5.2 Convert Retention
New Church members need the support and friendship of Church leaders, home teachers, visiting teachers, and other members. This support helps new members become firmly “converted unto the Lord” (Alma 23:6).
Needs of New Members
The transition to Church membership is challenging for most people. It often involves embracing new religious teachings and a new way of life. All members of the Church, particularly new members, need three things to help them stay active in the Church: friendship, opportunities to mature and serve in the Church, and nourishing by the word of God (see Moroni 6:4). Under the bishopric’s direction, priesthood and auxiliary leaders help new members in these areas.
Bishop and His Counselors
The bishop has overall responsibility for convert retention. To help new members remain active in the Church, the bishop and his counselors have the following responsibilities. The bishop may assign one of his counselors to coordinate these efforts.
They oversee efforts to ensure that each new member receives fellowship.
They ensure that each new adult member receives a calling or other opportunities to serve.
They ensure that brethren ages 12 and older are ordained to the appropriate Aaronic Priesthood office soon after their confirmation, normally within a week. They also see that these brethren receive opportunities to exercise the priesthood. Brethren who are worthy to be baptized and confirmed are also worthy to receive the Aaronic Priesthood.
The bishop and his counselors oversee the work of the high priests group leader and the elders quorum president in helping brethren ages 18 and older prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Recently baptized brethren ages 18 and older are ordained elders after they have served as priests, developed sufficient understanding of the gospel, and demonstrated their worthiness. No specific time as a member is required.
In ward council meetings, members of the council review their goals for convert retention as outlined in the ward mission plan (see 5.1.8). They discuss the progress of each new member and identify areas where he or she may need more support. They may use the New and Returning Member Progress form as a guide for this discussion. They counsel about ways to help new members feel the love of other members, the joy of serving in the Lord’s kingdom, and the peace that comes through living gospel principles.
The ward council may discuss ways the ward mission leader can work with other priesthood and auxiliary leaders to strengthen new converts. Ward council members may also suggest possible opportunities for service that could be extended to new members, such as temple and family history work.
Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders
As directed by the bishopric, priesthood and auxiliary leaders provide opportunities that help new members mature spiritually and remain active in the Church. For example, the Relief Society president is responsible to assist adult female converts. Because an adult male convert is a prospective elder, either the elders quorum president or the high priests group leader is responsible to assist in his progress, as determined by the bishopric. When more than one family member joins the Church, priesthood and auxiliary leaders coordinate their efforts in ward council meetings.
Priesthood and auxiliary leaders may help new members in the following ways:
They help new members understand and apply the doctrines and principles in the missionary lessons.
They ensure that new members learn basic Church practices, such as how to bear testimony, pay tithing and other offerings, live the law of the fast, give a talk, perform priesthood ordinances, participate in family history work, perform baptisms and confirmations for the dead (where possible), and serve as a home teacher or visiting teacher.
They ensure that new members have access to the scriptures, the Church magazines, and any manuals they may need for the Church classes they attend.
If new members are eligible for seminary or institute, priesthood and auxiliary leaders help them enroll.
When new members become eligible to receive temple ordinances, priesthood and auxiliary leaders help them prepare, either in a temple preparation seminar or in some other way.
Priesthood and auxiliary leaders may assign experienced members to help fellowship new members. Leaders might consider assigning members who relate well with the new members because of similar interests or because they have faced similar challenges.
Priesthood and auxiliary leaders (or members they assign) note each week whether recently baptized members who belong to their quorum or auxiliary are present in sacrament meeting. They make assignments to visit those who are not attending and invite them to attend the following week.
Home Teachers and Visiting Teachers
Home teachers and visiting teachers have important responsibilities to establish friendships with new members. In consultation with the bishop, Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society leaders give high priority to assigning dedicated home teachers and visiting teachers to new members.
When authorized by the mission president, full-time missionaries may assist in home teaching or visiting teaching new members.
Ward Missionaries and Full-Time Missionaries
While retention is primarily the responsibility of ward priesthood and auxiliary leaders, ward missionaries and full-time missionaries assist in this work. Ward missionaries teach the first four missionary lessons again to all new members (see Preach My Gospel, chapter 3). They also teach lesson 5. Ward missionaries may be assisted by the full-time missionaries as needed.
Influence of Other Ward Members
Priesthood and auxiliary leaders encourage ward members to strengthen new members by showing love and establishing friendships. Leaders may encourage ward members to invite recent converts to attend family home evenings, Church meetings, classes, and activities with them, providing transportation if needed.
Gospel Principles Class
New members ages 18 and older attend the Gospel Principles class during Sunday School, along with investigators. New members usually attend the Gospel Principles class for a few months. When they are ready, they attend the Gospel Doctrine class.
The ward mission leader attends the Gospel Principles class. He coordinates the class with other retention efforts in the ward. A member of the bishopric may assign him to teach it. Other ward missionaries may also attend.
Home teachers, visiting teachers, and other members may attend the class to provide fellowship. Occasionally the teacher may invite other ward members to attend and share experiences and testimony. For example, the teacher may invite ward members to share their testimonies of the blessings of tithing, their experiences in overcoming challenges, or the blessings they have received as they have served in Church callings.
The teachers of this course have the following responsibilities:
They select and teach lessons from Gospel Principles. As they teach, they use the scriptures often, especially the Book of Mormon. They adapt lessons to class members’ needs and invite class members to share their thoughts and experiences.
They create an atmosphere that invites the Spirit, frequently bearing testimony.
They encourage class members to read the Book of Mormon regularly and to share impressions from their reading.
Stake President and His Counselors
Members of the stake presidency oversee efforts to strengthen new members in the stake. They instruct and encourage other leaders in these efforts. They meet new members when they visit wards. They may occasionally hold a meeting for new members in connection with a stake conference.
In his regular interview with each bishop, the stake president asks for a report on the progress of new members in the bishop’s ward.
In his regular meeting with the mission president, the stake president may give a report on the progress of new members in the stake.
High councilors who work with ward Melchizedek Priesthood leaders and high councilors who work with ward mission leaders may help teach and fellowship new members. They may also participate in efforts to help prospective elders prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Stake Auxiliary Presidencies
Stake auxiliary presidencies may occasionally work with ward auxiliary leaders in teaching and fellowshipping new members.