Whether serving a foreign or State-side mission, it is a cultural experience. With any new culture, comes a new language. Below are some terms you may find in this blog that we thought might be helpful. Instead of being in alphabetical order, they are grouped by related terms.
Branch - a very small congregation (between 30 - 100 people). The ecclesiastical leader is the branch president and his title is President (e.g. President Davis).
Ward - a typical congregation (usually less than 500 people). The ecclesiastical leader is the bishop.
Stake - a collection of seven - ten wards in the same geographical area (similar to a Catholic dioceses). The ecclesiastical leader is the stake president and his title is President (e.g. President Shumway).
Mission - overlays several stakes and is presided over by a mission president (see below). A mission will typically have between 150 - 200 full time missionaries assigned to that area at any given time.
Companionship - two (sometimes three) missionaries assigned to labor in a specific area (usually corresponding to a branch or ward). One missionary might be designated as the "trainer" for a recently arrived missionary.
District - consists of two or three companionships. One of the companionships is designated as the "district leaders" and conducts a weekly "district meeting" where training and instruction is given.
Zone - consists of multiple districts and typically consists of all the missionaries serving in a single stake. "Zone Leaders" get weekly reports from the district leaders and also conduct a regular "zone conference" where training and instruction is given. The mission president and his "assistants" participate in zone conferences. The Zone Leaders liaise the missionary efforts with the Stake President on a monthly basis.
Mission President - being a mission president is a three-year assignment. In dedicating themselves to this call, many couples essentially put their old lives on hold, including their jobs and family. (If they have dependent children, they will go with their parents). A Mission President wears many hats; comforting homesick missionaries, providing encouragement and motivation, assigning missionaries to companionships, ensuring that proper doctrine is being taught, and is responsible for the logistics of the mission (housing, transportation, etc). A Mission President is always accompanied by his wife.
Assistant to the President (AP) - two missionaries who are spiritually grounded and have demonstrated leadership skills will serve as assistants to the mission president (usually towards the end of their mission). They work with the Mission President and Zone Leaders to ensure that all is running smoothly in the mission.
We hope this helps. Part II of this series will define common mission slang terms.