As a Relief Society councilor*, I was asked to help develop our ward’s mission plan. I’ll be honest: doing anything missionary related is not my favorite thing. I don’t love how ward mission plans often involve members feeling guilty for not reaching their goal of x number of baptisms for the month. I’m not in a place spiritually where I feel comfortable actively proselytizing for the church. And the idea of inviting non-member friends to a church activity seems even more ludicrous when my friends are often even more careful covid-wise than my own mask-wearing vaccinated family but the local church culture is…not so cautious. Even though I didn’t super *want* to work on a ward mission plan, my brain got interested in figuring out what kind of plan I would respond to with positive emotions. What kind of ward mission plan would be inspiring to members no matter where they are in their spiritual journey?
I fleshed out some of my ideas and reasoning in the following [lightly edited] email that I sent to the committee. There is a sample plan at the end of the email. (I was dealing with post-covid insomnia when we were working on this, and the boundary I added in the first paragraph was a Good Choice.)
Re: Ward Missionary Meeting
I don’t have anything scheduled Sunday afternoon, but it’s taken me an average of 3-4 hours to fall asleep at night this week. So if I happen to be taking a nap, I’m not waking up for a meeting. I’m happy to email, because then I can do it whenever I happen to have brains.
I watched the videos in the Handbook. I believe in being honest, especially at church. So here it goes:
It’s not normal or natural for me to invite people to church functions that do not feel safe during a global pandemic. It is not normal or natural to me to invite people to come to the most sexist, homophobic organization I’ve ever been a part of. Asking me to invite friends to church to see how wonderful it is causes me a whole lot of cognitive dissonance when church doesn’t always feel physically or emotionally safe. I am probably not the only one in our ward who feels this way. I would *love* for church to be a place where it *did* feel normal and natural to invite friends without reservation. Our ward mission plan needs to assume that some people who show up at church struggle to continue showing up. We need to make sure they still feel like there’s a place at church for them.
I would also love to participate in community service activities (like those mentioned in one of the shorter videos). Those were activities I would love to invite people to come and join. But even before the pandemic, these things weren’t happening often. I feel like the people in our little ward are so exhausted from just running the ward we don’t have the energy to figure out how to organize community events. I’m in leadership and I see this need, but I’m so stretched already between my two callings and other responsibilities that I have nothing left to give in order to make it happen.
I get that not all of the things I have issues with are in the control of ward leadership. Some of why I’ve been able to continue participating in church is because our ward has been a place where I can authentically share some of my spiritual journey, even if I express disagreement with what leaders have said. What would have to change in our ward to make it a place where I would be super excited to invite friends to come? I don’t actually know. But I do think it is an interesting question. Maybe we could incorporate it into the ward mission plan to invite members to do that work.
My idea is to frame the plan around questions with the themes of love, share, and invite. Perhaps something like this:
Our Ward Mission Plan
To help bring souls to Christ, we invite members of our ward to prayerfully answer these questions for themselves:
“How can I minister to my friends and neighbors to show I love and care about them?”
“How can I deepen my relationships with friends and neighbors by sharing different parts of my life?”
“What can I do to make our ward a place where I want to invite my friends and neighbors?”
We have faith that as ward members act on their answers 1) the members will become more Christlike individually and 2) our church meetings will be a place that welcomes everyone as they are and inspires them to become better.
I love that this plan invites me to act like Christ, not a salesperson with numerical goals to meet. I love that this plan invites me to do things I already want to do, but might need a little push to get started. Some leaders like things that can be measured. One idea was that we could follow up on these questions during ministering interviews a few months after the plan is presented to the ward. Anecdotal notes can measure progress!
*I was recently released, but they proactively promised to use this as the foundation of the final plan, so I’m hopeful that all my mental work won’t be wasted.
What do you wish your ward mission plan was like?
What has worked well in your ward? What would you change?