I am on the Stake Missionary Committee, and Wednesday night we had a fascinating set of meetings. I couldn’t help but think as the meetings unfolded that everyone here would have been shocked at the conversation flow and the end result of our final committee meeting. I don’t want to go into lots of detail, but I do want to recap two highlights and ask everyone here the same question my Stake President asked us:
What advice would you have me give our Bishops?
As a quick explanation, we have our monthly bishops training meeting next week, and after we finished the standard summary of the current investigators and their individual needs our Stake President turned the discussion to the upcoming meeting with the bishops. We discussed a number of things relative to missionary work, and then, right before he left to do other Stake President stuff, he left the Missionary Committee with a charge. He said:
I want you to give me some concrete suggestions for what to ask of our Bishops to improve missionary work in our stake.
The following is an explanation of the three things we are suggesting to him, with a brief explanation of why we are making those suggestions:
1) Instruct the Bishops to focus our Sacrament Meetings on Christ.
We had mentioned this when the Stake President still was with us, but we were unanimous that the best thing we can do to share the Gospel with others at the ward level is to have deeply spiritual Sacrament Meetings – and we all felt like too many talks were focused on topics that, while important as practical matters, were better suited for Relief Society and Priesthood meeting. We talked of how we too often lose sight of the unique purpose of a meeting that is supposed to focus on WORSHIP – by introducing topics that are not “worshipful”. We mentioned specifically that the following topics are not appropriate for Sacrament Meeting:
a) Food Storage (unanimous groans about that as a topic)
b) “Missionary Work” (one very dedicated, ultra-conservative High Councilor said he “withdraws” emotionally whenever “missionary work” is the topic of a talk – and, remember, this was the Missionary Committee)
c) Tithing (a spiritual law, but not focused on Christ)
d) anything else that is “programmatic” and not focused on becoming Christ-like
We talked of making sure each and every topic includes, at the very least, the qualifier, “and how understanding and living this principle (or developing this characteristic) will help me become more like Christ”. We also talked of working to eliminate travelogues, thank-amonies and quasi-talks from Fast and Testimony Meeting.
2) Instruct the Bishops to personally set an example for the members of love and fellowship of ALL who walk through the doors at church.
Do this in part by ending all administrative meetings no later than 15 minutes before the start of Sacrament Meeting, spending at least 10 minutes mingling with those who are attending Sacrament Meeting each week, seeking out and just being friendly with EVERYONE not known personally, and being seated on the stand at least 5 minutes before the meeting starts – reverently listening to the prelude music and asking the congregation to do the same.
3) Ask the Bishops to instruct their Ward Councils and Activities Committees to coordinate regular activities around service opportunities in their communities.
Don’t add “extra” activities, but replace most of the activities they generally do currently. Rather than have a ward dinner and talent show held in the cultural hall, for example, provide a dinner and talent show at a retirement community, nursing home or homeless shelter. Don’t create more activities; rather, be less exclusive and insular – focusing the activities on helping and serving others.
Most of our conversation focused on helping members let go of referring to “doing missionary work” and begin to see it instead as “sharing the Gospel”.
So, for this post, I ask the same question:
With regard to “missionary work”, what advice would you give our Bishops?