Tuesday, December 6, 2011
If your ward/Stake has upcoming Christmas-related events, make sure to advertise these activities especially to your new members and less-active members. In every ward I've been in, it has been very easy to get less-active (or inactive) members to come to an activity if its Christmas-related. I believe that this is because many people (even if they aren't actively attending Church) equate the holidays with Church attendance. Going to Church at Christmas-time may be something they grew up with, even if they didn't attend Church or Church-related activities any other time of the year.
At our Ward's most recent Christmas party, we saw many people who hadn't been to Church or a Church function in 6 months or more. And a several of them brought along their non-member relatives and friends. This is a great opportunity for us to reach out and fellowship these brothers and sisters, and their friends and relatives.
Be on the lookout, also, on Christmas Day (since it falls on Sunday this year), for those less-active or inactive members who may feel inspired to attend Church BECAUSE it is Christmas. What a special opportunity for them to feel the Spirit and remember why they joined the Church in the first place!
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Merry Christmas everyone! We came up with an idea to encourage our ward members to keep sharing the gospel this Christmas season. I am in contact with many of our ward members on facebook and through an email group, so I sent this email (below) out last week. It outlines our plan for using Joy to the World "Pass-Along Cards" in Christmas cards being sent to non-member friends or relatives:
"Ward members- This Christmas season, we have come up with an idea for inviting friends and relatives to learn more about our beliefs in a very easy way. Most of you are probably familiar with the Church’s “pass along cards” (small index-size cards with a picture on one side and Church info on the other side)...
Our idea is to offer the “Joy to the World” theme pass-along cards to any ward members who would like to include them in Christmas cards they will be sending to non-members (either local or in other areas). The card would easily fit inside any Christmas card. It has a picture of Mary and baby Jesus on the front, with the words, “Joy to the World”. On the back of the card, it says, “Bring the spirit of Christmas into your home with the story of the Saviour’s birth and His life, featuring music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir” (there is a picture of the FREE “Joy to the World” DVD that is being offered, and the 800 number to call).
Please note, when people call for the DVD they are asked if they would like to learn more about the gospel, but meeting with the full-time missionaries is not required and they are trained to be very polite.
Including a “pass-along” card in with a Christmas card is a simple, easy way to offer a church-related gift and a non-aggressive opportunity for them to learn about our beliefs if they wish. You never know - there may be people on your Christmas card list who may jump at the chance for a free DVD and may be very interested in learning more about our beliefs!
I have ordered 200 “Joy to the World” pass-along cards and they will be available soon for anyone who would like to include them in some of their Christmas cards. We are providing the pass-along cards to our ward members at no charge. If you have any questions or are interested in having some of these pass-along cards to send out, please let me know (and how many you would like).
PS- The free “Joy to the World” DVDs are meant as a missionary tool for non-members, so church members are asked not to call for free DVDs. The “Joy to the World” DVD is available to purchase for $1.50 from Church Distribution if you would like to buy a copy of the movie for yourself"
Many Christmas cards that would be sent by our ward members would probably be to members in other areas/missions, but thats okay. Sharing the gospel is always a good thing, even if we don't directly see the results in our own ward. Also, even being presented with this idea gets ward members thinking - who are their non-member friends and relatives and would they be receptive to something like this?
To order pass-along cards, go to the online store at www.lds.org. They are $2.00 for a pack of 100 cards (there is no charge for shipping). Please note, it may be too late for you to order 'pass-along cards', as many people are sending out their cards in early December. Another option would be to check with your Bishopric to see if your ward has a stockpile of pass-along cards somewhere that you could have. Or, your ward's full-time missionaries might have some of these cards as well. If you do order pass-along cards and they arrive late in the month, you can always encourage members to give them to people personally (or include them in gift-baskets, etc).
I personally prefer the Joy to the World cards to the other pass-along cards that are available (because they are Christmas-themed), but you could probably use any variety of pass-along card if the Joy to the World cards aren't available to you.
Merry Christmas everyone!!!
Saturday, September 10, 2011
For long-time members, General Conference isn't anything unusual, but for investigators and recent converts, General Conference is a new concept. While we may all know where to go (and when) the first weekend of April and October (or at least how to look it up), new members may not have a clue.
Here are some ideas to help you make sure that everyone you're working with has the opportunity to watch General Conference (and NOT show up for Church at the regular place/time):
#1- Announce (and explain) General Conference in Gospel Essentials Sunday School class for at least 2 weeks prior to Conference. Even if you explain it once, not everyone may be paying attention and there may be some people missing from class the first time. Be sure to emphasize that there will not be any regular Church meetings on Conference Sunday - the Conference broadcasts will replace regular Church meetings on this Sunday.
#2- Provide a handout* (sample shown below) that has a basic explanation of General Conference and the dates/times/viewing options appropriate for your area. Hand these out in Sunday School and before/after Sacrament meeting during the 2 weeks before Conference, so you can catch as many people as possible. I usually make extras of these handouts and give them to our full-time missionaries so they have something to give to investigators who may be interested in attending.
#3- If you send out a new member newsletter, include the explanation of General Conference and the dates/times/viewing options for your area, etc. Again, be sure to emphasize that there will not be any regular Church meetings on Conference Sunday - the Conference broadcasts will replace the regular Church meetings on this Sunday. Yes, its repeating yourself, but this is often misunderstood by new members.
#4- Consider asking Ward leaders (if appropriate) to announce General Conference times/viewing options (in Relief Society, Priesthood, etc). Some Wards do this, others do not.
