“23. Participating in Missionary Work, Retention, and Activation,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).
“23. Participating in Missionary Work, Retention, and Activation,” General Handbook.
The bishop holds the keys for the work of salvation and exaltation in the ward. With his counselors, he oversees member missionary work in the ward. However, he may assign the elders quorum president to lead member missionary work under his direction. Generally, the elders quorum president delegates this assignment to one of his counselors.
The member of the elders quorum presidency who leads member missionary work may function as the ward mission leader or may supervise the ward mission leader. Through inspiration, the bishop determines whether to call a ward mission leader or to have a member of the elders quorum presidency function in this role.
The Relief Society presidency may follow the pattern of the elders quorum, with a member of the presidency assigned to help with member missionary work.
The bishop directs the ward council in preparing and following a ward mission plan, as described in 23.1.8.
The bishop and his counselors may call and set apart other members to serve as ward missionaries.
The bishop and his counselors give priority to member missionary work. They teach the doctrine of missionary work regularly. They encourage ward members to work with full-time missionaries to find, teach, and baptize investigators. They set an example by finding and preparing individuals and families for the missionaries to teach.
The bishop and his counselors help prospective full-time missionaries, including sisters and couples, prepare to serve missions.
Member missionary work is most effective when ward council members are fully engaged in the missionary effort. In quorums and organizations, they encourage members to participate in missionary work in the following ways:
Find and prepare people to be taught.
Assist the missionaries when they teach (in members’ homes, if possible).
Prepare themselves and their children to serve as full-time missionaries.
In ward council meetings, members of the council develop and review the ward mission plan (see 23.1.8). They review baptismal candidates, other investigators, and other matters from the Progress Record form prepared by the full-time missionaries. They make plans to help each investigator progress. They offer counsel about those who might serve as ministering brothers or sisters to investigators who are preparing to be baptized and confirmed.
The bishop may occasionally invite full-time missionaries to meet with the ward council.
For information about calling a ward mission leader or having a member of the elders quorum presidency fill that role, see 23.1.1. If a ward mission leader is called, he should be a Melchizedek Priesthood holder.
The person who serves in the role of ward mission leader has the following responsibilities:
He coordinates the ward’s efforts to find, teach, and baptize investigators. He coordinates this work with the work of the full-time missionaries and ward missionaries. He may attend ward council meetings when invited. The bishop may ask him to lead discussions on missionary work.
He conducts missionary coordination meetings and directs the work of ward missionaries.
He arranges as many teaching opportunities for the full-time missionaries as possible each week.
He organizes convert baptismal services, assisted by the full-time missionaries (see 18.7.2).
He helps coordinate the confirmations of new members in sacrament meetings.
He participates with full-time missionaries in teaching and fellowshipping investigators.
He helps ensure that, soon after their confirmations, new members of appropriate ages receive limited-use temple recommends and brethren of appropriate ages are ordained to offices in the Aaronic Priesthood.
The bishopric determines how many ward missionaries are needed in the ward. They counsel with the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies in making this decision. Ward missionaries serve under the direction of the bishopric and the ward mission leader (if called) or a member of the elders quorum presidency.
Priesthood holders, sisters, and married couples may serve as ward missionaries. They need not have assigned companions, but they should not go alone when visiting in homes. A man and a woman do not make visits together as ward missionaries unless they are husband and wife.
Ward missionaries are called to a specified term of service, such as two years. They normally do not have other Church responsibilities, except for assignments as ministering brothers and sisters, preferably to part-member or less-active families. They do not wear name tags.
Ward missionaries find and prepare people for the full-time missionaries to teach. They also assist in fellowshipping and teaching investigators.
Ward missionaries visit members’ homes to encourage members to seek missionary experiences, identify people the missionaries could teach, and prepare people to be taught.
The ward mission leader (if called) or the member of the elders quorum presidency who leads missionary work conducts a missionary coordination meeting with the ward missionaries and the full-time missionaries. A member of the Relief Society presidency may assist. The meeting is held regularly. If full-time missionaries serve in several wards, they attend as often as circumstances allow.
