Chad Nickle has been married to his beautiful wife Barbara for 23 years (on Pi day, March 14). They have seven children and three grandchildren. He currently works in the insurance industry and is just receiving his Global Risk Management Designation. Chad has served in the elders quorum presidency three times, Young Men presidency four times, as a Ward Temple and Family History consultant, and was the Sunday School president when the Church brought in the Come, Follow Me program for the youth. He served his mission in the Chile Santiago South Mission where he first learned the importance of meeting people where they are, both figuratively and literally. (Heavenly Father can be very creative.) Chad and his family currently reside in Raymond, Alberta, Canada.
Just over two years ago, I got called for the second time as the Ward Mission Leader. I thought I had everything figured out because I was going to do everything like I did before. I was going to “GET” lots of baptisms!
I stood up every Sunday and requested members to go on splits. You know, do the “eye to eye” contact and refuse to sit down until I had at least three days covered, talk about member missionary work every Sunday before class starts, make sure I was heard in Ward Council as I quoted the manual because the ward mission is supposed to be the focus of discussion, request to speak on Sunday about member missionary work. Well, if I say it enough and show lots of energy and excitement, people will want to do it…right?!
Nope. That didn’t happen. Those ideas didn’t even last a week.
The Unexpected Answer of Family History
I had looked at the quarterly reports along with the sacrament attendance. I read over the list of prospective elders. I identified the part member and less active families. I remember the spirit touching my heart as I look at the names. “Who are these people” I was asked. I remember replying as I read the names, “There are so many!”
One night I couldn’t sleep. The thought kept coming to my head, “You need to talk about family history.”
I was confused. I thought about it and passed it off as me being on my family history soapbox (I had been a temple and family history consultant in the past.) Yet, two hours later, “You need to use family history to help accomplish the work.”
I got up, went to my computer, and started learning why I kept receiving that prompting. I found talks by Elder Bednar, one to to the mission presidents, and another discussing the work of salvation. I even found a talk from Boyd K. Packer in 1998 stating that we should be using our family history centers more in sharing the gospel. I found trainings on why family history can be an effective way to introduce the gospel to members of our communities. I remember asking myself, “Why wasn’t this ever taught or talked about more?” I found blessings and promises that I knew my bishop would love for the ward members, non-members, and less active members to receive as they embraced Presidents Nelson’s invitation to gather Israel.
I quickly realized the Lord was asking me to forge a new trail and it was not to be done through the traditional way of member missionary work.
Interesting to note, two years after I received these promptings, in February 2020 there was a live leadership broadcast relating to this exact concept. Family history work is the greatest work on this earth because anytime we help anyone take a step closer in receiving their “Next Covenant” on either side of the veil, we are helping Father with his work. It is for everyone, both active and inactive, both member and non-member, both young and old. We can minister to others by helping them with their family history.
Ministering Through Family History
Just as I learned all these principles, we found a senior couple that had just moved into our ward. The wife was a member and the husband was not. Her single son (who was less active) bought a house not far from her around the same time. She also had her daughter’s two children (ages 9 and 10) stay with her almost every weekend. I felt prompted to ask her if she and her husband would like to host the missionaries for dinner. It evolved in to a multitude of miracles. You can read about this experience here.
She accepted and a few weeks later her husband began taking the discussions. Then her less-active son started coming over to be part of the discussions and started attending church.
We added the ministering approach of discussing family history, invited them to the family history library, and had a great time. It wasn’t too long before the husband and—to our surprise—her grandchildren were baptized. (Yes, grandpa received the Aaronic priesthood and was able to baptize his step-grandchildren.)
As you may have imagined, the first time this wonderful couple went to the temple was to do work for their family and his parents.
Her son is now active in the church and having regular spiritual experiences including feeling his grandmother close by as he does family history work. (He has been successful in researching her line going back through generations.)
However, with this new inspiration on combining missionary work and family history work, I had a bit of a predicament and seemed to be running into roadblocks.
Loving People to the Temple
For several weeks I felt stuck and was tempted to do things the old way as other leaders tried to grasp what it was that I was being led to do. With each stupor of thought I would try again. After multiple petitions to Father, a verse came to me as I was watching a Bible video. It was when the apostles went fishing and caught nothing, in John 21:5-6,8. The Lord had instructed me to stop trying to fish with what I saw as the only way and see that He has a better way, to trust Him by staying focused on the temple and how I can love people to the temple, not just the act of getting them to the temple.