#5- Reminder phone calls (or emails) - as a last minute reminder, it doesn't hurt to give a quick call or email on Friday to remind investigators/new members that its Conference weekend.
#6- If possible, consider inviting some investigators or new members to your home to view Conference with your family (or to attend Conference with you at a Church building providing the broadcast)
You don't have to use all of these methods, of course, but I feel like the more reminders, the better. This may seem like overkill, but I'd rather repeat myself 4 times than have someone tell me later that they showed up for Church and nobody was there and/or they missed General Conference because they didn't know about it.
*My handouts usually look something like this (times and viewing options will vary by region, this is just shown for example):
General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
October 1st and 2nd
General Conference is held twice a year and is broadcast from Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City to members all over the world. Speakers will include the Prophet (President of the Church), members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other Church Leaders. Since each of the 4 sessions of the Conference will feature different speakers and different topics, Church members watch all 4 sessions.
Saturday the 1st- morning session 9:00-11:00am
and afternoon session 1:00-3:00pm
Sunday the 2nd- morning session 9:00-11:00am
and afternoon session 1:00-3:00pm
AT HOME: If you get BYU-Channel or local access Channel __, you can view all 4 Conference broadcasts at home on your tv.
AT CHURCH: All 4 Conference broadcasts are shown on a large movie screen in the chapel at the Stake Center (located at _________). Sunday-clothing is appropriate if you attend in the chapel.
ONLINE: All 4 Conference broadcasts can be viewed at the Church's official website, www.lds.org
Please mark your calenders - there are no regular Church meetings this weekend - instead, everyone will be attending Conference broadcasts (either at home or at the Stake Center Building)
See you at Conference!
We had a great 'dessert social' for some of our new members tonight. It was held at the Bishop's home and it went really well. We have about 17 adults who were baptized in the last few years, and of those 17 the Bishop selected 9 (plus their spouses & kids, if applicable) to invite to this social. We were somewhat limited on space because it was held in a home, which was the reason for the limit on attendees, but we hope to have more "socials" like this in the future. It was a great way for newer members to socialize (with each other, the Bishop, and the ward-missionaries) outside of Church.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
WARD MISSION CORRELATION AGENDA
PERFECT THE SAINTS
Less-active member fellowshipping efforts-
PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL
Current investigator progress-
REDEEM THE DEAD
Upcoming new-member temple trips-
Genealogy outreach for new-members-
Next week’s Gospel Essentials Sunday School lesson- _____________________________
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Its now been several months since I stopped calling these particular people, so I felt like it was an appropriate time to take some sort of action. After prayerfully considering each person and their circumstances, I called some of the people. I had to leave voice messages, so I simply said that I wanted to speak with them about something and did not mention the new member lessons at all.
I was happy to get a return phone call today, and I sincerely apologized that I had not been in contact lately. I explained that there was a reason I had stopped calling (I explained that it was because I hadn't heard back from them in a long time, so I felt like maybe I was being a bother). I said that I didn't want them to think that I didn't care or that I'd forgotten them, because I care about them a lot. It was well received and went very well overall.
For those people who I didn't feel like I should call, I am going to send out a short letter. I got the idea from this from a sales article I happened to read recently. The article was about how to "make sales" even when people aren't returning your phone calls. The basic idea was to send a letter with a note that the person can return to you to let you know their intentions. Here is my version, which is specific to this circumstance:
Hello, just a quick note - If you're wondering why I haven't called you lately, to be honest, its because I'd been leaving voice messages for several weeks, but I wasn't getting any response. I started to worry that maybe I was being a pest. I didn't want to come across as pushy if you were too busy, or just not interested in meeting.
I didn't want you to think that I don't care or that I don't want to meet with you. Exactly the opposite, I care about you a lot and would be really happy to be able to teach you your remaining new member lessons.
I'm just not sure what the situation is if I don't hear from you, so I'm hesitant to keep calling. I've included a sheet that you can fill out and send back to me in a stamped envelope (also included). I know you're busy, so I was thinking that this might be an easy way for you to let me know whether or not you'd like to have the rest of your new member lessons at this time. If you'd rather just call or message me on facebook instead, thats fine, too. I hope you can get back to me- I just don't want to make you feel uncomfortable or annoyed if there is any reason you don't want me to call...
(and here is the note I will include)
To help me understand if you would like me to continue to try to contact you at this time or not, please check the box that best fits your situation:
o I'm swamped right now! Try to call me again after a couple of weeks.
o Don't quit trying. I do want to meet with you, I'm just hard to get a hold of.
o I'm have family/personal issues that are preventing me from meeting with you at my home, but I would like to meet with you at a different home or at another place like a restaurant.
o Don't call me, I've got personal reasons why I can't meet with you right now, but I'll call you soon when I am able to meet.
o I'm not interested in having the rest of my new member lessons at this time, please don't contact me for a while.
Return this sheet to me in the envelope provided (or, if you prefer, you can just call me at ___-___-____)
Thanks so much,
You may notice that I left out more negative choices (such as "I hate you, never call me again," or "Take my name off your Church records"). I tried to keep it positive and encourage the best possible response. Even if a person chooses the "I'm not interested in having the rest of my new member lessons at this time, please don't contact me for a while" option, I've still tried to word it in a positive way and I've left it open so that I can still contact them again "in a while." Of course, they might write in their own option, or just not respond at all, but at this point I would rather know something than just keep wondering where they stand.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Our full-time missionaries need people to teach, and all of our ward convert baptisms over the past 2 years have been the result of tracting or baptisms from part-member families. NO regular member referrals. We need to work on that, and I'm sure most wards have similar needs.
