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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Will I give someone a card?

We had our full-time missionaries over for dinner tonight and before they left they handed each of us a pass-along-card and asked if we would look for an opportunity to give it to someone within the next week. We all agreed to do so, but I was thinking to myself, as I always do in this situation, 'I don't know anyone who I can give this to'...and I really don't. I don't work outside the home, I spend a lot of time with educating my kids and serving in my calling, and the neighbors aren't the friendly type.

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!

Musical numbers at convert baptism services

For a long time there was a practice of having all of the full-time missionaries in our Stake do a musical number at each convert baptism service. What had started out as a musical number to help fill the time while people changed their clothes had gradually turned into a musical number that was part of the program (because the missionary doing the baptizing wanted to participate in the song and/or they wanted the new member to be able to hear the song, as well).

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

Ideas for Adult Converts

I'm always on the lookout for new ideas for gifts, books, programs, clipart etc. for our converts. When I was at Deseret Book recently, I noticed a large amount of items for child baptisms, but not a lot specifically for adult baptisms. If you go to deseretbook.com and type 'baptism' in the search box, you'll see all sorts of scrapbooking supplies, picture books, embroidered towels, etc, but almost everything is specifically for children.

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

Cupcake Wars


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!

Attention-Getting Invite



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:

Advice from a formerly less-active friend

I have a good friend who joined the church when we were college roommates (a hundred years ago, give or take 80 years). She subsequently went through a long period of inactivity and eventually returned to the Church, just a few years ago.

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

Ward-missionaries fellowshipping investigators & converts

One of the most difficult parts of a conversion process is the successful transition from investigator to ward member. As a ward missionary, I have thought a lot about this process and how we can improve it. We have what I would consider a fair amount of convert baptisms in our ward - averaging about 1 baptism per month during the past 2 years that we have been ward missionaries. This is probably low compared to many areas, and undoubtabley lower than what is possible. However, as far as baptism 'numbers' go, it's the most successful ward I have ever been in, (including my time as a full-time missionary). Since we usually have the highest (or one of the highest number of) baptisms in our Stake, the first thing people want to know is, 'well, how many of them are still active?'. That is a fair question. I would really like to say that every one of our converts has stayed active. The truth is that while most of our converts are active in the church, some are lukewarm in their attendance, and several of the converts baptized last year haven't been back to church since the Sunday they were confirmed.

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
Another idea that I've started using recently is that I take photos of the convert on the day of their baptism, then have prints made. I make extra copies for the convert and the full-time missionaries, which I give them. I also put one of the photos in a frame as a gift for the convert, and I write a personal message to them on the back. The couple that I did this for recently was really touched, and when I went to their home a few days later, I saw the framed photo proudly displayed in their living room, which made me really happy!

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.