Many of us have experienced the impact of moving into a new ward or branch. It is often bittersweet leaving our previous congregation, especially if it was one where we felt loved, needed, and understood. If it was a ward we had lived in a long time, or one that was “beloved” to us, it makes the move even more difficult.
Moving into a new ward brings a bit of apprehension with questions of fitting in, getting to know new people, and discovering resources in our new community.
When new records are received into our ward, we don’t know the level of their faith, understanding, or their interest in being actively involved with the Church.
Additionally, there are folks who may move into our ward “by stealth.” These are members who may not have wanted to be involved with their previous ward and when they moved out they did not let anyone in leadership know that they were going. Then, they move into a new ward in hopes of remaining anonymous. Some are antagonists, but most just do not feel the need to be affiliated with the Church for one reason or another. So, they move in by stealth. However, these “stealth” members are often discovered and added to our ranks.
Lastly, there are folks that move into our neighborhoods who are not Latter-day Saints. However, they may have similar apprehensions and questions about getting to know their neighbors and the resources in the community.
Thanks to some great ideas shared in our Facebook group, below is information that may be worth discussing at a Ward Council so that whoever is moving into your ward boundaries will feel welcome, needed, and know they have caring neighbors.
Being a Good Neighbor
Ideally, it would be WONDERFUL if every Church Unit had some sort of “generic” welcome packet that could be given to anyone who moves into their area, regardless of their religious affiliation. It would be easy to create it as a PDF that is emailed to all members. Then when someone moves in on their street, they can print it up and give it to the person who moved in. This information sheet could include some basics about schools, parks, neighborhood Facebook pages, annual community activities, a list of local churches (all denominations), community centers, libraries, county tourism, economic commission, recreational activities, non-emergency police numbers, and more.
A generic sheet like this gives the member an opportunity to meet their new neighbor, get to know them better and even invite them to some activity that they may find interesting.
This sheet would make it easier for a member to reach out and be a good neighbor with a valuable resource in hand. (Oh, and homemade cookies would not hurt either.)
Getting to Know Leadership and More
Let’s consider the things we could add to that PDF to give as a folder or packet to new members whose records are sent to our ward.
This expanded packet could include a welcome letter from the bishop, elders quorum president, and Relief Society president, where the church building is located and the times for Sunday services, contact info for all of the leadership in the ward, plus the days and times for youth and primary activities. Special sports or social activities that may be organized in your ward would also be helpful.
To better get to know the new members, it would be great to have an interest and talent survey for them to complete so that they can become a resource to the ward a lot sooner.
Ward Clerk Ministering Opportunity
The ward clerk is the linchpin in all the “welcoming” activity. He has the ability to be sure that all of the leaders are receiving the new move in information as soon as possible so that they can jump into action.
Ideally, the first contact with a new move in should be done within the first week they arrive. Given our new efforts to have the bishop focus on the youth, someone from the elders quorum or Relief Society presidencies should be their first touch point. They could bring over the welcome packet, get acquainted, and see if they have any special needs.
If we really want to help them connect quickly, that first visit could include introducing them to the members who live near them or families with children who are of similar ages.
This is Not a “One and Done”
One visit does not a connection make. Thus, if they have youth, the next visit could be done by the leadership of the applicable organization who could bring some youth for them to meet.
Next, or if they do not have youth, the ward missionaries could come and get to know them.
Wouldn’t it be grand if within the first week or two they have people they know greeting them at Church and taking a moment to introduce them to the bishop and his counselors?
Relief Society and Elders Quorum are Up to Bat First
Since the Relief Society and/or elders quorum have already met the family, they will be in a better position to know who to assign to them as ministering sisters and brothers. These assignments should be made within the first few weeks because they still may be needing help getting settled in and developing new relationships. Thus, the new ministering sisters and brothers should be encouraged to visit them as soon as possible.
The Shepherd Knows Them by Name
We all have very busy lives, and when we serve in a leadership capacity, some days can be very long. However, as we sincerely seek to care for the new members who move into our ward, the easier our work becomes. It is so much easier to inspire a member or family to remain actively engaged and welcome visitors into their home than it is to try and fan the flames of a fire that is cold or flickering out.
We are under-shepherds for the Lord. He trusts us to be deeply engaged in helping Him love His children. May we all consider the things we can do to embrace our new sisters and brothers with caring and meaningful attention as quickly as possible.
If you have other suggestions or ideas on ways we can help our new sisters and brothers feel welcome in our neighborhoods and churches, you are invited to share these ideas in the “submit a comment” area below.
Beth Young is the written content manager at Leading Saints. She is a convert of 45 years; served a mission in North Carolina; has been married for 35 years to her sweetheart, Bob; has five children and two grandchildren. She raised her family in Texas for 25 years where she served in various capacities in church and in her community. She loves writing, teaching and inspiring others to make changes to their physical, mental and spiritual health.