The handbook mentions visiting the home of members to encourage them, so I've been thinking a lot about how we can do that and what we would say when we got there.
Here is what I came up with last night. I haven't had our ward mission leader (my husband, currently at work) approve this yet, but this was the idea I had and some of you might find it helpful, even if we don't end up using it.
I want to add that many people find it useful to use the 'set a date' program, and that is definitely something that has been popular and used frequently for many years. I personally prefer to avoid that program, or at the very least using the term "set a date program" because I feel that when people hear that phrase they instantly start thinking up excuses why they can't or won't "set a date" to have someone prepared to be baptized. Personally, as soon as I hear the words "set a..." coming out of someone's mouth, I immediately think, "Oh no, here we go again". I realize that this is probably not the best attitude to have, but I have heard it so many times and I personally have never seen anything come of it over the years, as a member or a full-time missionary. I have always found being naturally gospel-sharing to be more effective than a program. Programs like this always seem to be forced and number-focused, and that feels very unnatural to me. That said, if I am asked by a leader to "set a date,:" I do, but it is definitely not my preferred method and it isn't what I prefer to teach others to do, if I have my choice. That is my personal opinion.
But I digress...
I would like to visit the homes of 10 ward members (prayerfully selected) before the end of the month and challenge them to do at least 1 minute of member missionary work during the following month. I've created a handout that explains what we are asking, and lists 5 simple ideas for things that they can do to help with new convert retention and missionary work. I've purposely selected 5 things that require very little time or effort and are fairly "non-scary" to most (some are 'easier' than others). I've also included the approximate time-commitment required, sort of tongue-in-cheek because people always say they "don't have time" to do missionary work. Here is the handout:
If every member of our ward spends just
1 minute on missionary work this month, it will go a long way toward helping
new converts stay active and finding new people for the full-time missionaries to teach!
Will YOU commit to help? Here are some great ideas of simple (& non-scary)
things you can do that require no more than
1 extra minute of your time...
__ As you do your visiting teaching/home teaching visits this month, make a special effort to befriend any less-active or new-convert members on your route. Extra time commitment required: 0 (you're already going to visit teach/home teach anyhow!)
__ Introduce yourself to at least one new visitor, investigator, or new convert at church (or at an activity) every week. Bonus awesomeness points for sitting with them! Extra time commitment required: 1 minute per week
__ Invite a new convert (and their family, if applicable) over for a family dinner or family home evening this month. Extra time commitment required: less than 1 minute to invite (you're already having dinner or FHE anyhow!)
__ Invite a non-member (friend or relative) to the next church activity that they would be interested in. Extra time commitment required: less than 1 minute to invite (you're already going to the activity anyhow!)
__ Invite a non-member (friend or relative) to your home for a special family home evening with the full-time missionaries. Explain that as part of your family night, the Elders will be teaching everyone a short gospel lesson (please give the full-time missionaries plenty of notice so that they can prepare and arrange their schedule). Extra time commitment required: less than 1 minute to invite (you're already having FHE anyhow!)
If you can commit to doing at least one of these simple actions this month, post this sheet where you will see it as a reminder!
If you need contact info for a new convert, or if we can help you in any way,
please give us a call-
Thursday, April 28, 2011
The only people I've met lately were a couple of the parents from my 11 year old daughter's soccer team. Frankly, its a very competitive, undefeated team and my daughter has never played before, so I sort of get the 'stink-eye' from the other parents if she misses the ball during a game...not exactly fertile friendship ground!
Anyhow, I am going to have a positive attitude and carry the card around with me, anyhow. If there is someone that is prepared and seeking the truth, and the Lord will somehow put them in my path, I will be ready!
It was fine, but it did extend the length of the program quite a bit (often they performed a slow 4-verse hymn) and still left that long waiting period while the convert and person doing the baptizing were changing. Eventually this practice was changed altogether, because of a change in mission president, who asked that this practice of having all of the full-time missionaries perform together at baptisms discontinue. Policies may differ in your area, this is just how things are run currently in our area.
So, we haven't had any musical numbers at all recently, just because this was always something that was planned by the missionaries in the past and has been somewhat overlooked. The intermediate time while people are changing is usually filled by Elders from another ward standing up in the front and teaching a gospel principle or two. Since it can take a while for people to change, it is a long time for the Elders to try to stretch something out and people tend to start to fidget.
My husband (Ward mission leader) thought it would be nice to have a short musical number performed during that changing time, which would be followed by the Elders' remarks in whatever time is remaining. He got the 'ok' from our Bishop, and tasked me with gathering a list of names of people who might be interested in performing in the future.
I started with a message on facebook, "Attention musically talented people in the area: I'm trying to put together a list of people who might be able to do musical numbers for upcoming convert baptism services...solo, duet, whatever...vocal or musical instrument. This isn't for a specific date, just need a list of people who might be willing if we want a musical number in the future. We usually have a 1-2 weeks notice. If you would be able to help, let me know!"
I may follow up with personal messages to people that I know have performed in the past, and possibly a sign-up sheet at church, depending on how much of a response I get.
I suggested to my husband that to avoid potential disappointment, it might be good to specify ahead of time that the musical number will be performed during the waiting period, so that they understand that the new convert most likely won't be in the room to hear the musical number.
I thought I'd mention this on this blog because, as always, I'm interested in getting as many ward members to convert baptisms as possible, and it occurred to me that this is another great way to do that!
