Starting Up a New Ward: Traumatic But Exciting

My family is part of the newly created Neenah Ward of the Appleton, Wisconsin Stake. Though small, we have a great group of people, and I’m also excited that we’ll be the gathering place for Spanish speaking people in this part of the Stake. Ten years ago, we were in the newly created Appleton Second Ward. As I learned back then, starting up a new ward has means plenty of challenges, but I’m actually excited to be part of the process again (and I’m especially excited to NOT be the bishop, as I was when the Second Ward was created).

Have many of you been part of newly created ward? And tips for helping it to succeed? FWIW, I’ve been called as the Ward Mission Leader, so I’ll be working a lot with the missionaries and the members on a variety of projects.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

17 thoughts on “Starting Up a New Ward: Traumatic But Exciting

  1. Jeff Lindsay, 21st-century Mormon pioneer. If the Saints had gone north instead of west in 1846, Wisconsin would have been Zion central. Best of luck with the new ward.

  2. I recommend celebrating your calling by eating at the following restaurant:

    Taste of Thai
    321 East College Avenue
    Appleton, WI 54911

    But first, call 1-800-537-5971, or go to and order # 33572425, a Thai Book of Mormon.

    Actually, order a few, in case people from more than one household or family work at the restaurant.

    Oh, and I’ve found that people from Indonesia and China sometimes work at Thai restaurants, so take those books too. 🙂

  3. My favorite way to find ethnic restaurants in town, or when I travel is to go to

    Type in “chinese” as the business category, click the “category” radio button, fill in the city/state, and search.

    Since many restaurants are not categorized correctly, but still have the word “Chinese” “China” or “Thai” in their name, click the “name” radio button, and search on those three words.

  4. I am serving as Elder’s Quorum President in a small branch, which I imagine is a similar situation. I’m finding that the number one priority is keeping the small core group of saints close and strong. It is the only way we can continue to sustain any growth. I’d say temple trips and other activities to build relationships among the new ward members would be a top proiority. I’m new to my branch and calling though, so I’m very interested in what others have to say.

  5. Not to sound like a High Priest group leader or anything, but home teaching is huge. There was actually a Spanish branch on my mission that should have been a ward, but they could not get their act together on home teaching. The lack of unity and support for ward members was painful.

  6. Consult the manuals relevant to each calling extended and make sure the true duties of the calling are explained when each person is called.

    When I was called as ward chorister in a new ward, I read the instructions, and did my calling in the way it’s supposed to be done (as opposed to the way it’s usually done).

    A new start can be a tremendous opportunity to get rid of old assumptions about the way things “have always been done,” and start doing them the way they ought to be done.

  7. Make a list of all the inactive members. Working with the ward leadership as a weekly activity, go out two by two and visit them. Find out about their lives and inform them about the new ward and especially about the need to have their help in building and staffing it. For some it may be a fresh start that may lead to activity in the church.

  8. Is there a “do not contact” flag on a member’s record in the computer database? Or is that a list that the Bishop keeps apart from the computer system?

  9. Jeff,
    A single issue (March 2006) of the Thai language Liahona magazine is on its way to you via snail-mail.
    I hope your wife sees it as a good excuse to go out to eat at Taste of Thai.

  10. I haven’t seen a “do not contact” annotation of a record. I think it’s a word of mouth thing. Personally, I think that people who request “no contact” should be told their names will be removed from church records. As our Stake President recently said, “one never knows whose going to flip out and answer their door with a shotgun if we keep hounding them.” There are plenty of inactive members who still invite home/visiting teachers in for a lesson despite poor church attendance. Just a thought.

  11. As someone who once requested name-removal, I advise against telling people they have to do that to guarantee no contact. Let people request it on their own, but please never suggest it.

    Church leadership in Salt Lake City is more than willing to leave lost members, disaffected members, and apostatized members on the official membership rolls. The church does not excommunicate for private apostasy, you have to publicly deny the church to get ex-ed.

    Personally, I believe people should never be told they “ought” to request name-removal in order to not be pestered. There should be less drastic ways of leaving people alone.