In this meeting, the ward mission leader (if called) and assigned members of the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies who lead missionary work coordinate the work of the full-time missionaries and the ward members. They may discuss implementing the ward mission plan, scheduling as many teaching appointments for the missionaries as possible, and arranging to have members present as often as possible when investigators are taught.
The mission president holds the keys for baptizing and confirming converts. Under his direction, full-time missionaries have the primary responsibility for teaching investigators. Full-time missionaries also conduct baptism and confirmation interviews for each candidate and authorize the ordinances to take place.
The bishop becomes acquainted with all investigators and follows their progress. Although he does not interview baptismal candidates, he meets with them personally before they are baptized. He also oversees ward members’ efforts to fellowship them. Investigators are more likely to be baptized and confirmed and remain active when they have close friendships with Church members.
Normally, full-time missionary companionships are not separated to work with ward members. However, they may be separated to work with members when necessary to fill a large number of teaching appointments. In such cases, the ward mission leader (if called) or the members of the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies who lead missionary work ensure that those who work as companions to full-time missionaries understand and accept mission rules. These leaders instruct ward members that they must never leave a full-time missionary without an authorized companion.
Baptismal services should be scheduled as soon as an investigator has committed to be baptized. The services should not normally be delayed past this date unless a person is not prepared. Baptisms of family members should not be delayed so the father can receive the priesthood and perform the baptisms himself.
A baptismal service offers the opportunity to find and encourage other investigators. Converts should be encouraged to invite their family members, other relatives, and friends. Church leaders and missionaries may also invite other investigators who are being taught, potential investigators, and leaders and members who will be working with the new members. Other ward members may also attend.
Guidelines for confirming converts are provided in 126.96.36.199.
Under the direction of the bishop, the ward council develops a ward mission plan. The ward mission leader (if called) or a member of the elders quorum presidency may lead this effort. A member of the Relief Society presidency may also help create and implement the plan.
The plan should be brief and simple. It should include specific goals and activities to help members of ward organizations participate in member missionary work, retention, and activation. The ward council coordinates the ward mission plan with the plans of the full-time missionaries assigned to the ward. The following steps may be helpful in this planning process:
Consider the needs and resources of the ward in member missionary work, retention, and activation, including the availability of full-time missionaries.
Set specific goals for member missionary work, retention, and activation to be accomplished within the next year.
Determine how to accomplish the goals. Leaders could plan ways to lift the ward’s overall vision and attitude about missionary work. They could develop ideas for activities to help the full-time missionaries find, teach, and baptize more investigators. They could also plan ways to befriend and strengthen new members and improve the activation of less-active members.
The ward council reviews the ward mission plan regularly and revises it as needed.
The stake president and his counselors give priority to missionary work. They teach the doctrine of missionary work regularly and encourage stake members to work with full-time missionaries to find, teach, and baptize investigators. They set an example by finding and preparing individuals and families for the missionaries to teach.
In his regular interview with each bishop, the stake president asks for a report on the progress of investigators in the bishop’s ward.
The stake president meets regularly with the mission president to coordinate the work of full-time missionaries in the stake. Matters to discuss include the number and location of missionaries, the role of members in missionary work, the assistance of missionaries in retention and activation efforts, the assistance of missionaries in training local members, and meals, housing, and transportation for missionaries.
The stake presidency assigns a missionary-oriented high councilor to assist them in overseeing the stake’s efforts to find, teach, baptize, and confirm investigators. He may lead discussions on these topics in high council meetings, stake council meetings, stake priesthood leadership meetings, and other stake meetings.
The high councilor assigned to missionary work orients ward mission leaders (if called) and members of elders quorum presidencies who lead missionary work. He also provides ongoing instruction and encouragement. With the stake president’s approval, he may train ward leaders and ward missionaries.
New Church members need the support and friendship of Church leaders, ministering brothers and sisters, and other members. This support helps new members become firmly “converted unto the Lord” (Alma 23:6).
The transition to Church membership is challenging for most people. It often involves embracing new religious teachings and a new way of life. All members of the Church, particularly new members, need three things to help them stay active in the Church: friendship, opportunities to mature and serve in the Church, and nourishing by the word of God (see Moroni 6:4). Under the bishopric’s direction, leaders help new members in these areas.
