Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Case Study #1

Bishop Kevin Hawkes of the Camden Ward, Topsham, Maine Stake, smiled at the members of his ward council as they began one of their twice-monthly meetings in May, 2004. The focus of this meeting, held on the second Sunday of each month, was missionary work. “I have good news and bad news,” he began. “The good news is that we know how to do this. We know how to light the fire under our members and inspire them to find people for the missionaries. We know how to fellowship people as they go through the investigation process. We know how to keep most of them active in the church. We’ve done what we know to do over the past two years, and we’ve succeeded. It’s just been wonderful. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we don’t know how to sustain it.”

Bishop Hawkes pointed to a chart he had taped to his office wall – a format the council had used for two years to hold themselves accountable as leaders of the ward’s missionary effort (See Figure 1). “We set a goal to refer 80 people to the missionaries this year, compared to the 65 people we found last year. So far, referrals are way off compared to last year, let alone the pace we need to be on to meet this year’s goal. Last year we baptized 22 people. That’s the good news. The bad news is that so far this year only four have been baptized.”

“We’ve been doing a lot of things right,” Bishop Hawkes continued. But there must be something that we’re not doing. I want to spend this meeting figuring out how we can keep the pace of member missionary work up. In other words, how do we keep wind in the sails of the Camden Ward – to keep us growing?”

How the Growth Got Started

Bishop Hawkes’ concern about keeping wind in the ward’s missionary sails was an apt metaphor for a ward on Maine’s rocky coast – where most people would choose a day’s sailing in beautiful Penobscot Bay over almost any other alternative. The Camden Ward’s members were mostly home-grown converts – 50 of its 65 active adults had been born and raised in the area. Sacrament meeting attendance had languished around 100 for years, but since 2001, thanks to its stream of new converts and several reactivations, attendance had grown to 140, and it was now considered to be one of the stronger units in the stake.

Seeds of the Camden Ward’s growth were sown in November, 2001 when the presidency of the Topsham Maine Stake convened a priesthood leadership meeting whose theme was, “Just do it.” In his remarks, stake president Reed Black had said, “Brethren, there was a time when missionary work was languishing in this stake, and we could excuse ourselves by saying that we were doing our best – we just didn’t know what more we could do to quicken the pace. Today that isn’t the case. We know what to do. Our leaders have taught us not just what to do, but how to do it. Some of our units aren’t doing any of the things they’ve taught us. Others have chosen one or two of their teachings, like à la carte items on a menu. Not one of our wards or branches has done even close to everything we’ve been told to do. Some people say that change is a difficult, time-consuming process. That’s not true. Change is instantaneous. It is not changing that takes so much time. Brethren, we’ve spent far too much time not changing!”

President Black then handed out a sheet of paper listing eight things that he personally had taught, or that general & area authorities had taught while visiting the stake or in satellite broadcasts over the prior several years, about how to lead the missionary effort. These were:

1. There are no administrative solutions to the slow pace of member missionary work. It is a leadership problem. If stake and ward leaders cannot speak in first-person pronouns and present-tense verbs about member missionary work, they cannot lead this work effectively. God will bless busy leaders with missionary miracles if they will in faith commit to Him to lead by example. Members will be inspired to follow their leaders’ examples if they will testify about these experiences.

2. Because missionary work is the ward’s responsibility, the ward council must bear primary responsibility for leading the work. Each ward council needs to develop and implement a ward mission plan – a plan to inspire their ward members to find people for the missionaries to teach, to fellowship those who are being taught, and to strengthen those who are baptized.

3. Most members are fearful and frustrated about missionary work because they have come to be guided by false beliefs about how to do the work. Members can share the gospel much more successfully when they are taught and follow correct principles.

4. The most important key indicator of member missionary success is referrals. What President Monson has said applies to this case: “When we deal in generalities we shall never succeed. When we deal in specifics, we shall rarely have failure. When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of performance accelerates.” (Favorite Quotations from the Collection of TS Monson, pg 61. Deseret Book, 1985.)

5. Every day, in every prayer, we must ask God to put into our path people who will accept our invitation to learn about the gospel.

