Last year Pres. Nelson introduced the ministering program to the church. At the same time the old programs of Home and Visiting Teaching were retired. There was an audible gasp as he made these announcements. Online the prevailing sentiment I observed was, “Oh I’m so glad! Now I don’t have go visit anymore!”
Then there was me, I was really, really discouraged at the thought of not having a monthly visit. I liked to have my visiting teachers come to visit me. We sometimes had a gospel discussion. Most of the time we didn’t (moment of truth: I never liked the visiting teaching message in the Ensign, ever, and I would never share that). We just talked to each other. We listened to each other. We got to know each other. And to borrow a phrase from the old purple missionary guide, we “built relationships of trust” with each other, so that in times of trial or need, we could depend on each other. This was not always the case with my visiting teachers, but it was the case for the last seven or eight years. I have to be honest, I miss those monthly visits…. A LOT. I kinda miss the relationships I had with my visiting teachers, because I feel like that has disappeared with ministering. Anyone else?
Here are some questions that have been on my mind about ministering. Let’s discuss this in the comments:
Are people still going and visiting with their families and sisters as part of ministering? Do you go?
If so, how have your visits gone?
If you have not, or do not go visit your families/sister, why?
Does the family/sister want a visit?
How do you interact with your families? What are some examples of how you’ve ministered to them?
Do you not have time or the desire to visit or spend time with your families/sisters? Does the family you want to visit with make the time for you to come over?
Do you make yourself available for a visit, with your ministering brother or sister when they inquire after you?
If you and your family have a need, do you call on your ministering brother or sister? If not, why not?
Follow up to that, do you feel like you can trust your ministering brother and sister with your needs and problems? Can you depend on them?
Is your ward conducting ministering interviews every quarter?
Do they do it by email, or face to face?
What are the questions your priesthood/Relief Society leader asks you in your interviews?
Has your bishopric, Elder’s Quorum or Relief Society presidencies given any sort of “things to focus on” with your ministering, eg: follow up on ward or stake goals?
When your Elder’s Quorum or Relief Society presidency contacts you about your ministering efforts, do you answer the phone, return the call, text, or email? If not, why not? How can we account for our stewardships better?
Elder Holland gave us this counsel last year when ministering was introduced:
“Brothers and sisters, we have a heaven-sent opportunity as an entire Church to demonstrate “pure religion … undefiled before God”—“to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” and to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” to minister to the widows and the fatherless, the married and the single, the strong and the distraught, the downtrodden and the robust, the happy and the sad—in short, all of us, every one of us, because we all need to feel the warm hand of friendship and hear the firm declaration of faith. However, I warn you, a new name, new flexibility, and fewer reports won’t make an ounce of difference in our service unless we see this as an invitation to care for one another in a bold, new, holier way, as President Nelson has just said. As we lift our spiritual eyes toward living the law of love more universally, we pay tribute to the generations who have served that way for years. Let me note a recent example of such devotion in hopes that legions more will grasp the Lord’s commandment to “be with and strengthen” our brothers and sisters.
My hope is that you are reaching out to your families to get to know them, to spend time with them (however that may be), to build relationships of trust with them, so that they know they can depend on you if they need help. Let’s not let each other be lonely in our wards and stakes. We need each other, we need to be friends with each other. The Lord is depending on us to do it.
The cancellation of the home teaching and visiting teaching programs lifted a burden of guilt from many of our members, who were unable to keep up with the demands of the zealous proponents of those programs. That is good.
I have had one interview with my elders quorum president. Although he wasn’t supposed to, he couldn’t help but to ask for me to account for the families assigned to me. But he is learning not to ask that anymore, but rather, to inquire how he might be of help to me as I decide how to magnify my calling.
I’ve had some wonderful experiences ministering outside the VT box–becoming a “scripture coach” to one of my women with daily texts, going to cultural events and helping another with family history research, and walking the dog with a third. I like the increased flexibility but still make sure to keep close contact with them. I prefer to go solo and having my teenage daughter as my comp hasn’t worked well since she’s usually at school for these type of things.
Our ward has done quarterly interviews, face to face, and also encouraged us to report other positive ward interactions even if they weren’t the assigned people.
Our family’s ministering brother, however (who happens to be the EQP) has been MIA.
I’m in a YSA ward with extremely high turnover (in a college town), so visiting teaching was already difficult, and ministering has many of the same challenges – namely, that you’re expected to be insta-friends with your ministering sisters, who will probably be gone in another three months anyway. That doesn’t mean I haven’t tried to at least make contact with the sisters I minister to, however.
Our Relief Society Presidency has had quarterly meetings with each ministering sister, as directed.