The bishop has overall responsibility for convert retention. He interviews newly baptized brethren who are at least age 11 and turning 12 during the year to be ordained to the appropriate Aaronic Priesthood office. Brethren who are worthy to be baptized and confirmed are also worthy to receive the Aaronic Priesthood. The bishop also interviews new members who are at least age 11 and turning 12 during the year to receive a limited-use temple recommend soon after their confirmation. Both of these interviews are normally held within a week after confirmation. For male converts, the limited-use temple recommend interview should be held as part of the interview to receive the Aaronic Priesthood.
The ward council assists the bishop in preparing new members to participate, where possible, in vicarious baptisms and confirmations for their deceased ancestors (see 23.2.3).
To help new members remain active in the Church, the bishop and his counselors have the following responsibilities. The bishop may assign one of his counselors or the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies to lead these efforts under his direction.
They oversee efforts to ensure that each new member receives fellowship.
They ensure that each new adult member receives a calling or other opportunities to serve.
They ensure that brethren who are at least age 11 and turning 12 during the year are ordained to the appropriate Aaronic Priesthood office soon after their confirmation, normally within a week. They also see that these brethren receive opportunities to exercise the priesthood. Brethren who are worthy to be baptized and confirmed are also worthy to receive the Aaronic Priesthood.
The bishop and his counselors oversee the work of the elders quorum president in helping brethren ages 18 and older prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Recently baptized brethren ages 18 and older are ordained elders after they have served as priests, developed sufficient understanding of the gospel, and demonstrated their worthiness. No specific time as a member is required.
Ward council members give special attention to the retention of new members throughout their first year of membership.
In ward council meetings, members of the council review their goals for convert retention as outlined in the ward mission plan (see 23.1.8). They discuss the progress of each new member and identify areas where he or she may need more support. They may use the New and Returning Member Progress form as a guide for this discussion. They counsel about ways to help new members feel the love of other members, the joy of serving in the Lord’s kingdom, and the peace that comes through living gospel principles.
The ward council discusses ways to strengthen new converts. Ward council members may also suggest opportunities for service, such as temple and family history work.
As directed by the bishopric, leaders provide opportunities that help new members mature spiritually and remain active in the Church. This is particularly true of those who lead quorums, Relief Society, Sunday School, Young Women, and Primary. For example, the Relief Society president assists adult female converts. The elders quorum president assists adult male converts. When more than one family member joins the Church, ward officers coordinate their efforts in ward council meetings.
Leaders may help new members in the following ways:
They help new members understand and apply the doctrine and principles in the missionary lessons.
They ensure that new members learn basic Church practices, such as how to:
Pay tithing and other offerings.
Live the law of the fast.
Give a talk.
Perform priesthood ordinances.
Participate in family history work.
Perform baptisms and confirmations for the dead (where possible).
Serve as ministering brothers and sisters.
They ensure that new members have access to the scriptures, the Church magazines, and any manuals they may need for the Church classes they attend.
They encourage new members to receive a limited-use temple recommend and to participate, where possible, in vicarious baptisms and confirmations for their deceased ancestors.
If new members are eligible for seminary or institute, leaders help them enroll.
When new members become eligible to receive temple ordinances, leaders help them prepare, either in a temple preparation course or in some other way.
Leaders may prayerfully assign experienced members to help fellowship new members. Leaders might consider assigning members who relate well with the new members because of similar interests or because they have faced similar challenges.
Ward officers (or members they assign) note each week whether recently baptized members who belong to their organization are present in sacrament meeting. They make assignments to visit those who are not attending and invite them to attend the following week.
Ministering brothers and sisters have important responsibilities to establish friendships with and care for new members. In consultation with the bishop, elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies assign dedicated members to serve as ministering brothers and sisters to new members.
When authorized by the mission president, full-time missionaries may assist in ministering to new members.
While retention is primarily the responsibility of ward leaders, ward missionaries and full-time missionaries assist in this work. Full-time missionaries take the lead in teaching all five lessons again to all new members (see Preach My Gospel, chapter 3).