6. When converts are baptized into a situation where there is another active member in the home – a sibling, parent, child or roommate – the probability of their staying active is much higher than for those who are the only members in their home.

7. The ideal calling for a new member is one that provides friends, meaningful responsibility, and nourishment in the good word of God. In the weeks before baptism, ward mission leaders should custom-design and recommend to the bishop a calling that provides these things for each convert. Bishops should then prayerfully seek the Lord’s guidance. If they are inspired to do so, they should extend this calling at the time of baptism, so that each convert immediately begins experiencing these three things.

8. New members should visit the temple within 2-3 months of baptism to be baptized for deceased relatives.

Why Aren’t We Doing It?

President Black then led a discussion to explore why the ward leaders weren’t doing these things. His counselor, Lew Fletcher, later reflected that their explanations for inaction seemed to fall into three categories. The first was typified by one branch president’s comment. “The reason I haven’t done these things, quite frankly, is that they were taught to me one at a time. I’ve never seen the whole set. Because they were taught one by one, I guess I thought we could do them one by one, or pick and choose.”

The second set of reasons – by far the most prevalent – was that there is just too much to do. The wards’ agendas are so broad – entailing not just preaching the gospel, but perfecting the saints and redeeming the dead – that bishops had no alternative but to pick and choose which important things they would focus upon, and which important things they would put on the back burner. One bishop summarized the way his ward had dealt with this challenge: “If you talk about everything in every meeting nobody will learn anything. You just have to focus – and you have to stay with that focus for some time in order to get results. So we focus on missionary work for one year, then perfecting the saints – things like home teaching – in the next year, and then family history and temple work in the third. Then we’re back to missionary work again.”

The third group of reasons related to sticking with it. Several leaders described how they had tried certain things like a member missionary class, but said the energy behind them seemed to fizzle quickly. “Sometimes,” a ward mission leader said, “It’s hard to sustain these programs because we do it, we don’t get immediate results, and then say, ‘It doesn’t work.’ Other times we have good momentum, but the people who are responsible move or get a different calling – and the new people just aren’t as committed.”

After orchestrating this discussion, President Black concluded the meeting: “Brethren, it sounds like you have a deep understanding of why it can’t be done. Can I just stand here, apparently alone, and tell you why it can be done? The first reason is that I, personally, can become a great member missionary. You can too. We’re busy men, but do you believe what I Nephi 3:7 says? God will provide a way. From now on,” President Black continued, “Because we’re the men that God has called to be His missionary leaders and because I know we can succeed as missionaries, I’m going to start my interviews with you by saying, ‘Tell me your story.’ By that I mean, ‘Tell me an inspiring missionary experience you had this past month.’ When you’ve told me your story, I want you to say, ‘OK, President. Now tell me your story,” and I’ll do the same. If one of us doesn’t have a story, then I’m going to say, ‘Then we don’t have anything to talk about, do we?’ and we’ll end the interview. This will give us time to go out and get a story. God has called us to be leaders. We can lead.

“Now, here’s the second reason why it can be done. President Hinckley said that ‘If we inspire the members of the church to bring people into their homes for the missionaries to teach, the spirit will come into their homes. Many of the other problems in their lives, and in our wards and branches, will resolve themselves if we will do this.’ In other words, it’s not an either-or. If we do better in proclaiming the gospel, it will help us in perfecting the saints and redeeming the dead.”

President Black concluded his remarks. “Brethren, I have watched us try this balancing act for a long time – trying to focus a little of our energy on each thing that is important. What’s the result? Sacrament meeting attendance in this stake has been growing about 2% per year. We were complaining about inadequate priesthood strength ten years ago, and we’re complaining about it today.” Looking at Bishop Hawkes, he illustrated his point by saying, “The Camden Ward is a great example, Great Bishop, a good core of leaders and members working hard, and yet you’ve barely grown over the last decade. The Book of Mormon changes hearts not because it says lots of different things, but because it has a single, focused message: It brings people to Christ. We can be much more successful if we have the same focus – bringing more and more people to Christ. As your stake president I ask you to do these eight things on the sheet that I’ve given you. This is not a menu from which to select an item or two. It is a complete set of instructions.” President Black then bore his testimony and closed the meeting.

