This is the first installment in the training series on leading people through the LDS Transitions curriculum. Be sure to go through all the videos. Each one adds an important element. These resources are not designed to be used alone, but in conversation with a mentor or co-leader. The ideal way to learn to lead Transitions is by apprenticing under an experienced leader in an existing group. These videos, plus experience helping lead a group, is your best pathway to preparation.
Understand the Purpose of Transitions
The Transitions curriculum was developed to help people making the difficult journey from Mormon faith and culture to a new kind of faith and a new church culture. A Transitions group provides a place for former Latter-day Saints to meet others familiar with their journey, ask important questions and share obstacles and struggles, all in the context of interacting with the material in the curriculum.
The curriculum has two parts. The first three segments share people’s stories about changing identities, hope for relationships, and the search for community. The last three lessons address the familiar questions of “where did I come from?”, “why am I here?”, and “where am I going?” by providing an alternative, biblical framework for those answers centered on God instead of self. Make sure you review and are familiar with all the Transitions content before you start to lead a group.
Transitions resources are found at www.ldstransitions.com. There you can order workbooks and videos, and find resources on how to lead your group. Contact them with questions about the course.
Cultivate the Right Attitude
Consider five attitude and character issues that will make you a great leader.
- Transparency. Model openness about your own journey. Especially for people leaving an image-conscious group like Mormonism, it’s not about perfection, but grace and redemption.
- Accountability. Not only are you open to correction (from wherever it comes), but your group is accountable to the oversight of your church.
- Humility. You don’t need to be the expert or have the final answers. You remain a learner. Learn from others’ experiences & suggestions. Also,keep abreast of developments in Mormonism that might affect the people taking Transitions (but always verify your information!)
- Obedience to God. Model a life that honors God, not out of legalism but from love for him.
- Confidence in God, not self. Only God can change minds and transform lives. As you do your part, trust him to do his. When you have set-backs, learn from them, but trust God to do what only he can do. Be sure to maintain that personal intimacy and dependence on God through ongoing personal Bible study and prayer.
Create the Right Environment
- People-centered. The material is important, but the group is about the people first. You don’t have to rush to finish the material in six weeks. Take time to learn everyone’s story. This might take the first week or two before you even start lesson one.
- The right size group. The best size for a Transitions group is 12, plus or minus. If a group is too small it can be awkward, especially if people don’t show up. If it is too large, it’s hard for everyone to participate and be heard. If group is much larger, think through some creative options.
- Ground rules. Set and follow-through with some basic ground rules. Such as thesee five:
- Treat everyone with respect. That includes no side conversations when people are talking.
- Absolute confidentiality. Whatever is shared inside the group is never repeated outside the group.
- Accept people with judgment. Don’t judge what kind of Mormon they were, how their journey is going, what they think is true, and so forth. Remember, people are in process. Give them space to figure it out.
- Don’t fix. It’s God’s job to change people. Avoid easy formulas and one-size-fits-all remedies.
- No Mormon-bashing. Don’t let the group descend into derogatory and negative ranting about Mormonism. Most people’s stories include disappointment with the LDS Church. But don’t let the group feed on anger and bitterness.
- Outside the group. Be willing to spend time outside the group meeting to deal with special cases, like someone who needs more time on a particular lesson, someone who needs to vent beyond what is healthy in the group, or someone who isn’t observing the ground rules.
Deal with Practical Matters
- Where to meet. Meet in a comfortable, convenient place that feels hospitable and encourages relationship.
- Provide snacks. Snacks make people feel at home.
- Master the technology. In whatever format you use the videos, make sure everything works before the meeting.
- Get personal info. Collect people’s phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Don’t push, because some may be hesitant. Make sure they know you will keep their information confidential. You will use this data to keep in touch.
- Follow up. Connect with everyone after week 1, at least briefly, to express your appreciation for their participation and to invite them back. Use your co-leaders to help.
- Promote Transitions wisely. Some churches are careful about talking about Mormonism in public settings, to avoid being stereotyped as an anti-Mormon church to visitors. You will have to work with your leaders to find a way to talk about Transitions that works for your church. The best way of promoting your group is by personal invitation. Meet people in the lobby each week and look for those who would benefit. Talk up Transitions in conversations so people know you are the one to contact.
Plan to Reproduce Yourself
Great leaders move from being doers to reproducers. Don’t just be good at leading the group itself. Reproduce your skills and experience in other future leaders. This is how Transitions will expand. You will encounter many people in Transitions who could lead at some future time. Next time you lead a group, recruit at least one apprentice (or more) to co-lead with you. Take them through this training series. Give them responsibility in the group every week until they can do everything you can do. Think about leadership in a new way: how can you lead in a way that prepares and releases others to lead?
Next: Be sure to study all the topics in this series with a mentor or co-leader to prepare yourself to help former Mormons pursue God.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- How would you articulate the purpose of Transitions?
- What attitude traits would you add to or subtract from the list above? Explain.
- Describe the kind of group environment that will help former Latter-day Saints process their “transitions” journey.
- Do you agree or disagree that Mormon-bashing should not be allowed in the group, and why?
- What do you think of the other suggested ground rules?
- Talk about some instances when a Transitions leader would need to meet with a group member individually.
- What’s the difference between a doer and a reproducer? Why does this matter?
- How do you feel about recruiting and training co-leaders for Transitions, and why?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.