“Wards Finding Success in Missionary Efforts,” Ensign, Aug. 2004, 78–79
Six years ago, Joseph Ranseth was looking for truth. He had attended a Christian high school, bounced from church to church, and was praying to find a religion founded on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Then a college student, Joseph says he met Latter-day Saint missionaries and “argued with them for nine months” about doctrine. But Joseph accepted the invitation to attend various activities at the local student ward in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
“I had members calling me up after activities,” he says. “One member called almost every day, not as an assignment, but to ask me what I’d been reading in the scriptures. They didn’t just answer questions; they helped me feel the love of Christ.”
Thanks in part to the efforts of the members, Joseph was baptized in 1999.
Encouraging members to take a more active role in missionary work was part of the reason stake missions were dissolved in early 2002 and the responsibility for missionary work was placed on stake and district presidents, bishops, branch presidents, and the members of their Church units. Church units that have embraced the responsibility of missionary work are finding increasing success as members focus on sharing the gospel.
In 2002, the year the change was announced, there was one convert baptism in the Wellington (YSA) Ward, Winnipeg Manitoba Stake, where Joseph Ranseth had been baptized. After returning from the Utah Provo Mission, one of the areas where the new program was piloted, Joseph helped the young single adult ward implement the new emphasis. He says, “The ward has become really unified, and the members have shown investigators the same love that I felt.” In 2003, the ward had 13 convert baptisms.
Successful ward and branch missionary work is fostered by the stake or district president and bishop or branch president. “To a great extent, the success of this change will depend on the ability of the bishops [and branch presidents] … to embrace and magnify this responsibility,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (see “The Role of Members in Conversion,” Ensign, Mar. 2003, 52–58).
Bishop Won Mong Jeong of the Oncheon Ward, Busan Korea Stake, agrees. “The interest and passion about missionary work in our ward has increased … because of the increased responsibility of the bishop for missionary work.” In 2002, the Oncheon Ward had six convert baptisms. There were 25 in 2003.
Bishops should use their priesthood executive committee and ward council meetings to promote and coordinate efforts to share the gospel in the ward, according to Elder Oaks. Branch presidents should act similarly.
The ward mission leader is responsible for assisting the bishop with missionary work. Regular but brief meetings keep Joseph Ranseth, as ward mission leader, up to date on those whom the full-time missionaries are teaching and what support the investigators need from members. Joseph takes that information to the ward’s regular council meeting, where the bishop makes assignments to meet those needs. Because Joseph keeps an updated form with names, contact information, and action items, the discussion doesn’t take long. Ward leaders also plan and coordinate gospel-sharing activities, and that information is relayed back to the full-time missionaries.
Enthusiastic ward and branch missionaries help the work run smoothly. The Wellington Ward finds many of their ward missionaries among new converts because of their enthusiasm.
Increasing Our Efforts
“Members simply must take a more active role in our missionary efforts at every stage,” said Elder Oaks. “Some members do not actively participate in sharing the gospel because they don’t feel comfortable starting a religious conversation or they don’t know what to say.” Elder Oaks suggested giving out pass-along cards and inviting friends to visit www.mormon.org.
Planning activities and inviting friends to attend is another way to introduce others to the gospel. One of the Oncheon Ward’s most successful activities has been a conversational English class for families. “It is easier to approach our friends and relatives with the English program than it is to start off by inviting them to hear the gospel,” Bishop Jeong says. The ward also holds a monthly activity to “get to know investigators better and help them feel the importance of the family,” he says. During vacation from school, the ward offers free children’s classes on playing the violin and sewing quilts.
Members in the Wellington Ward have tried a number of activities. Those who wouldn’t feel comfortable attending a fireside may come if a dinner is served first. Those who might not attend anything gospel-related may make friends at a sports activity.
Elder Oaks noted that President Hinckley has challenged members of the Church to increase and retain the number of our Father in Heaven’s children brought into the Church every year. “We cannot do this without increasing our members’ efforts in sharing the gospel,” Elder Oaks said.