You have completed a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; congratulations and well done! Your sacrifice has blessed the lives of those you served and will bless your life forever more. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" (Isaiah 52:7). Serving a mission builds skills you’ll use for the rest of your life.
Now you are home and have been asked by a member of your bishopric to give a report of your mission to the ward: the final challenge of your mission. Ward members excitedly look forward to your talk and you do not want to let them down. Your mind is full of stories and experiences you want to share with everyone. Let’s go through some tips to follow in preparation for the big day.
1. Prepare and focus on meaning.
Prepare. Don't wing it. Make preparations of what you want to say and why. There should always be a purpose to what you are saying over the pulpit, but don't let that purpose be to share a cool or a funny story. Prepare so that you have meaning in what you are saying. I recently sat through a missionary homecoming talk where the missionary shared a story where he was bit by a dog. That was the whole purpose of the story. Save stories like that for the foyer. At the least make mental preparations of what you want to say and why you want to say them. It will give more life to your mission report and make the talk more interesting.
2. Write down an outline for your talk.
Giving a homecoming talk can be nerve-racking and exciting. I know many people who boast that they never have to write anything down to give a talk. Some can pull this off, but many cannot. When you write things down your mind will organize them and remember them. When you write down an outline it gives you a reference point as to where you are in your talk so that you don't run over time, and, if you forget why you are telling a story. it can bring you back and keep your talk streamlined and engaging.
3. Bring each story back to a gospel principle or doctrine.
When you are giving your talk, remember where you are and what you are doing. You are at church in sacrament meeting giving a talk to the congregation over the pulpit. This is a time to teach gospel principles or doctrine using stories and experiences from your mission. I'm sure that you have amazing stories to tell, but be sure to bring it back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Teaching doctrine and gospel principles is the most important thing you can do when giving your homecoming talk. "And now, as the preaching of the word has a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them" (Alma 31:5).
4. Avoid going off on a tangent.
So many times people will get caught up in stories and while in the middle of one story will remember another experience and they will start talking about another story. Then, after the tangent, they will try to come back to the original thought and make some conclusion but by then the audience is lost and disengaged. Staying on topic will help the congregation stay engaged in what you're saying and will keep your talk relevant and interesting. If the Spirit prompts you to go in a new direction, then follow the Spirit. If the Spirit does not prompt you, then don't fall into the trap of tangents. Writing down your thoughts will help you with staying on topic and will keep your talk centered on the gospel.
5. Don’t forget the Savior.
Remember this is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You just finished serving our Savior. Many times we forget that we're giving a talk at His church. People come to church to worship Jesus Christ. Don't forget to include the God of this world in your remarks as it will bring the Spirit into the meeting and solidify all the truths you will have spoken about His gospel and your experiences.
Follow these simple tips and your homecoming talk will be one people remember for a long time because of the Spirit they will feel.