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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Reaching out to the Less-Active - part 1

"This is the first post in a series of posts that will be called, "Reaching out the Less-Active"...

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, 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.

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