Ezra Taft Benson Chapter 20: "Feed My Sheep" is one that hits home. I am the direct result of other members fellowshipping my family back into the fold. We never completely stopped going to church but it wouldn't be weird if we only showed up a few times a year. It was my mother's callings that usually got us to go and only for that hour. When my Mom taught in Young Women's and we'd only show up for 3rd hour, it was my teacher for 2nd hour that extended an arm around me and made me want to come to more of church (you can read more about this on my Meet This Mormon post). My teacher when I was 10 and 11 helped me understand a little more about the Church as well. She held extra activities at her house during the week. I went to those more often than I went to church but I remember the good feeling that was there. When I was 14, I started seminary and it was my first official year that I really attended all 3 hours every week (plus the extra activities).
As someone that wasn't used to coming to church, reading scriptures, or even watching General Conference there was a whole lot I didn't know. I remember one week my Sunday School teacher asked me a question about a story in the scriptures that I had never heard before. It was a simple question if you knew the story but I didn't. He made a big deal out of it then went on to teach the lesson. It was innocent enough but I felt very small and very dumb at that moment. These are the little things that we need to be aware of as we welcome people into our wards. Remember that we are all on different learning plains. Get to know your class well enough so you understand where those levels are in your class and teach accordingly. A small summary or even a scripture to look up would have enabled me to answer that question. President Benson said that "more shepherds must be developed." This is one simple way that you can be a shepherd.
Another thing that was hard for me was everyone knew everybody else. They all talked to each other and only each other. They might have smiled at me once or twice but they didn't talk to me. Being a shy person, I wasn't about to strike up conversation with any of them or try to weasel my way into the group. There were a couple of Sundays I came home crying because no one wanted to be my friend or even sit next to me in class. Now I know it wasn't intentional, but it sure hurt then. That is why when my teacher came and told me how much he would love it if I would come to his class too and he loved me that it meant so much to me. "There must be real, heartfelt concern by a true and loving shepherd, not just the shallow concern that a hireling might show."
Not all my family came back to church but most of us did. Don't underestimate the power of kind words, a loving arm, and a seat next to someone who is all alone.
- Start by welcoming everyone warmly!
- Gather a list of all the major ward activities for the rest of the year (Trunk or Treat, Christmas party, etc) and pass a copy around to everyone. Give everyone a minute to think about people that could use a personalized invitation to these events or help getting there. Have them put it into their calendars so they remember to do so.
- Go over some the cultural differences between members of the Church and others. What did or would come as a shock to those coming for the first time? What words would need more further explanation? How can we ease the transition? If there is a recent convert that would be willing to share, have him prepare some thoughts beforehand.
- Have the missionaries come in and share some of their experiences and what they find most non attenders need. Pass around a sheet for people to sign up to go on splits with the missionaries if possible.
- Why do we come each week? What strength and support can we continue to offer each other now? Remember we come to church, not because we are perfect but because we are not. Discuss or ask others beforehand to share how someone reached out to them in the past. Even us weekly attenders need love.
- Check out this post, How Going to Church Can Make You A Great Missionary, for more ideas on how to be shepherd each week.
- Come discover more ideas and share some of yours in our Private Facebook Group (different than our fan page).
- I couldn't think of any more images to do for this lesson (there are 2 more in the Study Journal) so if you think of one more great one, let me know and I'll try to make it.
- I put even more ideas in my Periscope video on Monday. You can watch the replay over on Periscope and give my hearts if you like it and see this before Tuesday is over. Otherwise, head here to watch it online. I'm upside down on this one- guess I need to figure that one out- it did not show it like that when I was recording! If you like these videos- please let me know! Your responses will let me know if I should continue them.
"Because I Have Been Given Much"- Hymn #219
"Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy"- Hymn #335 (Men's Choir)
"Come Along, Come Along"- Hymn #244
"Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd"- Hymn #221
"Help Me Teach with Inspiration"- Hymn #281
"I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go"- Hymn #270
Questions to Ponder
Need more help on getting your class to talk? Read these 9 tips.
- How can you reach out to family and friends that live apart from the church?
- How can you be a better shepherd?
- How do you develop real, heartfelt concern for those you home/visit teach?
- How does remembering your role as a shepherd change the way you look at home and visiting teaching?
- What does it mean to continue to minister to each other?
- How can the 5 principles in section 4 help someone receive the blessings of the gospel?
Suggested Study Schedule
If you like this study guide, please pin it too. Thanks!
"The Hand of Fellowship" by Elder M. Russell Ballard
"True Friends" by President Henry B. Eyring
"Members Are the Key" by Elder M. Russell Ballard
"The Rescue for Real Growth" by Bishop Richard C. Edgley
"Strengthen Thy Brethren" by Elder Robert J. Whetten