A Liahona Experience
I realized I needed to follow the example of Lehi and his family who would look at the Liahona each day and it would tell them where they should go. I should do the same thing. Here are the steps I received from my own “Liahona” experience:
- Meet for 20 minutes with each and every family. I met with them “one by one” giving them a printed invitation that had the area plan, stake plan, our ward mission plan, and a space for their “family plan”.
- Ask each family what small thing they are currently doing or could now do as part of their family mission plan. (We were to “meet them where they were”.)
- Help them feel capable, help them feel loved with whatever they were doing and repeat.
- Ask if it was okay if we followed up in a couple of days or a week to see how they are doing and if there was anything we could do to support, then repeat this process as they adapted their goals. This may also include inviting them to be a host or be part of a weekly/monthly cottage meeting (more on this later.)
With this approach, we ended up with more teaching discussions than through any other manner. We had more member referrals than any other way. We started helping a few less-active couples renew their temple recommends. We increased our sacrament attendance.
We saw miracle after miracle as one less-active couple returned to activity because they felt loved for the first time. Then that couple was asked to do the same for another less-active couple, then a less active sister. You get the picture.
Because of the growth in testimony, love, and friendship, the members found themselves strengthening and inspiring each other as they walked through hard trials and challenges together.
Once the success of what we had started got out, our ward elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies applied the “cottage meetings” approach where an active family is asked to invite two families into their home one or two times a month for a get-together. Where needed, they could have the missionaries over to “give the lesson”.
The ward mission can prayerfully combine less-actives with other less-actives or non-members for a weekly get-together to discuss “topics of interest” as per the needs of those attending with the missionaries. This is now the ministering/missionary program in our ward, based on organic relationships and loving people where they are at the time.
Our ward now has ward temple and family history consultants as ward missionaries. We actively talk about family history and have generated much interest. This naturally leads families and relationships to the blessing of eternal families. My wife and I host a family home evening one Monday a month where we personally invite other families (active, less-active, non-member) and help them start their own family tree, upload photos and stories, or find names to take to the temple.
For the last year, the Calgary Canada Mission has been hosting a “Come and See” musical fireside in various stakes and viewers can also watch online. This musical fireside is comprised of missionaries and members singing original music intertwined with actual stories of ancestors who later ask, “Do you have my name?”
Because everyone loves talking about family and sharing pictures and stories, natural and meaningful conversations on eternal families happen.
The Savior is all about the individual and having a personal relationship. By loving each person where they are at and helping each one discover their best next steps, miracles happen.
Ministering Through Family History, Not Pulpit Pounding
As you can see, my original efforts of “Getting People” through guilt-tripping the ward council, pulpit pounding in sacrament, or standing on my soap box comments in classes was not effective. I testify that ministering with love through family history “one by one” works. I invite other ward councils to consider these ways.
Simply follow the Lord’s council of “cast your net on the other side” and go to work by visiting each home, “one by one”. Get to know them, show them that you care, and applaud their efforts. Love them and invite them with kindness. Think differently by thinking of “the one” (less active member, neighbor, widow, single individual, lonely youth, etc.) and how a relationship can be built.
Continue asking the elders quorum, Relief Society, and other auxiliary presidencies what you can do to help them in their efforts in helping those in their stewardship build relationships with Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, each other, and their neighbors.
Applaud their efforts at each step. To aid in this, consider looking to the community FIRST to find those individuals with talents in doing family history activities such as digitizing or compiling records as part of your ward activities. One year our young men went around recording stories for those who were older in the ward and then helped to upload the stories in the memories app. This built bonds between generations. This idea could be expanded to being a community service for anyone.
Lastly, ask yourself: how can I involve my (neighbor’s, best friend’s, or Bro/Sis So-and-So’s) ancestors in assisting me in this work in helping them attend church, partake of the Sacrament next week, or go to the temple?
Remember, the spirit of Elijah is the Holy Ghost testifying to them. Wouldn’t you want this added help in ministering to “the one”?