Welcoming others, including them, and helping them know they belong are all important ways we support one another on the covenant path so the Savior can heal us (see Hebrews 12:12–13; 3 Nephi 18:22–23, 32). Becoming unified is also an important part of building Zion (see 4 Nephi 1:15–17; Doctrine and Covenants 38:24–27; Moses 7:18–19).
Whether you’re new to the Church, just moved into a new ward, or have been in a ward for a while, here are nine ways we can make church a welcoming place where everyone belongs.
Attend meetings and activities. As always, we make friends by being with other people and getting to know them. Arrive to Church meetings and activities a few minutes early or stay afterward to meet new people. You can also sign up to serve when help is needed. These are easy ways to make connections that can turn into friendships.
Look for strengths. Point out publicly and privately the strengths you see in your new ward, leaders, and community. Rather than thinking only about the wonderful place you left behind, discover what’s wonderful about your new ward and talk about whom you met today. Ask others for information and ideas about what to do, where to shop, and how to find a good dentist or places to eat. Consider going together to some of the places you discuss.
Befriend new people. Don’t assume the people sitting next to you in Sunday School have been there for years. Assume they are new too, and that they are waiting for you to help the ward feel welcoming to them. Introduce yourself and be curious about them, no matter how long they’ve been there. And do that again the next week and the next.
Be patient. Be patient with yourself and with others while you try to build friendships. If someone you invite for dinner isn’t interested, ask someone else. If another month goes by without you receiving a calling, talk with the ward leaders again about how you can serve.
Pray about where to sit. You may not always feel like sitting by someone you don’t know, but when you arrive for a Church meeting, be willing to pause at the door and pray for guidance about whom to sit next to. Then act on the promptings to get to know others a little better.
Ask how you can minister to others. Let ward leaders know you’re willing to get to know someone new and that you’re willing to help when others need a friend. Serving others and learning to truly care is one of the best ways to create friendships. Pray to know what you can do to help others feel welcomed and loved, no matter how long they have been in the ward.
Practice sharing love. Creating a community of belonging for others is an expression of charity—the pure love of Christ that we’re trying to develop. But we aren’t all equally gifted with the skills or predispositions to pull it off. If reaching out to others doesn’t come naturally to you, look for ways to make it less intimidating to develop friendships with others, such as by inviting a third friend to join with you in conversations or outings or by inviting them to activities you’re already going to.
Greet at the door. Stand near the chapel doors (or have other ward members do it) to be on the lookout for people who have recently joined or moved in. Get to know them and ask for their contact information; you could even ask them to take a photo you can share with other ward leaders. If your ward often has a lot of new move-ins, consider creating brightly colored bags with ward information and a treat to give to anyone new. Invite all ward members to watch out for those brightly colored bags and make an extra effort to welcome anyone holding them.
Make it a ward effort. Consider making friendliness and inclusion a ward goal. Talk together in quorum and class meetings about how to help others feel befriended. Include an occasional reminder in ward communications or on bulletin boards.