Essentially, Gordon B. Hinckley Chapter 22: Reaching Out with Love to New Converts and Less-Active Members is part 3 to a series of chapters about reaching out and loving others. This is again a lesson we get often, so what is it that you and your class need to learn from it this time?
One of my favorite parts is the end of the intro part. President Gordon B. Hinckley states, "The most satisfying experience I have is to see what this gospel does for people. It gives them a new outlook on life. It gives them a perspective that they have never felt before. It raises their sights to things noble and divine. Something happens to them that is miraculous to behold. They look to Christ and come alive." They come alive! It goes hand in hand with the last section about how good it feels to come home again. And we certainly don't want any empty chairs at our table.
Questions to Ponder
Some of these questions are from the manual, others are ones that I thought of- use them in your preparation, lesson, or to help you think of your own.
- Why must "our interest and concern...always be with the individual," even in a worldwide church? (see section 1)
- How have you been blessed by someone who take a personal interest in you?
- In what ways can you be more sensitive in looking after each individual?
- What can you learn and apply from the letter President Hinckley shared in section 2?
- What can you do to strengthen those who are working to build their faith?
- Why do you think it matters that every new convert has a friend, responsibility, and is nurturing with the word of God? (see section 3)
- What are some ways you can befriend new converts?
- How can you support new converts in their Church responsibilities?
- How can you help new converts be "nourished by the good word of God"?
- Why can it be difficult for members to return to Church activity? (see section 4)
- How can you help people return?
- When have you experienced or witnessed the rejoicing that accompanies a return to Church activity?
- What can you learn from the account President Hinckley shared in section 5?
- How can you reach out to help someone who is not active in the Church "come home again"?
- How else have you seen the Church take interest in individuals instead of just the numbers?
- What things do you think might be hard for a convert in the beginning (or were hard for you)? How can you help them through the difficult times?
- What are some of the things you gain as a full member of the Church?
Here are some articles to study as you continue to prepare for your lesson. They should NOT replace the manual but rather help answer questions and strengthen your own testimony so that it is easy to teach with confidence and answer questions that arise during your lesson.
"The Hand of Fellowship" by Elder M. Russell Ballard
"And They Did Fellowship One with Another" by Neal Lavaun Cox (BYU Speech)
"'Feed My Sheep'" by Elder Ned B. Roueché
"Learn from Alma and Amulek" by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
"'Whoso Receiveth Them, Receiveth Me'" by Elder Neil L. Andersen
"Rescue in Unity" by Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong
"'When Thou Art Converted, Strengthen Thy Brethren'" by Elder Robert D. Hales
"Reaching Out in Love: Tips for Home and Visiting Teachers" by Darren E. Schmidt
DESERET BOOKSHELF PLUS RECOMMENDATIONS
Remember, as a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS member, you can access as many of these eBooks or audiobooks anytime. Find out more about Deseret Bookshelf PLUS.
"Finding Your Path in Lehi's Dream" by John Bytheway
"Whatever Happened to Faith?" by Robert L. Millet
Unity in Diversity- You can find several videos concerning making everyone feel welcomed at church on this page.
Reach Out with Love (about 8 1/2 minutes)- A young man learns it takes more than once try to have success.
Look to Christ and Come Alive (about 30 seconds)- Clip from President Hinckley.
The Faith of Youth: The Ennis Family (about 3 1/2 minutes)- A family responding to members reaching out.
Church Members should Extend Fellowship to All People (about 1 minute)- Words from Elder M. Russell Ballard
These are my ideas. My hope is that reading my thoughts will be a springboard to finding the right plans for your class.
- Discuss some of the do's and don't's of when someone decides to stop attending church. Heidi has some great points in her post.
- It's also a great time to talk about how we can be missionaries to each other while attending church every Sunday.
- Take advantage of the great "I'm a Mormon" videos the church did a few years back. You can download various ones then discuss how you could fellowship each one as a new convert.
- In section 1 it mentions the story of how the Savior will leave the 99 sheep to seek after the one. You can open the your lesson reading these verses and discussing it then switch gears to focusing on the 99 sheep. We need to take care of those attending church each week as well. The Michael McLean song, "One of the Ninety and Nine" goes great with this. Discuss or ask others beforehand to share how someone reached out to them in the past. Even us weekly attenders need love.
- 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.
- Compare new members to woodworking. Once you have a basic shape, it still needs further sculpting and details before it is done. The piece isn't finished by the wood alone, tools (fellowshipping) are needed to make it "come alive." What tool can you be?
- When discussing welcoming those that have been inactive for awhile, use the analogy of making cookie dough. If you use too much sugar or not enough, no one wants them. It's all about finding the right balance. The same goes for those that have been away for a long time. Some will run if their coming is made into too big a deal while others will not return if they feel they haven't been welcomed. How can you know what to do? Listen to the Spirit and get to the know the individuals personally.
- 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 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 will help those that haven't learned it yet.
- 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. Remind them put it into their calendars so they remember to do so. How do we purposefully reach out to others without making them feel like a project?
- Focus some of your lesson on Moroni 6:4 as mentioned in section 3. I love that this is another example of how this is Christ's church. They did it then and we do it now. Use my sheep handouts to mark out the first part of the scripture. Hide the sheep around the room or pass them out to individuals purposely keeping a couple out of the mix. Each sheep has a number so it is easy to put them in order and discover what is missing. When we look at the scripture as simply words, it is easy to try to guess what should be there or simply look it up. However, if you view the sheep as the people they are, it is much more difficult to write them off. Put up the remaining pieces to finish the scripture then turn a few over to show pictures of people. You can use photos of your presidency or bishopric (with permission)- people that most will recognize. When we remember that this church is all about the individuals and you get to know the individuals, it is a lot easier to find time to reach out to each individual.
- 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.
- This is one of those lessons that are made significantly more powerful with personal experiences. Do you know someone that has come back to church through the efforts of others reaching out? See if they are willing to share their story. I love the story of Elder Richard G. Scott's grandma role in his membership in the church. You can read about it in his talk, "I Have Given You an Example."
- Use a visual of feasting at the table of the Lord. Fill a table with delicious food (or pictures of food). You can even label them with some of the blessings the gospel brings. Then have a table in the corner of the room with nothing on it but an empty plate, silverware, and a chair. How can we not reach out and share our food with others? They are starving! And what's worse they know there is so much more to eat at the other table but can't figure out how to get back to the right table. This ties in with sections 4 and 5.
- You could do a similar object lesson with real food at one table and fake food at the other. Satan has counterfeits that will leave you empty and still searching for something else. You could also have people sit at the table at different lengths- someone right at the feasting table, someone else at arm's length- can still eat a little, and someone just out of reach. It's important to check our own sitting arrangement regularly as well. You can tie this into coming home again and how we want everyone to make it home.
- There is a section in the new teaching manual, Teaching in the Savior's Way about your role as a teacher to reach out to those that don't attend class but should. Read it and see how you can put it into action next time you teach.
- No video.