The Camden Ward’s Response

The next day in Ward Council, Bishop Hawkes passed out copies of the eight points, reviewing what President Black had said. “I want to do what President Black has asked. I trust him. I deal with youth problems, marital problems, welfare problems, and that’s only the beginning. I’ve got to continue spending my counseling time with members as I always have. I just don’t see a way of cutting back. But I’ve thought about how to focus in the face of all these demands. The focus can come from having ward council meetings that are focused and effective. So rather than dealing with a hodge-podge of different issues in this meeting, I want to focus one of our two ward council meetings each month on our missionary effort. It is through this meeting that we are going to do each of these eight things.

“The second point on President Black’s list is that the ward council must take responsibility for leading the missionary effort,” Bishop Hawkes continued. “I’ll run this meeting, but I need you need to bear primary responsibility for defining our plan, implementing it, and holding ourselves accountable. Rich Adams (ward mission leader) will serve this council as our “executive secretary for missionary affairs.” He’ll collect data on member referrals, set the agendas for these meetings, and follow through with each of us between meetings to be sure we each carry out our part of the ward plan.”

Bishop Hawkes then passed out a document titled, The Mission of the Wilmington Ward.[1] “The mission president gave us this in a meeting a year ago. It’s a case study about a ward that did what we need to do – develop and implement a ward missionary plan. I just had put it aside because there was so much else to do. But I finally read it last night. It provides a good template, or a process to follow, that will help us come up with a plan that is right for us. I’d like each of you to read it. In two weeks at our next ward council meeting, I want to ask Brother Ernie Skinner, our high councilman, to lead us through the process of creating our plan. Then every month in this meeting we’ll return and report on our progress on each element of the plan, and discuss what we need to do next to keep doing better.

“President Black said this will be possible because it is possible for each of us, as individuals, to be missionaries. I ask each of you to join me in this commitment – and when I or my counselors have our monthly interviews with you, we’re going to start like President Black: ‘Tell me your story.’ That means each of us needs a story each month. During fast meeting, we need take responsibility to bear our testimony about the spirit that has come into our homes as we’ve begun sharing the gospel. Point #1 on this sheet is true. We really need to lead.”

Bishop Hawkes then invited, “I’d like each of you to think back to a time when you had a great experience and felt the spirit as you shared the gospel with someone. If you feel inclined, tell us about it, and bear your testimony to us.” He then recounted such an experience in his life. Six other council members then bore testimony. As they did so a spirit pervaded the room, and one by one the ward council members seemed to resolve within themselves that they could succeed as leaders of the ward’s missionary efforts.

The Camden Ward’s Missionary Plan

The ward council reconvened two weeks later and under Ernie Skinner’s guidance formulated a preliminary plan. They followed the Wilmington Ward’s method of first discussing the reasons why most members weren’t sharing the gospel actively. They then proposed activities, initiatives and goals that would address those reasons. The group set a goal that through this plan, they would inspire themselves and members of the ward to find 36 people for the missionaries to teach in 2002. The elements of the plan are summarized in the following table.

Ward Council: In each fast & testimony meeting, at least two ward council members or ward missionaries will bear testimony about an inspiring member missionary experience. This is how we will lead by example and let our light shine.

Ward Council: Each Sunday we’ll huddle after meetings to review the people (investigators, new members and partially active members) who should have been at church that day, but weren’t. We and their home/visiting teachers will contact them that day with a message of how much we missed and needed them.

Ward Council: We’ll ask each person who prays in our meetings to ask God to put people in our paths whom we can invite to learn about the gospel. Every prayer in every meeting.

Ward Mission: We will teach the principles of member missionary work to all adults and teen-agers in the ward through a three-week member missionary class, ten people at a time.

5) Ward Mission:
We’ll visit new members at least once each week for two months to teach the new member lessons.

Relief Society: We’ll visit new members at least once each week for two months to teach the new member lessons.

Relief Society: Every month we’ll invite at least one non-member friend to teach an Enrichment Meeting class. We’ll invite non-member neighbors to assist us when we provide compassionate service.

Primary: We’ll ask the families of children being baptized to invite non-member friends and their parents to the baptismal service.

