...increase in intensity in the months following baptism" I decided that it might be even better to have new members over for FHE the week following their baptism.

Since we have investigator several families in our Ward scheduled for baptism over the next week, I'll be contacting each of them this week (before any of the baptisms) and inviting them for FHE next week. Since some of these people have unusual work/school schedules (and our family has an unusual schedule as well), I've explained that we can have them over on a different weekday afternoon or evening (instead of Monday) if necessary. So, we may end up having 2 or 3 different FHEs in the same week, but you can't have too many FHEs, right?

I figure that if our family makes this a regular practice it will be an easy way for us to make a few extra contacts with each person (call or personal invite and then the actual FHE itself). Wouldn't it be great if we could also encourage other ward members to do the same? I think there are a lot of members who would like to help with new member fellowshipping, but just aren't sure what to do. Can you imagine what a great influence it would be for new members to go to 4 or 5 different members homes for FHE and other social visits during their first few months as new members?

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