I recently discovered that the number of active elders in my Oakland, Calif., quorum comprises less than ten percent of the entire population of elders and prospective elders living in the ward boundaries. Even accounting for move outs whose records were never updated (and I believe that an effort was made to go through the list two years ago so it’s semi-up-to-date), there are a lot of inactive (actually, I believe “less active” is the preferred term at the moment) men living within our ward boundaries.
This situation is also probably not that unusual for an urban ward. This may be a gross generalization, but I would guess that the Bay Area attracts quite a few young Mormons for whom church activity is not a priority.
Our quorum is hopefully about to begin a more focused reactivation effort, and I would love to draw on the collective experience and wisdom of the Bloggernacle. What are the best practices in reactivation you’ve been part of or observed?
I admit that my track record is pathetic. A few years ago I was assigned a couple that no one had had any contact with. There was no phone number. Judging by their address, I figured them for a young professional couple so I sent a Christmas card with my e-mail address. I forget what I wrote, but I tried to come off all casual and sophisticated.
I never heard from them and never bothered to follow up.
So here’s what I’d like help with specifically:
1. What is the best way to organize such an effort? The standard practice seems to be to divvy up the list among home teaching companions and ask them to check out the situation. Is that the most effective way of doing things?
2. Is there an especially effective way to make first contact? What are some effective, novel or easy ways of presenting oneself? I have a difficult time phoning people I don’t know. Anyone have tips on what to say in those first few sentences of conversation or what to leave on a voice mail?
3. If a family/individual agrees to a visit, what’s should you do at the first visit?
4. What do you do with people who don’t mind occasional contact with the church, but aren’t interested in full activity? Is there good way to keep the relationship steady and alive?
5. How do you finesse a return to Sunday services? I imagine that it can be very difficult for an inactive member to come out to church after so long away. What makes that experience better?
Finally, I’d very much appreciate any of you who have been inactive and returned or who have worked closely with someone who has reactivated to share your personal narratives (if you feel comfortable doing so). I find the details and inspiration that comes from such narratives is often much more motivating and useful than general tips and exhortations.
NOTE: I find the whole language we use to refer to this population and the efforts made to reach out to them incredibly awkward. And yet the euphemistic approach is even worse. Anybody have terminology that they are comfortable with?