Remembering back to my Mission, either right before a baptism or immediately after, I would often think to myself, “I love this family so much. I hope that when I’m gone, someone takes care of them.” All the people that I was able to teach during my time as a Missionary hold a special place in my heart. However, the Bencomo Family, in particular, stick out in my mind. The picture above is of my companion and I (I’m on the far left) with the Bencomo Family right before their baptism.
I saw time and time again with recent converts that they fell away from the Church so easily. They didn’t have the nutrients and the firm basis needed to continue strong in the Gospel. It would have broken my heart to hear that the Bencomo Family had fallen into the same path as so many others. Even worse, I felt that once people had fallen into inactivity, it was harder to bring them back to full activity than it was getting them to Church in the first place!
During President Gordon B. Hinckley’s many years as Prophet of the Church, he placed a lot of emphasis on convert retention. He taught repeatedly that involvement from Ward Members was the key ingredient to helping a convert remain active in the Church after baptism. Full-time missionaries come and go frequently. And although they have strong bonds with the converts, the Ward Members (especially Ward Missionaries) are a constant face that converts can 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 Missionary Service,” Ensign, Nov 1997
So we realize that we need to help recent converts stay active, but how exactly do we do that?
Let’s pretend that you discover a close friend from High School, whom you haven’t seen in many years, will soon be moving into your area. Obviously, you’d be excited, right? What things might you do to help that friend feel welcome to the area? Would you offer them help moving in? Would you bring them a dinner, after their long drive? Could you maybe recommend good restaurants? Show them around the town? Recommend doctors for their kids? Or possibly show them around town? None of these suggestions seems out of the ordinary, does it? Of course not! If they’re a true friend, you want to help them out.
And that’s what President Hinckley was asking each and every one of us to do. He didn’t just want us to know who the person is and say “Hi” to them occasionally. That’s part of it, certainly, but there’s oh-so-much more. He wanted us to become friends with that person/family. We can show new converts that we really care about them and give them that foundation they need by showing kindness, introducing them to other Ward members, etc.
Here are 12 easy and low-stress ways that any member can help a convert feel more welcome into their new “Ward Family.”
1. Attend convert baptisms and congratulate the new member(s)
What better way to show your support than by attending one of the most important days of their lives! You might not feel like you’re doing much by just attending a baptismal service, but your presence goes a long way. After the service, be sure to introduce yourself, congratulate them, and let them know that you’re willing to help with anything they need.
2. Offer a ride to a Church activity
Nobody wants to go to a party alone. Everyone wants to have a familiar face in an unknown place. By offering to give them a ride to a Church activity, they have someone to go with! Even better, they won’t have to get confused with directions. They’ll already be welcome into your circle of friends.
3. Ask them to help with planning a Church project or activity
Asking for somebody’s help gives them the sense that they’re needed. People are much more likely to attend an activity or service when they feel like their presence is desired and needed. Even if it’s something small and simple as planning a Primary lesson, people are usually more than happy to help.
4. Make sure that they know about upcoming ward/stake meetings & activities
Don’t you hate it when you find out information last? Be sure to keep them up-to-date on the activities and other upcoming events going on in the Ward.
5. Invite them over for dinner and/or Family Home Evening
I don’t know that there’s a better way to friendship someone than by actually being “friends” with them. Invite them over for dinner, or to participate in a Family Home Evening. One, it shows friendship. But two, it will show them how a Family Home Evening can be run, and how it can be implemented within their own family.
6. Make sure they understand a unique terms/concepts
Those who have been a member of the Church a long time don’t realize how much new “lingo” there is to get accustomed to. To a new convert, it becomes quite overwhelming. The “Stake Meeting House? I love Steak!” It’s really easy to get confused. By demystifying some of the complex terms that we use, you’ll help them out a great deal. Check out our Mormon Lingo Made Easy page, or you can even direct them to it for a full list of terms.
7. Learn the names of everyone in their family and greet them by name
“Brother” and “Sister” can only go so far. Knowing the individual names of each and every one of their family members goes much farther. And if you’re embarrassed, because you know you’ve heard their names a million times, and you don’t want to ask them yet again, you can always turn to the Ward directory.
8. If they miss Church, give them a call to see if everything is okay
When people notice that you’re not at Church, it makes you realize that people actually notice and recognize you! Give that new member a call to see if everything is okay. They might be sick. Or they might just flat out be playing hookie. Giving them that phone call might make them feel guilty enough to be sure to be there the next week.
9. Send them a birthday card
Birthdays, yet again, are listed on the Ward roster. It’s more fun if you can do it sneakily, because people then realize that you’ve been paying attention to the fine detail. You could even go farther as to make them a special treat and take it over to their home.
10. Contact the Ward/Full-time missionaries and join a “new member discussion”
After an investigator has been taught all of the lessons by the full-time Missionaries, and been baptized, the Ward Missionaries then take over and pass back over the lessons with the new convert once again, just to fully solidify the teachings once more. Ask the Ward Missionaries or Full-Time Missionaries if you could join them in one of the discussions. This will give the new convert yet another face that they’ll know at Church, and an even stronger tie to the Ward.
11. Sit with them in class or at an activity
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Nobody wants to be alone. Sit next to them!
12. Take them a loaf of bread or cookies
I know very few people who can turn down sweets. Bake that person a homemade loaf of bread and take it over to them while it’s still steaming. Or maybe a fresh baked plate of cookies just to say, “Welcome to the Ward.”
Have you got any other ideas to share with us? Let us know. We’re always looking for some more ways to fellowship those new converts!