Author: Matt Martinich
Posted: March 10th, 2014
A cottage meeting consists of a simple gospel lesson for a small group of individuals often held in an informal setting such as a member or investigator's home. Full-time missionaries, ward or branch missionaries, or a local church leader presents a lesson on a specific gospel topic that includes an opening and closing prayer and a song. Cottage meetings permit participants to actively interact in the presentation of the lesson by asking questions and engaging in discussions. Lessons are tailored to the needs and interest of attendees. Refreshments at the end of the meeting provide socialization opportunities that can encourage fellowshipping and the development of LDS community. In other words, the goal of a cottage meeting is to not only provide the opportunity for interested individuals to learn more about the Church in a less-pressured, formal environment than church services but also to provide socialization opportunities between investigators and members.
Cottage meetings enable full-time missionaries to swiftly expand outreach into lesser-reached or unreached locations with minimal costs and few resources. Utilizing a home for a meeting space and presenting a simple lesson eliminates the costs for renting a space to hold the meeting and does not require the permanent assignment of a missionary companionship to the area. The speed at which cottage meetings can be organized also provides for flexibility in missionary activity. Approval to hold cottage meetings is generally determined on the local level, bypassing regional and international church leaders who often take months to approve the organization of new congregations. Church planting efforts are greatly facilitated by cottage meetings. Isolated members residing in locations without a nearby ward or branch can hold a cottage meeting in their home that can help introduce friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to the Church and spark their interest. Over time, these individuals may become investigators and join the Church. As a small group of Latter-day Saints develops in these locations, the Church can form a group or small branch to hold church services and establish a permanent LDS presence.
The Church has inconsistently utilized a cottage meeting platform worldwide and has discontinued this term in many more recent publications and manuals. Published in 2004, the official and revamped missionary guide Preach My Gospel does not once contain the term "cottage meeting" in its more than 240 pages. Today comparatively few missionaries church leaders are familiar with cottage meetings. Cottage meetings appear to regularly occur in only a handful of the Church's 405 missions and when they do occur oftentimes only a small subset of senior or young full-time missionaries are involved in this intervention. Past experience has shown that utilizing cottage meetings in improving the efficiency of proselytism and outreach expansion efforts will be crucial toward accelerating growth and improving convert retention and member activity rates through baptizing better prepared and more committed investigators and improving accessibility to the Church in lesser-reached locations.