From interviews with members of the Kelowna and Vancouver YSA Branches in British Columbia
Guidance to church members regarding their obligation to “hasten the work” has been emphasized by apostles and prophets. “Under the direction of the bishop, ward council members fully engage to help each investigator and new or returning member progress. The ward mission leader directs and coordinates these efforts with the full-time missionaries,” is the direction given from lds.org. Elder M. Russell Ballard emphasized that “Missionary work should not only be on the ward council agendas but also on elders quorum; Relief Society; and other quorum, group, and auxiliary agendas.”
Some members and leaders may wonder how to make it happen. Examples from two congregations offer answers.
Tucked into the Okanagan Mountains midway between Vancouver and Calgary, lies the mid-sized BC community of Kelowna. It is a tourist destination known for its friendly and vibrant spirit.
Those characteristics define the nature of the Kelowna Young Single Adult group of the Church here; nothing stays the same for long, particularly the size of the congregation. Full-time missionary Sister Galbraith has helped tap into the magic that makes Kelowna church growth epitomize the definition of “hastening the work.”
“When we find a new investigator, our members are very good at just enveloping them and loving them. And they keep them coming back,” she says. “As soon as an investigator comes to church the first time, the members just bring them right in.”
Branch presidency counselor Terry Rempel points out that member participation in teaching and converting includes leaders, as well. “We have some dynamite sister missionaries. They have me and my wife and the YSA members teaching eight to ten lessons, with just one set of sisters. They are on the ball!” He points out that, by virtue of who they are, young single adults want to be inclusive. “Last night we had three family home evening groups, with a couple of non-members invited, on a geo caching activity which focused on finding messages that were of a spiritual note. One of the organizers was once not a regular attender, but now she is active in scheduling events like this one.”
In the Vancouver YSA, branch presidency counselor Tremayne Koochin says that the young single adults there are likewise hastening the work by engaging members. “Yes, we have a lot of baptisms,” says Brother Koochin. “As soon as they are baptized, we get them callings and get them a friend.” In fact, integration and conversion to the gospel here are a matter of course for each new convert well before baptism.
It worked for Mark Tang, who was baptized on February 9 this year. “The missionaries contacted me in a mall in Vancouver. When I went to the church here, everyone was about my age and very welcoming. More importantly, the lessons were what made me want to go to church. The social aspects were a bonus. “We have family home evening groups on Monday, Wednesday is missionary preparation, and Thursday is Book of Mormon study,” he explains. “We also have a focus group that watches over about six people who have to work on Sundays. They try to maintain contact, keep them informed about activities and extend invitations,” he says.
Brother Tang recalls that that is what worked for him. “The discussions were the primary help. They go hand-in-hand with the members of the Church. The moment that I went to church at the YSA branch, they all were welcoming and approachable. It made it easier for me to meet people. They invited me to hang out with them and I became friends with other members of the Church.”
Brother Koochin acknowledges that most of the finding comes from the missionaries, but the branch is on the heels of the proselytors. “As soon as they are baptized, we get them callings and get them a friend. We integrate them into our social activities.” The prospective converts know what church membership looks and feels like long before they enter the baptismal font.
“It’s going to keep growing,” predicts Brother Koochin. “A lot of investigators are being taught. We emphasize retention; we keep the Spirit fresh and give them reasons to keep coming to church. We know that we are to hasten the work and that the missionaries will find them. The integration happens in coordination meetings so that everyone has a friend and is comfortable before they are baptized.”
“It really is the hastening of the work because Heavenly Father always has someone else ready,” says Sister Galbraith of Kelowna. “The same thing could happen somewhere else, if the members could catch fire. It could happen anywhere.”