“23. Sharing the Gospel and Strengthening New and Returning Members,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).
“23. Sharing the Gospel and Strengthening New and Returning Members,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Participating in missionary work and serving as missionaries.
Helping new and returning Church members progress along the covenant path.
We are all children of a Heavenly Father who loves His children perfectly. He offers everyone the opportunity to be filled with His love through Jesus Christ and His gospel (see John 3:16; 2 Nephi 26:24–28; Alma 26:37; Articles of Faith 1:3).
One way we show our love for God is by loving and serving His children (see Matthew 22:36–39; 25:40). We strive to love and serve as Jesus Christ did. This love inspires us to reach out to people of all religions, races, and cultures (see Acts 10:34; 2 Nephi 26:33).
Because we love God and His children, we naturally want to share the blessings He has given us (see John 13:34–35) and help gather Israel. We seek to help people feel the joy that we feel (see Alma 36:24). As disciples of Jesus Christ, we hold up His light (see 3 Nephi 18:24–25). We speak openly of the Savior and His influence in our lives (see Doctrine and Covenants 60:2). We share love, time, experiences, and Church programs to bless God’s children and help them draw closer to the Savior. We share these things in normal and natural ways as part of personal, online, and other interactions.
The Savior invites all to receive His gospel and prepare for eternal life (see Alma 5:33–34). As His disciples, we follow His example, inviting all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32).
We pray for inspiration and guidance on how to invite others to:
Come and see the blessings available through Jesus Christ, His gospel, and His Church (see John 1:37–39, 45–46).
Come and help us serve people in need.
Come and belong to the restored Church of Jesus Christ.
When our invitations are based on a person’s needs and interests, he or she is more likely to accept those invitations. Often, inviting simply means including our family, friends, and neighbors in what we are already doing. For example, we can invite them to:
Join us in our homes for activities.
Join us for worship and gospel learning.
Attend special events, such as a baby blessing or baptism.
Participate in ward and community activities or service, including projects organized through JustServe (where available).
Participate in Church programs and activities. These could include Primary activities, youth activities, family history, self-reliance courses, BYU–Pathway Worldwide, and literacy and English courses.
Meet the full-time missionaries and hear their message.
The principles of loving, sharing, and inviting apply also to strengthening new and returning members.
Joining the Church is both wonderful and challenging for many. It brings great blessings, but it also requires adjusting to new beliefs, new habits, and new relationships (see 1 Thessalonians 1:6).
Each new member needs friendship, opportunities to serve, and spiritual nourishment. As members of the Church, we give new members our love and support (see Mosiah 18:8–10). We help them feel a sense of belonging in the Church. We help them progress along the covenant path and become more deeply “converted unto the Lord” (Alma 23:6). We help them be “nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, … relying alone upon the merits of Christ” (Moroni 6:4).
We can also help new members:
Learn and experience the joy of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Learn how to recognize promptings from the Spirit.
Develop a habit of personal and family prayer and scripture study.
Share the gospel with their family and friends.
Find names of ancestors and prepare to receive temple ordinances for them.
Grow through fulfilling Church assignments and participating in the many other opportunities the Church offers.
Some members choose to stop participating in the Church. “Unto such,” said the Savior, “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). These words apply to all who, for any reason, need continued ministering.
Members who are not fully participating are more likely to return if they have strong relationships with Church members. Our love and support can help them overcome challenges. Like new members, they need friendship, opportunities to serve, and spiritual nourishment. Understanding their circumstances and challenges can help us minister to them with sensitivity and love.
The stake president holds the keys in the stake for sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members. He and his counselors give overall direction for these efforts. He ensures that this work is discussed regularly in stake meetings.
Usually monthly, the stake president meets with the mission president to coordinate efforts between the stake and ward leaders and the full-time missionaries. Others who may attend include:
Counselors in the stake and mission presidencies.
Assigned high councilors.
The stake Relief Society president.
Missionaries assigned by the mission president.
The stake adult leadership committee includes:
The stake presidency.
The stake Relief Society presidency.
High councilors assigned to work with elders quorums.
These leaders instruct and support elders quorum and ward Relief Society presidencies in the work of sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members (see 23.5.2). Instruction could take place in a group setting or individually. Ward mission leaders may be invited to receive this instruction.
For more about this committee’s meetings, see 29.3.9.
The stake presidency may assign high councilors to instruct and support elders quorum presidencies and ward mission leaders. One or more high councilors may be assigned to lead these efforts. However, all high councilors have these responsibilities for the wards and quorums to which they are assigned.
Under the direction of the stake president, the stake Relief Society presidency instructs and supports ward Relief Society presidencies in their responsibilities for sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members.
The bishopric coordinates with the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies as they lead the ward’s efforts in sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members. These leaders counsel together regularly.
The bishopric ensures that these efforts are discussed and coordinated in ward council and ward youth council meetings. The bishopric also reviews and approves the ward plan for sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members (see 23.5.6).
The bishop interviews new members of the appropriate age for a limited-use temple recommend (see 26.3.1 and 26.4.2). He also interviews brethren of the appropriate age to receive the Aaronic Priesthood (see 126.96.36.199). He normally conducts these interviews within a week of the member’s confirmation.
The bishopric coordinates with other leaders to ensure that new and returning members have opportunities to serve. Such opportunities can help these members grow spiritually and feel the Lord’s power in their lives. Service can also help members feel joy and build close relationships with others in the ward. These opportunities should be based on the member’s needs and abilities. In some cases, a calling is appropriate. In others, a less formal assignment is best.
The elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies lead the ward’s day-to-day efforts to share the gospel and strengthen new and returning members (see 8.2.3 and 9.2.3). The elders quorum presidency leads these efforts for members of the elders quorum. The Relief Society presidency leads the efforts for members of the Relief Society. They work together to lead these efforts with the ward council, under the coordination of the bishop.
These leaders have the following responsibilities:
Help inspire members to love God’s children, to share the gospel, and to invite others to receive the Savior’s blessings (see 23.1).
Counsel with quorum or Relief Society members about how to share the gospel. Discuss how to find people for the missionaries to teach and how to support people who are being taught. Counsel together about the needs of new and returning members and how to provide support.
Assign ministering brothers and sisters to new and returning members (see 21.2.1). Ministering brothers and sisters may also be assigned to people the missionaries are teaching (this is done in coordination with the missionaries). If possible, leaders assign members who have or can develop close friendships with these individuals. Leaders encourage ministering brothers and sisters to give Christlike love and support.
Give new and returning members opportunities to serve as ministering sisters or brothers. For more about ministering, see chapter 21.
Help the ward council develop a plan for sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members (see 23.5.6).
Lead the work of the ward mission leader. If this leader is not called, a member of the elders quorum presidency fills this role (see 23.5.3).
The elders quorum president and Relief Society president each assign a presidency member to help lead these efforts. These two presidency members work together. They attend weekly coordination meetings (see 23.5.7).
The bishopric consults with the stake president to determine whether to call a ward mission leader. If they decide to extend this calling, the bishopric counsels with the elders quorum and Relief Society presidents in determining whom to call. This person should be a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. If this leader is not called, a member of the elders quorum presidency fills this role.
The ward mission leader supports the elders quorum presidency and Relief Society presidency in their missionary responsibilities. He also has the following responsibilities:
Coordinate the work of ward members and leaders, ward missionaries, and full-time missionaries. This may include coordinating teaching efforts, baptismal services, and efforts to strengthen new members. It can also include planning ways to help ward members share the gospel.
Lead weekly coordination meetings (see 23.5.7).
Attend ward council meetings when invited.
Help the ward council develop and implement the ward plan for sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members (see 23.5.6).
Where it is allowed, arrange for full-time missionaries to eat meals with members. Seek opportunities for the missionaries to eat with part-member and less-active families if possible. Encourage them to share a gospel message with these families.
Work with the ward temple and family history leader and consultants to help those who are learning the gospel, new members, and returning members engage in temple and family history work.
Ward missionaries help ward members experience the joy of sharing the gospel as described in 23.1. They serve under the direction of the ward mission leader or the member of the elders quorum presidency who fills this role. The elders quorum and Relief Society presidents may suggest members who could serve.
Ward missionaries teach by word and example how to love others, share their faith, and invite others to receive the blessings of the gospel. They also help ward members minister to new and returning members.
Ward missionaries participate in weekly coordination meetings (see 23.5.7).
Sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members should be discussed regularly in ward council meetings. The bishop may ask the elders quorum or Relief Society president to lead these discussions, which should focus on individuals. The bishop may invite the ward mission leader to attend ward council meetings.
The council may discuss the ward’s plan for sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members. They also discuss assignments that need to be coordinated across organizations. Forms like the following can help in these discussions:
Missionary Progress Record. Full-time missionaries use this form to report on the progress of people they are teaching. This form helps missionaries and members coordinate their work. In areas where missionaries use the Area Book Planner app, this form is available to ward leaders in Leader and Clerk Resources (LCR) and the Member Tools app. In other areas, full-time missionaries use a paper copy.
New and Returning Member Progress. Ward leaders use this form to plan ways to help members progress spiritually. It is available in LCR.
For more about the ward council, see 29.2.5.
In discussing the needs of youth in the ward, the ward youth council gives special attention to new and returning members and to youth being taught by the missionaries. The council also discusses ways the youth can participate in the ward’s plan for sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members. For more about the ward youth council, see 29.2.6.
Each ward should have a simple plan for sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members. It can help guide meetings, service, and activities. It can include plans and ideas for:
Helping everyone feel welcome in ward meetings and activities.
Helping members experience the joy of sharing the gospel.
Supporting people being taught by the missionaries.
Helping new and returning members progress spiritually.
The elders quorum and Relief Society presidents help the ward council create the plan. The ward mission leader also helps. The bishop reviews and approves it.
Members of the ward council take the lead in implementing the plan. They report on progress in ward council meetings. They also update the plan as needed.
Every week, brief informal meetings are held to coordinate efforts to share the gospel and strengthen new and returning members. If a ward mission leader is called, he conducts these meetings. Otherwise, the member of the elders quorum presidency who fills this role conducts.
Others who are invited include:
Assigned members of the Relief Society and elders quorum presidencies.
An assistant in the priests quorum (or the teachers or deacons quorum president if there are no priests in the ward).
A presidency member of the oldest Young Women class.
They may discuss:
Implementing the ward’s plan for sharing the gospel and strengthening new and returning members. They coordinate this plan with the full-time missionaries’ plans and goals.
Assignments given in previous meetings.
How to support those being taught by the missionaries.
Plans for upcoming baptismal services and inviting members to attend.
These meetings may be held in person or remotely. Coordination can also happen in other ways, including phone calls, texts, and emails.