Leaders encourage ward members to strengthen new members by showing love and establishing friendships. Ward members could invite recent converts to participate in gospel study and home evening in their homes. Ward members could also invite them to attend Church meetings, classes, and activities, providing transportation if needed.
The Gospel Principles class is no longer held. On Sunday, all new members and friends of the Church are invited to attend classes and quorum meetings with the other children, youth, and adults in the ward.
Ward and full-time missionaries teach the lessons in chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel before and after baptism. Ministering brothers and sisters and other members may attend these lessons to provide fellowship.
Members of the stake presidency oversee efforts to strengthen new members in the stake. They instruct and encourage other leaders in these efforts. They meet new members when they visit wards. They may occasionally hold a meeting for new members in connection with a stake conference.
In his regular interview with each bishop, the stake president asks for a report on the progress of new members in the bishop’s ward.
In his regular meeting with the mission president, the stake president may give a report on the progress of new members in the stake.
The high councilor assigned to missionary work may help teach and fellowship new members. He works with ward mission leaders (if called) and members of elders quorum presidencies who lead missionary work. He may also help prospective elders prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Stake organization presidencies may occasionally work with ward leaders in teaching and fellowshipping new members.
Ward leaders strive continually to help less-active members return to Church activity. The Savior said, “Unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them” (3 Nephi 18:32).
Less-active members usually still believe in the gospel, but they may be experiencing difficult trials that make them feel uncomfortable attending church. They also tend to have fewer friendships in the Church, so they are less likely to feel they are among friends when they go to ward meetings. Those who return to activity often do so when they see that something is missing from their lives. As a result, they realize that they need to make changes in the way they live. At such times, they need the love and friendship of caring, active Church members who accept them as they are and show genuine personal interest in them.
The bishop and his counselors have the overall responsibility for activation. They direct the efforts of priesthood quorums and organizations to help less-active members rekindle faith and to ensure that returning members receive fellowship and support. They help returning brethren advance in the priesthood, and they help brethren and sisters receive temple ordinances or become worthy to enter the temple again.
The bishop may assign one of his counselors or the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies to lead activation efforts under his direction.
Under the bishopric’s direction, members of the ward council review their goals for activation as outlined in the ward mission plan (see 23.1.8). They share recommendations for ministering to less-active members in their organizations. By being continually aware of the needs and circumstances of less-active members, ward council members can discern when families and individuals might be ready to respond to an invitation to receive Church visitors, attend a Church activity, or participate in a temple preparation course.
The ward council prayerfully identifies the less-active members who are the most likely to return to activity. They also decide which leaders and members could best strengthen less-active members and build personal relationships with them. When more than one family member is less active, leaders coordinate their efforts in ward council meetings.
Ward council meetings regularly include reports on the progress of these members. As some members return to activity or decline invitations to return, the ward council identifies others who may be receptive. Leaders may use the New and Returning Member Progress form to keep track of these efforts.
In consultation with the bishop, the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies assign dedicated ministering brothers and sisters to less-active members. These leaders focus their efforts on the less-active members who are most likely to respond to invitations to return to activity.
The ward mission leader (if called), members of the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies who lead missionary work, full-time missionaries, and ward missionaries assist with activation efforts. Teaching less-active members may create opportunities to teach their nonmember friends or relatives.
The Gospel Principles class is no longer held. On Sunday, all new members and friends of the Church are invited to attend classes and quorum meetings with the other children, youth, and adults in the ward.
In his regular interview with each bishop, the stake president asks for a report on the progress of less-active members in the bishop’s ward. The stake president and the bishop discuss the plans and goals prepared by the ward council for these members.
When the stake president and mission president meet to discuss missionary work, they may also discuss the assistance full-time missionaries can give in working with less-active members.
High councilors who work with ward Melchizedek Priesthood leaders may help teach and fellowship less-active members. They may also participate in efforts to help prospective elders prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Stake organization presidencies may occasionally work with ward leaders in teaching and fellowshipping less-active members.