Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What makes a ward good?

I've done a lot of thinking lately about what separates a good ward from a not-so-good ward.
I realize that the person asking the question has a lot to do with it.
But I'm also convinced that some wards are just better than others.
In about a week we'll move to Cincinnati, and I'll have attended three wards in just 15 months. I'm looking forward to the new ward, and have high hopes, but I have two questions.
What can I do to have a positive experience in a ward?
And what makes a ward good (outside of what I can do)?


Woodine said...

Jump in with both feet (quickly) and take the initiative to invite people over for dinner/dessert/games.

We had so much fun in NY (especially with no baby) helping with the youth temple trip, families with kids, volunteering to assist the activities committee...

And, while it's nice to be invited over when you're the "new people" it's amazing how many people (even if they are "old people") are excited to get an invitation to come over. That's one thing I'm learning. If I'm wishing someone would reach out to me, usually a lot of other people feel the same way. That's what we've had to do here, and we've had a lot of positive responses and some reciprocal invitations.

I think a "good ward" is largely (as you mentioned) our own mentality, how much we choose to be involved, and how much we love the members. Honestly I think it boils down to doctrine (that's important) and love. When you know someone and you love them, it makes you so much more connected to them and happy for them and any progress that they make, even if they are far from where the "norm" is. I think that's why we loved NY so much. We really threw ourselves into it and loved - and we were also shown a lot of love by the members.

JorgenMan said...

I completely agree with woodine. My number one suggestion is to make sure to get to know a lot of people in your ward right away, even though you don't know how long you'll be there.

Tim said...

Thanks for the comments so far.
My cousin and her husband are there (they just moved into the ward), and we've already met the bishop, so we've got a good start.
I guess a lot of our problems in our current ward stem from the fact that there aren't a lot of people we'd feel comfortable inviting over (not many young couples without children).
In my last singles ward, I made a huge effort at being social, and it was my favorite ward.
However, while in the Stanford singles ward a few years ago, I had a very difficult time being outgoing, and yet it still ranks up there as one of my favorite wards--so I know there's a lot more to it than how outgoing I am.

Wood said...

I know how you feel about there not being a lot of families with out kids and such, because Woodine and I felt that same way before we had MaryP. I have found that it is not all that difficult to have kids over as well, and that way you are opened up to a much larger cross-section of the ward. I got a kids' board game (Balloon Lagoon - I highly recommend it) for Christmas two years ago that we almost always whip out for the kids of the families we invite over. It's a great way for the kids to be entertained while you can visit with the parents. But I think the big trick is to just DO STUFF. Volunteer, serve, give of yourself and you'll get so much more back. Good luck in Cincinnati!

Cougarg said...

Here's my experience since moving back home. I'd had a rough few months working in Denver and NY, with little church activity. Coming home, I didn't feel like 'jumping in with both feet'. I dragged my feet, and I felt somewhat adrift. But, I slowly got to know the counselors in the bishopric, and before long I had a calling on the activities committee. Not what I would call ideal for myself, but then again, maybe it was. We had a big ward activity that I felt a lot of responsibility for, got to see people outside of church, including the bishop. I really started warming up to the ward and people in it when, BAM! The ward was split, and we got a whole new bishopric. Because it was a brand new ward, the bishop wanted to get to know as many people as possible right away. I got put into the EQ presidency, and I feel a lot more connected than I did to the old ward, and it is practically all the same people.

So, like you and everyone else has said, it does take an effort on our part to make it a positive experience. But I think you need to do so strategically. Let the leadership of the ward know who you are, not just the bishopric, but the EQ as well. Let them know you are not just a couple of new faces in sacrament meeting, but are willing to be put to work.

Of course, it is all easier to do if you connect with people in the ward right off the bat. One of the people I home teach is not someone I naturally gravitate to, and our first visit didn't go real smoothly. Now I've got to work harder than usual. So, the ward's general level of communication plays a part as well. I would say that might explain your ward in the Bay Area. It sounded like you knew what what was going on, even if you couldn't always go, and so you felt included.

Sometimes, we are blessed with an ideal situation, but more often than not, we have to do our part to make it ideal.

alison said...

I always have a hard time the first few months in a new ward because I don't feel particularly outgoing and I hate not remembering names of people I've met. But, it's so much fun when we invite people over--with or without kids. We would always invite those childless folks over for dinner right before bedtime, eat with our kids, take two minutes to get them good and asleep, and then play games like Settlers. It's fun when we remember to get to know people who aren't like us in every way--kids/no kids, old/young, educated/less educated, democrat/republican, whatever. But getting to know people well, right away, is key to feeling known and involved. Good question, and good answers.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I think being around people who are in a similar life-circumstance as you makes it easier to enjoy and make friends. That's the first thought I have outside what you can do.

I think for me it's also good to have a ward culture where my church activity won't be evaluated by my attendance to optional events. So I was visiting friends instead of going to break-the-fast, or decided to study instead of going to the ward Valentines dance. It's nice to know that you were missed, but it's not so nice to have people automatically act as if you've done something wrong by not being there. The wards I've enjoyed most have welcomed everybody to everything (organized church activity or not), been happy when you showed up, and never put you down when you had to be somewhere else. For me that actually made me try to come to as many activities as I could.

Tim said...

Activities--what are those?
Oh. Yeah. I remember those.
I guess we had a Christmas party (the ward hired a professional Santa). And there was a Primary activity I helped out with not too long ago (April was working nights and didn't feel like volunteering at what felt like, to her, 2:00 a.m.)
I'm not saying I want as many activities as the typical single ward has, but I think activities do make a difference, and a ward that doesn't have any (or hardly any) has some issues.
I think there are activities, but they are all neighborhood activities, and those of us who don't live in the neighborhood aren't invited (although we sometimes hear about them at church).

Woodine said...
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caron said...

I'm not sure if you are even reading these anymore, but I think that everyone has hit it on the head. The more you put yourselves out there, the faster you will make friends, or friendly acquaintences, which will make it a better ward experience. I find that the closer I feel to a ward, the better the lessons are on Sunday's too. If people feel safe, they will share more insightful things. Some things that would not be within your power is how close others feel to the ward. You can't be the ward glue, but you can sure die trying.