YM & YW: Once each month the YM & YW leaders will ask one of their non-member adult friends to help lead an activity. We’ll keep activities planned a month in advance, and will consistently remind youth to invite their friends.

High Priests: Our family history specialist will meet with each new member within a week of baptism to begin preparing family names for temple work. We’ll get each to the temple to be baptized for these ancestors within two months of baptism.

Elders' Quorum: We’ll hold a monthly fireside of high and consistent quality on balancing work and family responsibilities. We’ll ask our members to invite different neighbors and work associates to attend this fireside at least four times every year.

Following Through

Once the mission plan was in place, the ward council dedicated its second-Sunday meeting to leading the ward’s missionary progress. Rich Adams prepared the agenda. During the month Rich kept in touch with each auxiliary and priesthood leader to verify that they were following through on their responsibilities in the plan “so that we didn’t have to waste time in the meeting just getting reports.” Rich began each meeting by highlighting two or three success stories that members or leaders had, as they implemented their portions of the plan. “Nothing succeeds like success,” he later reflected. “When someone has a great missionary experience and then testifies about it, it inspires and gives courage to others.” Rich updated the chart shown in Figure 1 and taped it on the wall for each meeting. It showed not just the number of referrals given to the missionaries, but the families that had given the referrals. “That format really helped us hold ourselves accountable. We could compare our goal versus what we had done, discuss why we were falling short, and come up with plans to close the gap. Having a ward mission plan was important, of course. But returning and reporting to ourselves every month on the key indicator of referrals was just invaluable.

The result of these monthly discussions was that the plan kept evolving as council members decided that some parts of the plan needed greater emphasis, stopped pieces that weren’t helping, and developed new ideas for how to inspire ward members to share the gospel. Always, Rich Adams kept an up-to-date written version of the ward mission plan, which he periodically re-distributed to council members.

Strengthening New Members

During the March, 2002 meeting, Bishop Hawkes pulled out his copy of President Black’s eight-point sheet, and asked high councilor Skinner about point #7. “I must have been asleep in the meeting where they told us the ward mission leader should custom-design callings for new members. I always thought that callings in the ward were the bishopric’s responsibility. Can you explain this to us?”

“It’s true that the bishop is responsible for callings, but there’s more to it,” Brother Skinner said. “Members of the ward council actually initiate most callings in a ward. They have a need or a vacancy, consider who could do the best job, pray about it, and then recommend to the bishop that a particular person be called. After considering other ward needs and the individual’s situation, you and the bishop work it out through a process of negotiation, desperation and inspiration. In contrast, when someone joins the church in most wards, the missionaries and ward mission leader just dump him on the bishop’s doorstep and say, in essence, ‘Give this convert a calling,’ and walk away. The problem is that bishops are busy, and it often takes them several weeks to decide upon and issue the calling. In our mission, on average, only 40% of new converts are in church on the fourth Sunday after baptism. The 60% aren’t all inactive yet, but by the time the bishop is ready to extend the call, they have begun attending only sporadically. When this happens they often don’t get a calling at all because we can’t rely on them. Historically in our stake more than half of new converts never have been given a calling – and it’s usually for this reason.

Brother Skinner continued, “Most bishoprics keep a list of callings in the ward, and which of those positions are not filled. They often give one of these unfilled callings to a new convert – and often these callings aren’t filled for a reason: they aren’t very important. Most of these are not good assignments for new members. An ideal calling for a new member has five characteristics:

1. It helps the new member feel needed and important in the ward.

2. It is straightforward and well structured – not amorphous.

3. It requires the new member to attend church on Sunday

4. It entails working alongside other members

5. Service in the calling requires the new member to read the scriptures and learn the gospel.

“For example, a calling as a member of the activities committee conforms only to characteristic #4. But a calling as assistant gospel essentials class teacher meets all five criteria – it is a perfect assignment for a new member. Very few callings on the traditional list have all of these characteristics. Rather than trying to fit new members into traditional callings, busy bishops should delegate to ward mission leaders the responsibility to tailor a responsibility that is suited to each investigator as he or she approaches baptism, and to recommend it to the bishop. This requires that the ward mission leader add or subtract elements of the job, sometimes in creative ways, to make it match as closely as possible these five characteristics.”

