President's Pen 1-11-16 (Lesson Plans)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ,  by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! We begin with the “End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

We're off to a great start this New Year and I am grateful to each of you for your hard work and devotion.  I am seeing a real difference in how many of you are thinking about your purpose and our message of inviting others come unto Christ through faith in the Savior and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring until the end.  The evidence of this is in the way I see you find, teach, and invite, retain and activate.  I also see it in the way many of you have begun to plan and really think through how you can help your investigators progress.  For many of you it's not so much about the schedule and activities, but how you fill your day with purpose, to the end that your investigators understand that they need to receive a remission of sins through baptism.  The Vision to Baptize is a desire to help people return to live with God, fully access the Savior's Atonement, feel clean, and have the power and Spirit of God in their lives.  Keep up the great work!

In my email last week I emphasized how important our nightly planning is.  Nightly planning, when done with investigators in mind, is the foundation for your successful labors the next day.  In steps 5 & 6 of your planning, it asks you to consider what goals you will set and what plans will you make to teach lessons to progressing and other investigators.  This is a great question, and one that when pondered with the desire to help investigators progress, can make all the difference in how you will lesson plan and how you will teach your lessons the next day.  

WE TEACH PEOPLE NOT LESSONS – HOW WILL YOU KNOW IF THAT'S WHAT YOU DO?  EVERY LESSON SHOULD BE PLANNED AND PREPARED WITH PEOPLE IN MIND.  IF YOU DO THIS, YOU WILL NEVER TEACH THE SAME LESSON TWICE YOUR ENTIRE MISSION.  YOU WILL TEACH TO PEOPLE'S NEEDS AND NOT JUST TEACH ANOTHER LESSON 1, 2, 3, 4, OR 5!  
YOUR TEACHING IS FOCUSED ON THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST AND YOUR PURPOSE, IT IS THE ONLY REASON YOU TEACH!

Here's how I'd like you to think about it… Let's say that you have Jose and Maria, two of your processing investigators that you intend to teach tomorrow.  When you come to question 5, you and your companion should ask, what lesson do they need that will help them progress towards faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring until the end?  Of course you'll have your teaching record next to you so you'll know what lessons need to be taught, but you'll also want to consider whether or not they are keeping commitments or if there is a doctrine they just don't quite understand.  You and your companion will then decide what lesson needs to be taught and then you'll plan to study that topic the next morning as part of your individual and companionship study.  

So let's go back to Jose & Maria…  As a companionship you might quickly discuss, they're praying, reading, but coming to church is still something they haven't done.  In our study tomorrow, let's study about the Sabbath day, making and keeping commitments, and the blessings of the Sabbath and see what inspiration we receive.  You may also be visiting a part-member, less active, or even a member family so take a minute to decide what you'll teach them as well so you can be mindful of their needs when you study.

So… You excitedly jump out of bed at 6:30 the next morning, get a good workout in, and prepare for the day.  At 8am you've prayed to receive the spirit of prophecy and revelation for yourself and the people you will teach that day so your studies are purposeful and meaningful.  You'll find yourself in the Book of Mormon and though you might be reading chronologically or topically, Jose and Maria (and others) will be in your mind so you might write down a few scriptures that spoke to you that you could use that day.  You then head to PMG and study the commandments and revisit why we have the Sabbath day and the blessings that come from it.  You may also spend some time in Chapter 10 on teaching skills, because you really want to become a great teacher; this morning you may have taken some time to study how to ask inspired questions.  You may even take a moment to watch a District video as you want to see how other missionaries have taught a lesson like this. You finish your study with some time in True to the Faith (or the Ensign, or the BOM, or the Bible) and continue to think about how to help Jose & Maria progress.  IS THIS WHAT YOUR INDIVIDUAL STUDY TIME LOOKS LIKE?  DO YOU HAVE THE SELF MOTIVATION AND DESIRE TO LEARN THE DOCTRINE AS WELL AS HELP THE PEOPLE YOU TEACH PROGRESS? IF NOT, WILL YOU STRIVE TO MAKE THE NECESSARY CHANGES?

You now get to the all important companionship study time at 9am.  Here's what I'd like to see if I came and studied with you…  After the prayer, you read three pages in the Mission Handbook.  At the end of the three pages, ask this question, "Is there anything in the MHB that we are doing that we shouldn’t or that we aren't doing that we should?"  If you need to change something, discuss it, and commit to be obedient to what inspired prophets and apostles have asked us to do; it is the only intelligent choice.  

What I'd then like to see is a very brief discussion on what you learned in your personal study that morning.  What I have observed is… companionships will start to share what they learned and while one is sharing, the other companion checks out, thinks about the amazing doctrinal sermon they will give, and a lot of time goes by. :)  It's ok to share, but be brief and direct it towards the lessons you'll teach that day and how your studies can support the lesson that you'll teach.  I know some of you have found Kolob, but astonish each other with the Doctrine of Christ, it is the mystery of the kingdom you need to focus on. ;)

