Many LDS families have a parent or spouse who is less-active or not a member of the Church. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to love and include them in our own ward and family activities. Find out how you can better support those part-member families you know.
As members of the Church, we hold temple marriage as the ideal form of marriage, with both spouses attending church together. But this ideal is often far from the reality of what we experience in our wards and branches. Nevertheless, those with spouses who aren’t members of the Church still want to participate in and experience the blessings that come from living the gospel the best they can in their circumstances. And, like the rest of us, their best chance comes with love and care from their ward or branch family. Here are a few things we can do to support and strengthen the part-member families in our wards.
1. Accept and respect their family as it is.
Avoid making assumptions about why one spouse is a member and the other is not. Part-member families come into existence for all sorts of reasons. Our job is not to ask why they are the way they are, but to ask how we can love and support them. If tempted to judge their circumstances, choose to pray for them instead, asking how you can be of help to them. Then take action on the inspiration you receive. Let’s teach our children to do the same—to love all the families in our ward.
2. Be sensitive to their complex family situation.
In some part-member families, the nonmember spouse is very supportive, but in other cases, not so much. Lisa, a mother of three whose husband joined the Church before they married but stayed involved only briefly, says, “I don’t want to be treated any differently at church, but I need my leaders to be mindful of the complicated dynamics in our home. Things like home teaching and feeding the missionaries can be extra complicated. People want to set those things up with me, but I don’t speak for both of us.”
As we get to know the part-member families in our wards, let’s consider with compassion their circumstances and treat them as we would want to be treated.
3. Extend simple kindnesses.
When it comes to part-member families, the simple kindnesses can make all the difference.
Consider sitting next to a member whose spouse is absent at church. If you see a member struggling to handle their kids alone during sacrament meeting, offer to help—on more than one Sunday. When planning your next temple trip, carpool with someone who would otherwise attend alone. While such invitations may seem like a small thing to us, I can assure you that they make a world of difference for those we include.
4. Include them socially.
One sister, while her husband wasn’t interested in investigating the Church, wishes they had been included more socially with other members of their ward. Whatever family activities you enjoy, think about inviting a family that might not come to church together, but who would benefit from some fun with your family.
5. Focus on the positives.
Rather than focusing solely on the downsides a family may experience because not all are active members, choose to affirm them and celebrate with them all the wonderful things they have going on. Make a point of letting the parents know how touched you are by their commitment to their family. Let the good they are doing inspire you to action in your own family.
6. Respect how the nonmember spouse feels about church.
Elaine, who was married to a nonmember, says: “It’s great to include all whenever possible, but the nonmember should not feel that they’re a project that needs to be converted. By all means, if they ask questions, answer truthfully, but be sensitive to those who don’t want to know.”
Another sister said that as much as she loves the missionaries, she doesn’t want every new set that comes through their ward to challenge her husband to baptism, though she hopes he will someday be baptized.
7. Value the less-active or nonmember spouse.
Remember that they are a human being and a child of God.