In 2006, after returning from my honeymoon, I remember stopping by my childhood home to pick up the rest of my personal items before beginning my new life with my wife in a basement apartment.
Driving away from this home, I began to cry like a baby.
I had previously moved out for college and a mission; however, this transition felt permanent.
I was never going back.
That life was over.
I think I cried because my body needed to process my emotions because afterward I felt reset and ready to begin the young and newly-married phase of life before me.
Life transitions have an interesting way of resetting our identity, our story, and thus our futures.
In the context of church leadership, I’d like to focus on the transition of those moving in and out of wards.
For a bishopric, when an individual or a family moves out, it’s easy to be distracted by the many other things going on in the ward.
Because of this, they don’t give a second thought to those moving out.
Perhaps bishoprics assume former ward members’ church records will magically disappear—in a week or two—and that those moving out will automatically worship elsewhere.
Or maybe not.
I don’t have hard research on this, but I am guessing that most individuals and families that “go inactive” or “leave the church” do so during times of transition—such as a move.
I have a good friend with whom I served in leadership callings in the past.
He moved a few times, within a few years, and I happened to see him a year or so later.
I asked, “How’s the new ward?”
He said, “I don’t know.”
This was a passive way of saying, “We don’t do the church anymore.”
This is an overlooked dynamic that needs to be addressed by local leaders far more than it is.
I don’t have the perfect process to address this dynamic, but maybe there could be a few steps taken with individuals and families before they leave:
Perhaps an exit interview of sorts?
A simple casual connection that includes a few pointed questions.
A moment full of gratitude and closure in the current ward followed by encouragement to continue in the faith in their future ward.
Those planning to slow down their worship following a move would benefit from a moment of personal connection where leaders encourage them to keep the faith or, if needing a fresh start, to try again in their new ward.
What do you think?
How might leaders help families stay engaged with covenants and worship as they transition to a new ward?
P.P.S. This topic led to a podcast episode with Ryan Gottfredson.