“I think we’ve got the basic idea. You’re saying that we shouldn’t let the responsibility be independent of friends and of nourishment in the good word of God. We can build all three into the responsibility, right?” Bishop Hawkes queried. When Brother Skinner nodded, Bishop Hawkes said, “Let’s start doing it right now, Rich. This needs to be part of our ward mission plan.”

From that point onward, the process worked well, most of the time. Rich Adams formulated a calling for each potential member aged 12 and older, and after prayerfully consulting the Lord Bishop Hawkes extended the calling at the time he interviewed them for baptism. Those few new members listed in the Appendix who are shown not having a calling all had declined the assignment when Bishop Hawkes extended it. Though he couldn’t make every assignment conform perfectly to these criteria, Rich Adams was creative as he shaped these assignments. Debbie Glass, for example, was called as Relief Society chorister. This had characteristics 1, 2 and 3 built into it. To add characteristic 4 (work alongside other members) they modified the calling, asking Debbie to phone a different sister every week to ask what her favorite hymn was. The Relief Society would then sing that hymn the next Sunday, and Debbie got to know another person every week. To add characteristic 5 to her job, Debbie was asked to study the scriptural reference given at the bottom of the page for the selected hymn, and to explain its meaning to the sisters before they sang it.

Other Members in the Convert’s Living Situation

In its April, 2002 meeting, the Camden Ward Council tackled the last of the items on President Black’s list. Bishop Hawkes explained it. “President Hinckley spoke about this in a missionary training broadcast, saying that when converts are the only person in their living environment who are members, it is hard to stay active. Nobody is there encouraging them to keep the word of wisdom, go to church, pray or study the scriptures. In fact, they often urge them not to do these things. Many converts just don’t have the strength to stay with our lifestyle if there is no support from those living with them. He asked us to do all we can to have another faithful member in the convert’s home who is also committed to living the gospel. He promised that most converts who were so blessed would remain active. This means that whenever we see that the missionaries have begun teaching someone who, if baptized, would be the only member in his living environment, we need to do everything we can to baptize or activate someone else in that investigator’s family or apartment. Any ideas for how we can do this?”

After a few brief comments, Jennifer Donaldson, Relief Society President, looked at the full-time missionaries (who usually attended the missionary ward council), and said, “You Elders could really help us with this. In meetings like this when we ask missionaries to tell us about their investigators, they often don’t even know the investigator’s last name – let alone any other information about them. There’s no way we can help if you can only tell us their first name. You need to ask them about their family, their friends, their roommates, their job. If you can give us detail about the other people in their living environment, then the ward council can brainstorm about what we can do to interest some of them in the church as well.”

Elder Cox, the senior companion, responded, “You’re right, and we’ll do it. And what I hear you saying is that you’ll then help us figure out a way to teach their family, friends and roommates. Right?”

“Rich, let’s write these commitments into our ward mission plan,” Bishop Hawkes instructed.

The Appendix shows that of the 34 people baptized in the Camden Ward subsequent to this discussion, 22 of them were baptized into living situations where there was another active member. Twenty-one of these 22 (95%) had remained active (defined as attending three out of four sacrament meetings per month) or became strongly active (defined as attending all meetings consistently, being temple-worthy, and magnifying his or her calling). Of the 12 converts who were the only members in their living environment, in contrast, only 4 (33%) had remained active.

The Results

In 2002, members of the Camden Ward brought 39 people into their homes for the missionaries to teach – three more than the ward council’s goal. In 2003, members found 65 people to be taught in their homes. The number of converts baptized into the ward grew from six in 2001 to 12 in 2002 and 22 in 2003. Of the 34 people who were baptized in 2002 and 2003, 27 (79%), had been referred by members to the missionaries.