    However, I do believe their membership record should be annotated with “DNC” (Do Not Contact) if that is their request, along with the priesthood holder who reported the fact to the bishopric, and then the bishopric tells the clerk to so note it on the record. Maybe there could be a time limit like 4 or 5 years associated, and then a letter or something is generated, as long as people knew up front that their DNC request would expire eventually.

    I am also concerned with privacy of membership records. I’m appalled that lists of people’s birthdays for the month are posted on the bulletin boards in chapels. That kind of stuff invites identify theft. I realize they don’t put up the year on the bulletin board, but the year is guessable through online means. If you know someone’s name, address, birthdate, you can steal their identity. It’s not just a few members, but the hacker children and grandchildren of members that I worry about getting that info.

    I would also like to see a flag for withholding the home-address from everyone except the bishopric and higher. I don’t want my name/address/phone# available through the stake web site to anyone except my bishopric and the stake presidency. And I don’t want my address and phone# circulated on 150 copies of the ward roster to everyone in the ward who asks for one. Our clerk tells me my request can’t be accomodated. Does anyone else know a way? I suppose he could use White-Out(tm) on my b-day/address/phone# before photocopying it for everyone.

  12. Your ward website administrator can make sure that your info. does not show up. They have a duty to take care of it, as soon as the member requests it.

  13. Chris,
    Thanks for the tip about the web site.

    But is there a privacy flag on a member’s record that indicates that his/her address/phone/b-day should only appear on bishop-level or higher _printouts_?

    What I’ve seen is that every rank and file member gets a ward-roster that lists b-day (without the birth-year), home address, and phone #.

    I suppose I could turn in my PO Box as my address to the ward clerk, and merely refuse to give out my phone #, or have them remove my phone # from the record. The church record having a phone # is not an absolute requirement. And I could still give my phone # to the bishopric, EQ presidency, and home teachers.

    But we have to have our accurate b-day on file with the church. And it upsets me that rank-and-file members have access to that (in the hard copy roster) in this day of identify theft. Not only are there a small number of unscrupulous members, but even some good members have hacker children who would pick up mom-and-dad’s hardcopy printout of the membership roster, Google the names, and see what kind of havoc they could cause.

    So it’s not just the stake/ward web site, it’s the hard copies of ward rosters too that concern me.

    There’s a dear sweet elderly woman in our ward who joined the church a a decade or so ago. She is loved dearly and is a strong member. But she has some children and grandchildren who have been in and out of jail, and not all of them are friendly to the church. It worries me that stuff I consider to be my private information is in her house and is accessible to the others who live with her. Similar scenarios are played out in maybe 4 or 5 households in this ward.

    One of the main rules of preventing identify theft is to reduce exposure, and only give out your address and birthdate to those who absolutely need it. For instance, I used my PO Box on my checks and credit card. The mailbox on my apartment is not the lockable kind, people could steal from it before I got home, so having important stuff go to the PO box is a good idea anyway.

  14. reflecting upon my post, I admit I was a little too abrupt. Having been both a HP group leader and and EQ president, it drove me crazy to have this huge list of people on my lists that absolutely wanted nothing to do with the church. I finally resorted to sending them monthly letters, couldn’t count that towards a visit. Hence I was scolded each month for 60% home teaching when in reality nearly everyone was visited or received a letter from me. I struggle with deciding how to spend my time–visit those who need and will accept help or try to visit those who are irritated by your attempts to contact. I’m not a candidate for translation yet…

    I agree with your concerns about personal information begin given out to ward members. Like you said, it’s probably not the members who will misuse the data, but instead friends, relatives, or garbage snoopers looking for this kind of information. The First Presidency just sent out a letter explicity stating what should be done to protect our children from abuse. Hopefully, they will do the same for personal information. I’ve walked into clerks offices and seen stacks of financial information lying around for anyone with a office key to view. I’ve also been a ward clerk. When I began my calling, I found boxes of old member and member donation information in closet and sheds. I burnt out a shredder getting rid of it.

    As members, we’re often too trusting to our own demise.


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