The first step, then, is to build a friendship. As humans, we are naturally social beings. We crave friendship and interaction. While we don’t go to church solely for the social aspect, attending is much easier when we feel comfortable, accepted, and surrounded by friends.
Friendship and love are the foundation of a strong family. But, just as with our individual families, our ward family needs more than a foundation.
The Proclamation on the Family says “Successful families are established on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgivness, respect, love, compassion, work and wholesome activities.”
In her talk Ward and Branch Families: Part of heavenly Father’s plan for us, Sister Virginia H Pearce outlined several things a ward family should provide for its members. They are as follows:
It is such a blessing to be part of a worldwide community. How great to know that almost anywhere you go in the world, you can find people who you have something in common with.
“The surest way to increase our love for someone is to listen with patience and respect. … How can we “mourn with those that mourn” and ‘bear one another’s burdens” (Mosiah 18:8-9) if we don’t listen to know what those burdens are?”
D &C 121 41-43 "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virture of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile Reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved lest he esteem thee to be his enemy." The scripture explains to us how to bring someone back. We can't nag or use harsh words. We need be be kind and patient and loving, while still being honest. Being kind doesn't mean we accept the behaviour that is wrong, but it does mean that we still love them.
When friends express confidnece in us, we get and extra boost and the light at the end of the tunnel seems brighter. A steady belief in ward members can often be of far more value than casseroles or loaves of bread.
A ward needs to be a safe haven for its members, a place where its members and those who visit feel welcome and secure.
Just like kids have chores at home, so do we at church.
One thing we must do is let those whom we supervise do their job. Too often, someone (like me!) can’t let go of control and must do everything themselves. In the case of a ward family, the saying “if you want something done right do it yourself” doesn’t apply. By not allowing someone to do their calling, we can make them feel useless and not needed.
Both our individual and ward families provide us a learning ground where we can “experiment upon the word.” We are often given callings or assignments that stretch us beyond what we would normally try. If we are a truly strong ward family, we can try these challenges without fear of failure. We will, instead, support one another as we grow together. Not only do we have the opportunity to accept callings, we also have the opportunity to put gospel principles into practice. We can teach our children to serve by serving those in our ward. We can have a family fast for a sick or inactive member or neighbour. We can step out of our comfort zone and try to say hi to someone new without passing out!!
“Heavenly Father expects us to participate in our wards. It is part of the plan. But, Sister Pearce, you may be saying, you have such an idealistic picture of a ward - that’s not like my ward! You mean, your ward has real people in it - ones who are sometimes selfish or self-righteous, unskilled or undependable? I’m so glad! How could it be a real laboratory for practicing gospel principles like patience, long-suffering, charity, and forgiveness if there were no people or situations that would require the use of these principles? The miracle of it all is that we are real people put into an ingenious structure, designed by God to help us become like him.”