Twenty-five of the 34 people baptized in 2002 and 2003 were still attending church three out of every four weeks. Eleven were temple-worthy. How did they do it? Rich Adams offered his assessment. “We did two things consistently. First, we had callings ready and waiting for these people at the time they were baptized. Some of looked pretty tenuous when we baptized them – the sorts of people who normally would quickly come to feel that they didn’t belong or fit in the church. We’d have lost most of these if we hadn’t given them callings that were tailor-made to them. Another specific thing: of the 29 converts who were 12 or older, 25 went to the temple within two months. Of those 25, 22 of them are now active or strongly active. Of the four we didn’t get to the temple, three are completely inactive.

“Aside from those specifics, however, I can’t really point to a magic bullet. It just involved creating a plan that got us doing all the things on President Black’s list. Looking back on it, there’s no way that the bishop could have orchestrated this effort. Nor could I. When the ward council signed up, then it was all the little things, in all of the organizations in the ward that summed up to a big difference.

Bishop Hawkes added, “I was scared when we took on this commitment to lead the missionary effort, that I’d get stretched past the breaking point. What I learned is that the key was to have focused, productive ward council meetings – and to use those meetings to harness the talents and energies of the whole ward leadership team. They stopped coming to those meetings with the mindset that they represented the Elders Quorum or the Relief Society. They came as leaders of the ward.”

Where Did the Wind Go?

Flash forward to the May, 2004 missionary meeting of the Camden Ward Council mentioned at the beginning of this case. “We had a couple of great years,” Bishop Hawkes said. “But it’s a good thing that we didn’t spike the football and declare victory – because we’ve just not been able to keep the momentum. At the present rate, we’ll have introduced 30 people to the missionaries by the end of the year, and will have baptized 12 people. Both of these are about half of what we did last year. Whatever it was, we’ve just lost the magic recipe. What were we doing that we’ve stopped doing?”

“Bishop, I’ve got to agree with you,” said Elders quorum president Mark Maxfield. We’ve lost the excitement. When we came into ward council meeting a year ago, it seemed like we were all buzzing about missionary experiences. Now we’re not buzzing. Do you remember the first of President Black’s eight points, that there wasn’t an administrative solution, only a leadership solution? I think we have an administrative mindset now in this meeting, mechanically monitoring the plan. It’s different.”

Rich Adams commented, “Bishop, I’ve worried that we’ve felt more successful than we really were. There’s been an 80-20 rule at work in referrals: 80% of the referrals came from 20% of the members. We have never lit a missionary fire in most of the active members – a small minority has carried the ward. I’m afraid that the minority has been tapped out – they’ve referred everyone they know. Even me – I found three people for the missionaries to teach last year, but nobody so far this year. I guess I’ve just been feeling that I did my job, and I’m not feeling much pressure to find three more this year.”

“It might be worse than 80-20, Rich,” offered Relief Society President Christine Dickey. I’d bet that if you taped last year’s chart on the wall, we’d see that 30 of the 65 referrals came from Tina Allard, Jen Brouillette and Patti Moir. They are each converts of the last 2 years, and have had such enthusiasm for the gospel. Maybe now that they’re more mature in the church, they’ve lost their missionary fire. Maybe these ladies have finally become comfortable like the rest of us!”

“These are all good thoughts,” Bishop Hawkes said. “I’d like to give you an assignment. Think this through. Talk to your counselors and your spouses. Rather than wait until June, let’s use ward council meeting in two weeks to figure out how to change course so that the wind is in our sails again.”

Returning and Reporting to President Black

In their June 2004 personal interview, President Black and Bishop Hawkes began by recounting their personal missionary stories. President Black then said, “Bishop, I need your advice. Remember that training meeting in November 2001 when I handed out that list of eight things that we’d been taught to do? Clearly, something clicked for you, and within five months you had incorporated all eight into your ward mission plan. There were ten bishops and branch presidents in the room that day – and only three of you did anything. The Lewiston Ward and the Fox Islands Branch are the others. All three of you have seen a dramatic improvement in member referrals, baptisms and retention. But the other seven units basically have been inert – nothing has changed. Can you advise me on how to light a fire under the rest of the stake?”

“I’ll just think out loud,” Bishop Hawkes replied. “First, as a general rule, I think that people learn when they’re ready to learn, not when we’re ready to teach them. I bet that you motivated the three of us to take action because for some reason, we were ready to learn when you were ready to teach us. I’d bet that the other bishops had just come to that meeting worried about other things. That’s why it blew past them.”