After you've both briefly shared what you learned, begin the inspiring part of companionship study in the form of a lesson plan.  Let's get back to Jose and Maria…  Elder/Sister, in our nightly planning last night we talked about how we could help Jose & Maria understand the need of church attendance, let's talk about how we'll teach the lesson today.  Why aren't they coming, what are the obstacles, what are their needs and what can we help them understand?  Let's start with the idea of beginning to teach…  Elder/Sister X, why don't you start the begin to teach, what comes to your mind?  Then Elder/Sister X says, something like, "Jose & Maria, what we will teach you today will help you understand why coming to church is so important.  Church attendance shows your Heavenly Father that you have faith in Him and His Son…" You get the idea from here.  Notice, that Elder X is role playing at this point!!!  Elder/Sister X might make some changes, but he's thinking about how the start of the lesson will not only help them know what they are there to accomplish, but also what commitments they'll extend by the time the lesson is over.  Elder/Sister Y then says, "What inspired question should we ask?".  The companionship then discusses and writes down a few questions they might use.  They then make the assignment on who will teach the next part of the lesson, what scriptures they'll use, how they'll use the pamphlet, what and how they will conclude the lesson.  They may go to the District videos because they care about becoming great teachers.  They've already thought about a member that might attend as that was discussed in their planning the night before.  They've also discussed a church tour, who will be there with them, and how they'll follow up after the lesson. When they've completed their companionship study, they may have 3-5 lesson plans for the day, specifically planned for the people they'll teach.  They also know they can extend lesson planning throughout the day.  They may spend 5-10 minutes before the next visit so they're both on the same page and ready to invite the Spirit to teach.  At the end of each lesson they teach that day they'll then ask the following question, "WHAT EVIDENCE IS THERE THAT WHAT WE TAUGHT TODAY HELPED THEM PROGRESS?" Answers might be, they'll keep commitments, they are showing more desire, they are showing signs of repentance.  

The lesson planning may take 5-10 minutes for some investigators and could be 20-30 for others, but Elder/Sister X & Y know it is time well spent because all they care about is seeing two people they love, Jose & Maria, progress towards living with God again.  Does this take time, absolutely, is it the right thing to do, DUH!  Companionship study is well described on page ix in PMG.  It is a time to build companionship unity so you can teach by the Spirit, share insights, prepare for lessons that day, and to improve teaching skills.  I dare you to go and read it. :) IS THIS WHAT YOUR COMPANIONSHIP STUDY TIME LOOKS LIKE?  DO YOU HAVE THE DESIRE AS A COMPANIONSHIP TO LEARN THE DOCTRINE AS WELL AS HELP THE PEOPLE YOU TEACH PROGRESS? IF NOT, WILL YOU STRIVE TO MAKE THE NECESSARY CHANGES?

If you understand our purpose as missionaries you will recognize two important words...  We INVITE and we HELP.  These are great verbs and they are all about action! You need to consider yourself as their guide, as their coach, as their friend, and ultimately as their brother or sister whom you desire to receive all saving ordinances.  When you think this way you plan for them, study and lesson plan for them, pray for them, fast for them, help members surround them, and feel devastated when they don't follow through, because you fear and tremble for the welfare of their souls.  

Elders & Sisters, to apply the scriptures to ourselves, I will use Mosiah 18:10,  "Now I say unto you (dear Elders & Sisters), if this be the desire of your hearts (to have souls come unto Christ), what have you against "Companionship Study & Lesson planning"… that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?"  When your companionship studies like this, I testify that more souls will come unto Christ.  You will become great teachers who teach with power and authority.  You will see your investigators progress, because you will teach to their needs and not simply teach lessons.  Will this take time? Yes. Will this require change in your thinking? For some of you, yes.  Can you do this, an unequivocal YES!  You have been set apart as a teacher, the Savior's grace is sufficient for you, He will help you.  Will you do this?

Now the question might come, "but President Hall, we don't have people to teach right now or we have too many people to teach, how do we do this?"  If you don't have people to teach, you might study finding, working with members, faith to find, etc. You'll then discuss this as a companionship and practice your finding approach and make plans to find.   If you have too many, well, that's awesome! Prioritize based on who is progressing and then work with the mission leader to organize splits so you can keep people progressing.  You are AGENTS, you will figure it out and the Lord will help you!    

Elders & Sisters, please understand the work you are called to do is not a trivial matter; inviting others to come unto Christ and helping them do so is the only way they can be saved!  This is hard work, it is not a walk in the park, it does require some suffering, but the payoff far outweighs our sacrifice.  Put offthe natural man/woman (generally speaking it's laziness, lack of charity, or desire), trust that this is the Lord's work, and simply do the best you can.  I am here to help.  I extend the personal invitation to any of you that would like to come study with me if you need help. The tools and resources, and most importantly, the Lord is in this work with you.  We love you and I see greatness and goodness in all of you.  Let's do what the Lord asks and invite all to come unto Him!

Mission Update

This week we had 10 souls come unto Christ to receive a remission of sins through baptism.  We are well on our mission goal of baptizing a ward of 500 this year! In this transfer set a goal and make a plan to have a baptism.  3-2-1 Vision to Baptize will help you make it happen.  Find three investigators each week, this will lead to 20 inspired people lessons each week, and that will lead to 1 or more baptisms this transfer.  Our mission history over 20 years shows that missionaries who do this help people repent and receive a remission of sins through baptism.  Have the faith to find, have the faith to be guided by the Spirit, and have the faith to know this is the Lord's work!  We love you!

Saludos y abrazos, have a great week!

President Hall