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
We have a lot of child-of-record baptisms in the church, but we're also a missionary church, so its kind of surprising to me that there isn't more available for adult convert baptisms. I'm sure its a supply and demand issue - people are just more likely to buy a gift for a child or grandchild being baptized and we may not put as much thought into preparing things (like programs) for convert baptisms. But that doesn't mean that there aren't things available that we can purchase or make that are adult specific, we just have to look a little harder or be a little more creative.
Here are some things that I've come up with that are appropriate for adult convert baptisms:
Programs: In the past we used just a plain paper program with a scripture printed on the front. I wanted to make the program a little more special, so we recently started ordering pre-printed programs from Deseret Book - they are @ $8.00 for 100 programs. I usually print about 20-25 for most of our baptisms, so one package lasts for 4 or 5 baptisms. They have several styles that feature pictures of Christ's baptism that are appropriate for adults. Here is the one we usually use - I like this one because it has the scripture I like to use to the front (if you click on the photo you will be taken to Deseret Book's page for ordering information)...
(For more info about printing programs, see post re: baptism program templates under 'baptism services' topic at right).
Clip-art: I mainly use clipart images on the handouts that I leave with newly baptized members after they've had a new-member lesson. For example, for one of the new-member lessons that talks about covenants, I like to include images of baptism and the sacrament. Most of the baptism clipart I've found is of baptisms for 8 year olds from 'the Friend' magazine. Here are two images of adult (or teen) baptisms that I found on sugardoodle.net :
Gifts: Any type of gift is totally optional, but I feel that any type of gift, no matter how humble, gives the convert a personal memento of the occasion and conveys the message that we care for them.
We normally give each convert a framed photo (of the convert(s) dressed in white, standing with the missionaries in the lobby before their baptism). I write a personal 'congratulations' message on the back of the frame, which includes the baptism date. For the past few baptisms I've been buying wooden frames similar to these (they come in several colors) that cost around $5.00. I find that frames like these work well with almost any decor style, but any type of frame will do.
Some other gift ideas that I've seen:
Baptism bracelet (for ladies). This is actually a child's bracelet, but can be purchased in different lengths at whiteelegance.com (click on the photo to link to their site). Or you could make something similar yourself if you're crafty.
Soap Craft - I've seen these with different words on them, but I think it would be great to have a baptism/repentance theme quote, words, or scripture as a long-lasting reminder of their baptism day. Sugardoodle.net has a great tutorial (here) for making soap bottles like these for less than $2.00 each, and you can put any words or image on them that you like...maybe something like, "Be Clean"?:
Temple Lines website sells patterns of various temples for making handkerchiefs or other crafts (click on photo)
And there are many websites with temple-related crafts that can be given as gifts to adult converts, such as these temple photo block kits from poppyseedprojects.com. I think temple-themed gifts are especially appropriate for adult converts, since they will immediately begin preparing to attend the temple when they are baptism.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
This last Sunday it was my turn to teach the "Priesthood Organization" lesson in Gospel Essentials Sunday School class. I was a little apprehensive, because its one of the more difficult lessons for me to teach, as I don't feel I'm an expert on the topic. Also, its a little bit more difficult to keep a lesson like that interesting because it is mostly about which duties which go with which office. I wanted it to be informative and interesting, but I wasn't sure how to do that.
I don't normally like to 'bribe' students with treats, so thats not the norm for me, but I wanted to come up with a way to make the lesson more interesting and educational, and cupcakes were the answer for this particular lesson. I decided to give the lesson as given in the manual, but then divide the class into two groups for a trivia challenge -with mini cupcakes as a 'prize' for the winning team.
I announced this special in-class activity to class members that morning before church with a handout featuring a picture of a cupcake and a short explanation. We had a pretty good turnout....
First off, I always try to put students at ease by telling them that I won't call on them to answer a question unless they raise their hand. That usually brings the stress-level in the room down quite a bit!
I tried to get the teams to name themselves, but nobody on the first team volunteered a name, so I called them, 'Team Super-Righteous'. The second team called themselves 'The prophets'.
I had prepared a list of very simple questions from the lesson - all were questions that anyone in the class could answer, even if it was their first time at church because we had just covered the material (and I also made sure that everyone had a copy of the manual or another printed version of the lesson to refer to, if they wanted). There were even a few questions that simply involved me writing a word on the board and asking them to pronounce it correctly (like, 'Aaronic').
It turned out to be really fun... (Team Super-Righteous won by 2 points, if you're wondering)....and of course, both teams got cupcakes. The best part was that a couple of people who have never EVER answered a question in class before actually answered questions for the game! I was shocked!
Another great thing was a comment that another person (who hasn't been to class in a while) made - 'I'd forgotten how fun that class is!' which told me that the class is worthwhile, even without the occaisional cupcakes!
I was trying to think of an interesting invitation to a small new-member get-together that we're planning. We get many handouts and slips of paper at church, I figure that a lot of them get lost in the shuffle, so I thought that the activity might get more consideration if we made the invitations a little more interesting.
We decided to do a personal visit to the home of each family who is being invited to this particular get-together. I printed out invitations and then rolled them into small rolls - which I put inside helium balloons before I inflated and tied them. On the outside, we wrote, 'Special Message Inside' in permanent marker, so they would know they'd have to pop the balloon to read the invitation.
I suspected that some people wouldn't be at home, so I made sure that the balloons had long strings so that I could tie them to doorknobs. I also wrote 'from (our names)' in small letters on the bottom of the balloons, so that they would know who the balloon was from before they popped it, in case they were nervous about its origin. We went to 7 homes this afternoon and only had to tie balloons on 3 doorknobs, we got to briefly visit with someone at the other 4.
