A More Inclusive Ward Mission Plan

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?

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13 Responses

  1. Lori says:

    This matches my experience so perfectly. Thank you for putting it to words and for creating a mission plan that helps bring people to Christ.

  2. Katie Rich says:

    I love so much about this. Your boundary with naptime. Your honest feelings. Your focus on love and inclusivity. I hope it has a lasting impact on your ward.

  3. Sarah+C says:

    Fully agree. I believe that if we focus on making church a place were all existing members feel welcome, safe, accepted and not judged for where they are in their journey, that the rest falls into place. I think missionary work plans start first with us as individuals inwardly well before we reach outwardly to others!

    • Kaylee says:

      Yes. It seems that way to me too. This is not saying there isn’t a time and place for drumming up enthusiasm, excitement, and motivation. Just that it needs to be more inwardly focused. If church is a supportive, inspiring place to be and is a clear net positive in your life, it seems like it would be pretty natural to talk about it with your friends.

  4. Tina says:

    Love this!!! What if we all had courage to speak up as you did here? Could we actually create a church that fulfills its potential to be a place where *all* are welcome and feel safe? Thank you for the thoughtful questions and mission plan.

  5. Darren says:

    The RS President in my ward sent this to me, I’m using it tomorrow in the 5th Sunday discussion. We have a large number of youth who are struggling with guilt for not doing more inviting. We just want our ward to love each other, to love their neighbors, to understand that ministering doesn’t stop with members, and that Jesus shared the gospel by loving and accepting those at the margins.

  6. Michael Rovner says:

    Aloha. I truly love this plan. Simple and loving. Inviting and introspective. Would you mind if I use it as the foundation of mission plan for my small branch?

  7. HeyWhatDoIKnow says:

    This post just answered weeks of prayers and severe anxiety/avoidance over even googling the words “ward mission plan.” Tomorrow there is a ward council where, rumor has it, they are discussing the ward mission plan. I am a ward missionary—nay—I am THE ward missionary, the leader was put in a different calling months ago so we have the default of the EQ counselor who is a total slacker. We have 6 full time missionaries and I am their first call for help (which I love btw) but they also need joint teachers. I was baptized Nov 2017 and there have been maybe 3 baptisms since then (plus kids turning 8 including 2 of my kids) and none were people the ward members brought in.
    Well last weekend, my friends’ family of 7 joined the church including 4 convert baptisms. There were so many times over the last 2.5 months that ward members almost made this whole train go veering off the tracks. It was an immense pressure to carry and now that (forgive me…) the ward was handed this gift on a silver platter, with all the work and planning including the every detail for the baptismal program done…I’m not even asked to participate in any planning? THIS is why they struggle. They are out of touch.
    So I would like to propose using the language of your ward mission plan to the bishop tonite via email, see if it’ll get me a seat at the table or heck, just use it. I don’t need to be there. [gosh your email is tempting too but their heads would explode—silently so as not to be rude of course]
    PS I think my comment is longer than your post. Lol. Thanks for listening. 😀

  8. HeyWhatDoIKnow says:

    In addition to “the most sexist and homophobic/[heterosexist] organization”, I would definitely add…
    ableist, classist and racist too!!
    (And whatever -ist it is when you make single parent families seem like they are always “suffering” thru divorce…🙄)

    • Kaylee says:

      I definitely thought about putting other -ists in there, but it wasn’t obvious to me that I could qualify them with the term “most”.

      I’m glad this post is helpful to you. I hope you are able to communicate your frustrations in a way that allows them to be heard. It can be so hard!

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