Isn’t the Amazon River fascinating? Elder Ulisses Soares compares the Amazon River to how we can become one in our wards in his talk, “One in Christ.” This talk focuses on welcoming new converts into the fold and not simply expecting the bishopric to be the only one to extend a calling to them. We can include them in our family activities, studies, and even ask them to help out at Church. This is also a great talk to discuss welcoming new move-ins, returning members, and how we can reach out to those that attend church alone.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suggests the following when teaching from this talk:
“According to Elder Soares, how does the Amazon River represent members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ? What does this comparison teach us about the influence new members can have on the Church? How can we as a quorum or Relief Society follow Elder Soares’s counsel to encourage, support, and love new converts? (see Moroni 6:4–5). Perhaps a few members could share some challenges they faced as new members of the Church and how other members helped them. You could also discuss ways that new members have strengthened your ward or branch.”
Questions to Ponder
For those of you who converts, what helped you as joined our community? What was particularly hard? How could have/can someone help you better?
What challenges might someone face when coming to church in the beginning?
How have you been blessed by someone who has taken a personal interest in you?
In what ways can you be more sensitive in looking after each individual?
What can we do to encourage and support a new member? What can we do to encourage and support existing members?
What’s the difference between expressing interest and showing sincere concern for someone's welfare and happiness? What can we do to be better at showing sincere concern?
How can we help new converts feel like they have a place here? How can we help existing members of the Church feel like they have place?
Why might we need new converts? Why do converts need us? How can we help each other understand that?
How can you support new converts in their Church responsibilities?
What can you do to strengthen those who are working to build their faith?
In what ways have you seen your ward become stronger because new converts are welcomed in?
What service opportunities could we invite new members to join us in? What are some other ways we can quickly make them feel and stay welcomed in our community?
What can we do to acquire Christ’s divine attributes so we can become better and love others more?
What would the Savior do to welcome new members? How can you do likewise?
How can we help new members to serve in the Lord’s way?
What challenges might we share with new members? How can this unite us?
What else can we do to be more united with the new members of our Church?
These are my ideas. My hope is reading my thoughts will be a springboard to finding the right plans for your class.
Ask some converts ahead of time to share their experiences as new members and how they were blessed by the members of the church. You could also ask new move-ins as well as those that have recently returned to greater activity.
Draw a picture of two rivers flowing together as one, or find a picture to display to help visualize the effect of current Church members and new members joining as one strong river. Identify different parts of the river as different stepping blocks along the way. What can we do to speed up the process of becoming one river? Why do we need to become one river? How can we prevent the river from splitting again? What can we do to continue to be welcoming to old and new members? How long might this process actually take? What are some things that might cause our ward’s river to split apart?
Break up into three groups. Have each group read one of the three things new members need to remain strong and faithful as mentioned by Elder Soares. Ask each group to discuss how we as ward can implement that suggestion as well as to brainstorm more ways you can help new and old members feel welcomed and loved at Church. Invite each group to write on the board their answers at the end then discuss as a class and make an action plan.
Our children can be great examples to new members. They are usually very excited to share what they know and easily welcome others in. Ask your class to pretend they are one of their children or one of the Primary children in your ward. Then ask some of the same questions as you did before. Did your answers change dramatically because you were thinking more like a child? How else can we encourage our children to welcome others into the Church? What part can they play? What else can we learn from them?
Discuss making an action plan to welcome any visitors, new families, or someone coming alone to the ward every week. Maybe different families can be assigned each week to spot any individuals coming to sacrament meeting. Maybe different families can be the greeters each week. Brainstorm ideas and see how possible your ideas can be. If necessary, have your President bring the ideas to the Bishopric and see what they say.
Making a chart of activities and things you and your family are already doing is one easy way you can extend a more welcoming hand to others in you ward without becoming overwhelmed yourself. Sometimes it just takes a reminder to invite someone else to what you are already doing. You can do this chart as a class or send them home for families to do during their family councils. What are some other ways you can easily make others feel more welcomed?
Head to the Preach My Gospel manual Lesson 2 (Defining Words) and point out some of the words that may be unusual to those who join the church at first then practice defining them. If you head to the end of the lesson in the "Ideas for Teaching" section, you will find some suggested words.
Many new converts or inactives feel that there is a huge spotlight on themselves when they come to church activities exposing their past sins, their differences, and their lack of knowledge. How can this feeling be overcome? How can you reach out in love?
Start by welcoming everyone warmly!
Remember that we are all on different learning planes. 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 will help those that haven't learned something yet.
You may also want to share and discuss one of the videos on LDS.org about Unity in Diversity.