PS- If you do something like this, please be aware of anyone who may not want an inflated balloon in their home (because of rowdy dogs, small children, latex allergy) or who may have an aversion to loud noises for whatever reason. We have one new member who has a serious aversion to loud noises, so instead of a balloon, I left them this bouquet of paper flowers with an invitation inside:
I was chatting with her online the other day, and I did a little grumbling about some frustrating situations I'm struggling with as part of my calling. I was so stressed with worrying about some of the less-active new members in our ward that I didn't know what to do anymore. Her responses were very wise, and helped me get the correct perspective on some things that I'd been struggling with and worrying over for a long time.
Since her insights were so helpful to me, I thought I'd share them in case any of you might be having some of the same issues in your wards.
ISSUE #1- Taking things personally
I take things personally - when less-active members won't answer/return my calls, when people say they don't feel welcome at church after I've done everything I can to befriend them, etc. It makes me feel sad and I spend a lot of time wondering what I could have done better.
HER ADVICE - "I think taking things personally is equal to being sensitive...don't you? Being sensitive is actually a blessing and while I don't always react to those feelings in the best way, I am grateful for it because it brings with it an awareness of other's feelings, the ability to be more compassionate, and recognize the needs of others... I think those are really special gifts...and I think having those (gifts) is worth the hurt that happens every so often when I take something personally and have my feelings hurt"
ISSUE #2- Keeping Commitments?
I don't understand when people make baptismal covenants and then don't seem to have any intention of keeping them (such as never returning to church). I don't understand why they were baptized if its not an important commitment to them.
HER ADVICE - "You are right about commitment - living the gospel isn't "easy" if you don't really want it. And I think the hardest place to live is uncommitted, I know it was for me for years. But you can't bring their commitment to the table, so to speak. You can't be committed enough for them. I heard a quote the other day that said "Don't listen to the whine of those who want to live a mediocre life and want you to do the same so they don't feel guilty"
ISSUE #3- Why won't less-active new members accept my help/friendship?
I feel responsible for inactivity of new members, regardless of how much effort I have put in, because it is part of my responsibility to fellowship them. Many of these people claim they don't feel welcome, and I want to befriend & help them, but they keep rejecting me.
HER ADVICE: "Their whine about not being fellowshipped is an excuse not to live the gospel. You better believe when I was considering coming back to church I avoided ANYONE who had anything to do with it ... So I avoided calls, knocks at the door, etc, and it was hell. Because living uncommitted to what we know is true is hard work, but we want to pretend like it is easy. Converts become inactive because they choose to. I chose to make excuses because I was scared of living what I had learned.
ISSUE #4- If less-active new members won't come to church or let me visit them, how can I help them?
HER ADVICE: "My journey (back to activity) taught me many things and I came back... partly because of women in my life who didn't judge, but remained true and steady. Really what more can you do?"
I can't even tell you how much better I felt after our conversation... I was able to see what I can do for people who continually turn me away - don't judge, don't get offended, don't lose hope - remain steady and available for them. I don't need to drive myself crazy trying to figure out how to invent some new way to get through to people who aren't ready to come back yet. If I stay a true and faithful friend, I will be here when they are ready. Like I was for my college roommate. And thats not nothing, that's something. SOMETHING GREAT.
Friday, April 1, 2011
I have gone over each scenario in my mind again and again - where did it go wrong? (especially for those converts who have never returned?). I feel that these particular converts had a relationship with the missionaries who taught them, but never developed any relationship with the ward. When the missionaries moved on, so did the converts. As I have written about in the past, it is crucial for ward members (including ward missionaries) to get involved with investigators while they are still in the process of preparing to be baptized, so that we can help bridge that gap.
We try to be involved with teaching investigators whenever possible, but we have learned from experience that different full-time missionaries have varying levels of willingness to include us in their teaching appointments, so I feel like I have to pick my battles. The majority of missionaries that we've had in our area seem to prefer to visit their investigators without a member, or when they do take someone with them, they prefer to choose their own fellowshippers instead of using the ward-missionaries for teaching appointments. We always make ourselves available to go with them for teaching appointments, but we usually aren't included.
This has been of concern to me, because of several converts who have fallen away over the past 2 years. Even one lost convert is too many. Of those who have fallen away, there was something in common among them- there was no ward-missionary present at any of their pre-baptism teaching discussions. While we were eager to introduce ourselves when they attended church, there was no other contact between us as ward-missionaries and these particular investigators prior to their baptisms.
I now make sure that as soon as I hear that there is a baptism date set, I assert myself to ensure that I am able to be present for at least one pre-baptism appointment with the full-time missionaries. I feel that this is of vital importance because #1- I use the opportunity to explain that we (the ward-missionaries) will begin coming to their home to teach their new-member lessons during the months after their baptism (this familiarizes them with the idea, so its harder to dismiss when I call for an appointment). #2- Even if you don't teach the new-member lessons in your ward (in some wards this is handled by the full-time missionaries), you are still building an important social relationship with the investigator/convert that you just can't develop as well in the hallway at church. Being in a home setting is much more effective. #3- Every contact with the investigator/convert is important*. #4- If you have already been in the investigator's home, it is easier for you to drop by with a plate of cookies or call to remind them about an activity, because it has now become a social relationship instead of just a formal relationship from church.
*Always leave pre-baptism-investigators and converts something with your name and phone number on it, so they will remember your name after you're gone and can contact you if needed.