“So what should I have done?” President Black asked. “Have the same meeting six months later for the seven that hadn’t done anything?”

“Maybe,” Bishop Hawkes continued. “You still have the problem that they might not be ready to learn, though. But try this: returning and reporting, like we have done. Some people come to ward council all charged up, while others come with no fire. As those who have found success with their part of the ward mission plan talk about what they did, you sometimes see a light turn on in one of the other faces. For example, in one meeting our Primary president described how she’d had the missionaries deliver invitations to the families of ten of their son’s friends to attend his baptismal service. Most of them came. They heard her son give a great talk about the meaning of baptism, and then saw her husband baptize and confirm him, and give him a beautiful father’s blessing. She then had the missionaries visit each of these families a few days later to thank them for coming, and ask if they had any questions about what they had seen. Several had questions, and two of the families started taking the discussions. She then said that she wanted to incorporate this idea into the ward mission plan, and she volunteered to be responsible for inviting the family of every child being baptized to do this. When she told this story, I saw something click in the head of our Young Men’s president. The next month he said that he wanted to add to the plan that the young men were going to do the same thing when one of them got ordained to an office in the priesthood – do it in a special Sunday evening service at church, invite friends’ families, have the young man talk about what the priesthood is, and then let them watch the father confer this responsibility and give a blessing.”

“Our practice of returning and reporting to ourselves as a group,” Bishop Hawkes reflected, “created a great dynamic in these council meetings. Not every council member came to every meeting ready to learn and act. But always a few did, and over the course of several months most of them got lit with the missionary fire. Maybe, President Black, you need to drink the same Kool-Aid. We as bishops return and report individually to you every month, but we don’t ever return and report to each other, and hold ourselves collectively responsible. Can you imaging how much more difficult it would have been for me to light everyone on fire if we hadn’t returned and reported as a group, but instead just brought up missionary work individually with each council member in our monthly PPI? Maybe once each quarter we could devote one of our bishops’ training meetings to returning and reporting on our missionary progress. If you taped a chart on the wall of the high council room that showed how well each ward was doing compared to their goals and what they did last year, I’d bet the dynamic in bishops’ meeting would change. Not every bishop would come ready to learn and act, but I’d bet that over the course of several months, the fire would light under most of them. There’s something reinforcing about the group dynamic, that you just don’t get in a one-on-one interview. Besides, in PPIs there always are a lot of other things to talk about.”

“Now, you need to help me with a problem,” Bishop Hawkes said. He then summarized the discussion from the Camden Ward’s most recent missionary ward council about why the wind had died in their missionary sails. “President,” he asked, “Why do you think we’ve lost momentum?”

“Let me think out loud, too,” President Black responded. “How many members of your present ward council were part of the group when you formulated your original plan?”

“Actually, just four of us. The others have all been called in the last 18 months.”

“The nice thing about having a plan is that it provides continuity when you change leaders. But the new leaders need to buy into the plan. What have you done to get their buy-in?” President Black asked.

“Frankly, not much,” Bishop Hawkes reflected. “I guess we’ve just given the new leaders their handbook, told them when ward council meets, and expected them to step right in where their predecessors had left off.”

“I wonder if that’s one reason why as a group, your ward council has begun treating your ward mission plan with an administrative mindset rather than a leadership mindset,” President Black suggested. “Maybe you should do the same thing you do when your computer starts getting slower and slower. Just reboot the system. Ask your new ward council to develop a new ward mission plan that addresses the problem that you’re currently facing. If, for example, Rich Adams’ 80-20 observation is valid, it means that your last plan only succeeded in motivating 20% of your members. Maybe you could ask your council to develop a plan to reach the other 80%. It might generate a whole new set of ideas, in addition to keeping parts of the old plan that contribute to the new goal. And it might create a whole new sense of commitment.”

Bishop Hawkes responded, “Thanks, President. I’ll bet that a year from now, we’ll both have some inspiring stories to tell.”

[1] Members of the Massachusetts Boston Mission presidency wrote this case about how a ward council can create a ward mission plan. Copies are available by request to cmc@hbs.edu.

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