Even if you aren't able to attend a missionary discussion with your full-time missionaries, arrange some way to get to know your investigators and develop that relationship before their baptism. I've come to the conclusion that its our responsibility to get out and friendship the new members, and that I can't wait to be invited to participate - if I do, it may be too late.
I remember reading somewhere that member contact with new converts should DOUBLE following the baptism. I think this is the opposite of what we naturally would do - we normally think, "oh, I don't want to bother them"...and I'm not saying to harass your converts, just let them know that we care by showing an "increase of love".
I try to have some sort of contact with each pre-baptism-investigator EVERY FEW DAYS after their baptism date is set. It doesn't have to be anything major. Here are some ideas for how to do this:
- message via email or facebook
- by phone
- a social visit to their home
- a FHE at your home
- at a church activity
- talk to them at church on Sunday
- give them a handout with some info about an activity or conference coming up
- invite them to Sunday School
- going with them to their baptism interview
- going to one of their missionary discussions with the full-time missionaries
- just dropping by with a loaf of bread
- dropping off a 'welcome to the ward' new-member packet
FOLLOWING the baptism, I try to have contact with each new convert EVERY DAY for the next week or so, then tapering off as appropriate, but continuing with contact several times a week:
- message via email or facebook
- by phone to see how they are doing
- a new-member newsletter delivered in person or by mail
- a social visit to their home
- a new-member lesson in their home
- a FHE at your home
- bringing them to a church activity
- sitting with them at church on Sunday
- just dropping by with a plate of goodies
Since I have started using these ideas, I have been very comfortable with the level of friendship that we have been able to develop with our current baptism-candidates and recent converts.
Its hard for me to accept, but converts have their own freedom of choice and some will still choose to turn away from the church, no matter how well they are fellowshipped. However, I feel like if I have done everything I can to fellowship. love, and encourage them, I will have done my part.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Here is an idea I had for encouraging investigators and new members with children to watch the General Conference Broadcasts this weekend...Why not print out some activities for them to do during Conference? Most of these activities (like Conference bingo) require them to watch the Conference, so I think this will make it more interesting for the kids and may help the parents be motivated to watch as well.
There are a lot of blogs and sites with printables for Conference, but I like the ones that the Church is providing on their website. You could just provide a link to those who would like to print their own, but printing them yourselves and then taking the pages to the family's home some time this week might be more effective. Hey, maybe invite them to watch Conference at your home (or with you at your meetinghouse) while you're at it!
CLICK HERE TO BE TAKEN TO THE OFFICIAL CHURCH WEBSITE PAGE FOR PRINTABLE GENERAL CONFERENCE ACTIVITIES
Monday, March 28, 2011
Here is the handout I made for our new members/investigators so that they will have the information of where/when to watch General Conference:
(times are Pacific, adjust for your area)
GENERAL CONFERENCE is APRIL 2nd & 3rd
'General Conference' is a series of church-wide meetings held in Salt Lake City and is broadcast to members throughout the world. CONFERENCE BROADCASTS REPLACE ALL OTHER
CHURCH MEETINGS DURING THIS WEEKEND
- On a large screen at (insert address of church location here)
- On your computer at lds.org
- On your TV (insert local access channel info here - or the BYU channel)
Saturday morning session 9-11am Saturday afternoon session 1-3pm
Sunday morning session 9-11am Sunday afternoon session 1-3pm
PLEASE NOTE - each of the 4 sessions is different (different speakers, different topics). All of the speakers are general authorities of the church (such as the Prophet/President of the Church, the Twelve Apostles) and other leaders. If you aren't able to watch all of the broadcast sessions, you can watch them later at lds.org
PLEASE NOTE - each of the 4 sessions is different (different speakers, different topics). All of the speakers are general authorities of the church (such as the Prophet/President of the Church, the Twelve Apostles) and other leaders. If you aren't able to watch all of the broadcast sessions, you can watch them later at lds.org
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Stake Conference is coming up in our area and I make it a priority to make sure that all of our newer/returning members and investigators know about it - there is nothing worse than showing up for church and finding an empty parking lot!
While long-time members may know where to go (and when), this is probably a new concept for most of our newer members. Here are some ideas to help you make sure that everyone you're working with has the opportunity to attend Stake Conference and know what to expect when they get there.
- Announce (and explain) Stake Conference in Gospel Essentials Sunday School class for at least 2 weeks prior to the Conference weekend. Even if you explain it once, not everyone may be paying attention and there may be some people missing from class the first time. Be sure to emphasize that there will not be any regular Church meetings on Conference Sunday - Stake Conference meetings replace regular Church meetings on this Sunday.
- Provide a handout* (sample shown below) that has a basic explanation of Stake Conference and the dates/times they should attend. Hand these out in Sunday School and before/after Sacrament meeting during the 2 weeks before Conference, so you can catch as many people as possible. I usually make extras of these handouts and give them to our full-time missionaries so they have something to give to investigators who they want to invite.
- Reminder phone calls (or emails) - as a last minute reminder, it doesn't hurt to give a quick call or email on Friday to remind investigators/new members that its Stake Conference weekend.
You don't have to use all of these methods, of course, but I feel like the more reminders, the better. This may seem like overkill, but I'd rather repeat myself 4 times than have someone tell me later that they showed up for Church and nobody was there and/or they missed Stake Conference because they didn't know about it.
*My handouts usually look something like this:
Stake Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, _________ Stake
March 12th - 13th
Stake Conference is held twice a year. This is a local conference of all of the members in our area (Stake). Speakers will include Stake leadership and a visiting General Authority. All Stake Conference meetings are held at the Stake Center (__address________________)
Stake Conference meetings take the place of all regular Sunday meetings during this weekend. Sunday dress clothes are appropriate for all Stake Conference meetings.
Saturday the 12th- evening session (adults only) 7:00pm-8:30pm
Sunday the 13th- general morning session (everyone) 10:00am-12:00pm
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I sincerely apologize if you have wanted to comment in the past and haven't been able to do so - all of this time I didn't realize that comments were not being allowed. I have corrected the settings and comments are now allowed on all of my blog posts. I also welcome your suggestions on any blog post topics that you'd like to see, questions that you may have, and any ward-missionary/member-missionary ideas that you'd like to share. If you're on Facebook, you can also comment or ask questions on the "Awesome ward missionaries" fan page!
Monday, February 14, 2011
So, if I were to try to hug one of our Ward's full-time missionary Elders (no matter how innocent my intentions) it would create an awkward and potentially embarrassing situation for the Elder, who would have to make the choice to reject my hug (potentially offending me) or to have to break the rule because he didn't want to be rude.
I served a full-time mission as a young adult and I can relate to almost all of the items pointed out in this article... I actually (jokingly) kept a mental list of all the platonic "hugs" that I got from male investigators, new members, branch presidents, etc. I was very serious about keeping mission rules, but sometimes it was just really awkward to reject something innocent like that from a tearful and well-meaning person on the day you're getting transferred.
This list isn't meant to make anyone feel bad, as many members do some of these things without realizing that they are either #1- against mission rules, or #2- may make the missionary feel uncomfortable. Its just meant to be a list of suggestions of things that you may not have thought about that you can do to help the full-time Elders or Sisters you work with concentrate on their work and spend less time being distracted.
Here is the list that the blog "Mormon Insights" gives, along with my comments added in red font:
1. Don't pay a compliment to one missionary without also paying a compliment to his/her nearby companion. Sometimes one missionary is very charismatic or good-looking and tends to get more attention than his/her companion, so its good to be sensitive to this.
2. When missionaries are paying a visit to your home, try your best to keep the televisions, radios, and computers off. This is so distracting when you're trying to keep the mission rules to not watch TV/movies, etc at all during your missionary service. Imagine if you were trying to avoid sweets and you went to a friend's house who had 100 cupcakes sitting on the table.
3. If missionaries are available to be invited to dinner, keep the visit under an hour. Its hard to leave when members/investigators want you to stay, but missionaries are usually taught to keep visits under an hour and they may have another appointment to get to. Every minute you keep them from their work is a minute that they could be finding someone new to teach.
4. Don't ask missionaries about their girlfriends or boyfriends back home. I know you're curious, but for someone who is trying to concentrate on the work, having people constantly bring up boyfriends/girlfriends can be hard. Especially if that significant other has recently dumped you via letter or email (happens a lot!). Imagine having people constantly bring the subject up when you're just trying to forget it.
5. When conversing with a missionary, try to keep conversations centered on Church-related or service-related issues.
6. Always respect the companionships of missionaries. Do not ask a missionary how well he or she is getting along with the assigned companion. (The missionary leadership will handle that question). Also, if they aren't getting along as a companionship or the missionary really can't stand his/her companion, they probably won't say so anyhow, which puts them in the awkward position of having to pretend that everything is peachy when they'd rather not discuss it with you.
7. Do not ask missionaries how many baptisms they have had. The number of baptisms is not an index of success. This is really an okay thing to wonder about, since we may be curious about how the missionary work is going in our area and throughout the mission. However, there are better ways to find out than to ask "How many baptisms?", which puts the focus on numbers. Here are some other ways you can ask essentially the same thing: "Have you been finding success in the area? (or "How was the work going in your last area?") or "What have been some of your favorite experiences with investigators so far?"
8. Do not expect missionaries to stay in contact with you after they have left an area or even after they have finished their mission service. Some missions have rules about whether missionaries can stay in contact with members in their former areas during the remainder of their missions. It may seem silly, but missionaries do need to focus on serving the members/investigators in their new area, so even if contact is allowed its best to keep it limited.
9. Do not call upon missionaries in Sunday School to provide scriptural support for some obscure doctrine that has been raised in class. The authority of missionaries is in missionary work, not in settling doctrinal debates. Most of the time they know the basics (thats what they study and that's what they are sent to teach), so don't assume that they are doctrinal experts.
10. Do not ask a Sister or an Elder for their first name. The first name is Sister or Elder. Period. I discovered on my mission that a lot of members think its fun to call full-time missionaries by their first name, even if its just in the member's home. They may mean well, seeing themselves as a parent-figure and wanting the missionary to feel a little more normal, but remember that the full-time missionaries go by their title for a reason - it helps them (and us) remember that they are set apart for a sacred mission)
Today in our ward mission correlation meeting we discussed some ways that we might be better able to help our members to invite their friends this year. If your ward has "Invitation Sundays" these are some suggestions that may help you. Even if you don't have a specific Sunday geared toward inviting non-members, its important to help encourage members to invite their friends whenever appropriate, and some of these ideas (or the principles behind them) could work any week of the year!
Here are some of the ideas we came up with:
- Incorporate explaining how to invite friends/relatives to church into the new-member discussions (Newer members may not be sure how to approach their friends, and they are a great source of non-member friends/relatives...).
- If you have new members who have already completed the new-member discussions, consider having the ward missionaries or full-time missionaries make a special visit to these members for a special lesson on how to invite friends/relatives to church.
- Make sure to include the youth and primary children, provide invitations to them as well.
- Advertise the "Invitation Sunday" well in advance of the planned event. Submit information for bulletins, newsletters, or programs that are appropriate in your Ward. You may also consider having it announced in Relief Society and Priesthood meetings, Primary, Young Womens meetings, and maybe even Sacrament meeting (if approved by your Bishop). Posters on display tables and/or bulletin boards may also be appropriate.
- Now available through the LDS online store (on the official Church website, www.lds.org) are "I'm a Mormon" cards. These have a space for a personal message and/or a printed label sticker (for if you want to pre-print the address and date/meeting time). Look for this item in the Ward Mission section, in the "Whats New" section, or search for "I'm a Mormon" in the online store's search box. These come in a box of 500 (10 styles) for $10.00 (free shipping). See photo, below. For other ideas on invitations, see my other posts in the "Invitation Sunday" category, at right)
Friday, January 28, 2011
In this month's new-member newsletter, I included something meant specifically for recent converts who are struggling with their testimonies and have stopped attending church on a regular basis for one reason or another. Something that they have in common is that they aren't doing the things they need to in order to feel the Spirit and increase their testimony.
One of our Sacrament meeting speakers recently spoke on priorities, specifically how we can make excuses for why we don't have time for things of the God, but we always make time for what is really important to us. It was an excellent talk, but I was secretly wishing that more people who really needed to hear that message would have actually been at Church that day to hear it.
Out of my personal frustration with multiple situations like this, I wanted to do something to address it without being directly confrontational to specific individuals. I wanted to be bold, yet kind. My former Mission President, A. Keith Martin, always referred to it as "sweet boldness".
I basically just laid out what should be done if you feel like you're struggling. I hope that this will help at least one of our new members. Maybe it will help some of yours? Feel free to use the text for your own new-member newsletter if you like....
Are YOU struggling with your testimony?
At some point in our lives, we have all experienced a time when we've had limited understanding of the gospel. Sometimes people (even long-time members) may find themselves struggling with their faith and testimony. This can be especially difficult for those who are new to the Church. What can you do?
Remember the basics- Reading the scriptures, prayer, attending Church (including Sunday School and Relief Society/Elders Quorum). These are the things that the missionaries had you do before you were baptized...how did you feel then?
Counsel with the Bishop about your personal concerns- He is available to help you and private matters will be kept confidential. Make time to let the Ward-missionaries teach you the "new-member lessons"- These lessons are meant to strengthen the knowledge and testimony of new members as they continue to learn.
Make time to let the Ward-missionaries teach you the "new-member lessons"- These lessons are meant to strengthen the knowledge and testimony of new members as they continue to learn.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Lately, I've been thinking about our brothers and sisters who have become what we call "less-active"...meaning that they don't attend Church meetings or participate in the Church regularly anymore. Many of these men and women were less-active (or totally inactive) long before I ever heard their name. Even more disheartening for me are those converts who I have seen go through the conversion process, but have now fallen away.
Why have these people fallen away? What could have been done differently to help prevent this from happening? What can we do to help these people return to enjoy the full blessings of the gospel?
In the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13:3-8, we learn that the type of ground that a seed lands in impacts the future productivity of the seed. A seed that lands on rocky ground, for example, soon begins to grow, but doesn't develop any deep roots. Without a secure root system, it doesn't have any stability or sufficient long-term nourishment...so, as soon as the sun comes out, the seed dries up and dies.
According to Jesus' explanation of this parable (Matthew 13:18-23), a seed that has fallen on "the stony ground" is like a convert who is very excited about the gospel. However, without a strong testimony and support system, the convert only continues on as an active Church member for a short time. These people (and the other types of "seeds" mentioned in the parable) become disinterested when the full-time missionaries are transferred, are drawn away by old habits or the ways of the world, become ashamed when persecuted, or are offended by some small thing, etc, etc. Basically, any of these issues can become a problem without a firm foundation.
There are many reasons why a person may no longer be an actively participating Church member. Reactivation of the "lost sheep" is the duty of every Ward member in a general sense, but as Ward-missionaries we may not have the specific responsibility to seek out and reactive every man and woman in our area. This usually falls under the jurisdiction of the Relief society and Priesthood quorums. However, reactivation is part of missionary work. One area that Ward-missionaries might especially focus on is the reactivation of recent converts who have fallen away, or who may not be progressing as they should.
To do so, its important that we understand why people fall away (or fail to progress), what we can do help them come back, and what we can do to prevent the same thing from happening to others in the future. In upcoming posts, I will cover some of these other topics. Today I want to provide some information about WHY...
I have selected some quotes that directly apply to this topic: ("Feed My Sheep" - Elder Ben B. Banks)
"We ask ourselves, 'Why is it that some who were once warm in the faith have grown cold in the faith?' ...We must succeed in our efforts to strengthen those who have grown cold in their faith. To begin this endeavor, it would be well for us to know the feelings and reasons why they do not attend meetings and participate in the fellowship of the Saints.
Most active members believe that less-active members behave differently because they don't believe the Church's doctrine. A study by the Church's Research Information Division does not support this assumption. It shows that almost all less-active members interviewed believe that God exists, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the Church is true.
As part of another study, a group of active members who previously had been less active were asked why they did not attend church previously. The most common reasons given were:
Feelings of unworthiness.
Personal or family problems.
Parents or spouse were less active.
Teenage rebelliousness or laziness.
Conflicts with work schedules.
Church too far away, lacked transportation.
Understanding the true reasons why people become inactive should be the first step in helping them return - AND in helping to prevent the same thing from happening to others in the future.