My mom, who’s in the local family ward, has had just as much or more contact with the sisters she ministers to since the changes. She sometimes babysits for one who’s a single working mother, takes meals to another who’s dealing with cancer, and generally does her best to find out what is truly needed by those she ministers to. But she was doing that already before the changes.
Ministering was described as better, higher, holier.
Now we just don’t do home teaching.
If this was a change in business strategy, it would be a failure. The failure I’ve seen is mostly from the top local leadership. No one mentioned the names of the people I’m ministering to. No one even told me, other than told me to go look it up. It’s just not seen as important other than platitudes about how new, better and different it is.
No one asked me specifically about them. Certainly not asked to visit or do anything that could be considered holy. The most I’ve been told is to look up who they are and get to know them.
Relief society is the same from my wife’s reports.
I’ve yet to be visited and only know who one of my ministers are as she’s a neighbor. I’m good with that though as I always hated being visited. I’m not social at all and super busy, so I can see how this is right for me but could be a hardship for others.
Our ward asked us (by paper poll) if we wanted to be ministers. I opted out.
I find true ministering happens outside of being called.
The change motivated me to finally start the ward RPG group I’ve pondered for a while. I like to tell my EQ interviewer that my gaming ministry is going well. 🙂
Seriously, though, I’ve got a couple of guys at the table who are a little fringy and nerdy, and are exactly the sorts of brethren who could fall through the cracks of traditional home teaching. Fortunately, now every other Tuesday they get to come hang out at the stake center and enjoy the casual fellowship of both their Sunday School President and their Bishop, while saving villages from bandits and ridding the land of villainy. For me, this is what ministry is supposed to look like.
Latter: how long did it take you to realize: “Doht! [head slap] We could have done this all along!” ?
On that same line “It’s worse…” when this change was made, the EQP and RSP thought somehow you were not supposed to or allowed to hand out the assignments on a slip of paper. My husband is in the EQP in our ward. He printed them out anyway and handed them out. The brothers were actually thankful for that. We also have a few older members who do not use computers so a paper is helpful.
Latter: I like that group you’ve got going there. A very good idea to create an opportunity to fellowship and spend time doing good things.
I think the women of our ward are doing pretty well. I like my MS very much and am glad we’re assigned to be friends, because she’s somebody I like a lot but do not run into naturally. I am good at two of my sisters (one of which needs a lot of support) and not quite so good at the other two, so I need to step it up. Our RSP has been very supportive and encouraging.
I can’t really comment on how the men are doing. I do not know who our family’s MB is; I heard a name and if it’s accurate I would not tell him my problems, but I haven’t heard from him so who knows.
Book: Oh I theorized all along it could be done. But several factors that felt like roadblocks cleared more or less at once, capped by the shift to ministering that gave me exactly the right final bump to make it happen. “Ministering” provides just the right shine of legitimacy to an effort like mine, which would otherwise be easy to dismiss as somehow wrongheaded or misguided because there was no substantive program-based justification for it. I couldn’t call it home teaching (I’m not dealing with whole families), and we members have historically been skeptical of recurring but non-program “fellowshipping” (see church basketball). Ministering has precisely the right vibe.
One might call it inspired. 😉
Jean, you can find out who your MB and MS are by looking at LDS Tools, under your name. There are several tabs along the top. Click on the “ministering” tab to see who you go to, and who is supposed to come to you.
Thanks, Joyce, I am terrible at LDS Tools and had never done that. My MB is not the guy whose name I’d heard!
I hope that if any member of the Church would like a visit or other interaction with an assigned ministering brother or sister, that he or she would follow Joyce’s instructions in LDSTools and make contact with the person. It’s so easy.
cb may 23, 2019 at 8:02am
True friends don’t stop visiting and being friends just because they aren’t assigned to visit any more. Just be a true friend whether you are assigned or not. That is what I am missing —-true friends—–who don’t come because they are “assigned”. A true friend makes their friendship with you part of their life. And you do the same. That is what was missing with visiting teaching and it is also missing with ministering, in my personal opinion.
It’s missing from ministering only insofar as we try and treat it like home/visiting teaching. It’s all too easy to “programize” it, which robs it of its spontaneity and real power. Ministering requires something critical that home/visiting teaching could never quite capture: the ability to self-start.
It was easy (sad and incorrect, but easy) to see that someone was in need, and say “I should see who their home teacher is” instead of “I should see if I can help.” It was comfortable and emotionally safe to be able to tell yourself that somebody else was tasked with helping that particular person. It was also spiritually calcifying. Ministering has the capacity to bust some of that scale loose and get people “organically” helping each other again, and there’s enormous power in that.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “the only way to have a friend is to be one.” A church cannot assign friends.
Seems like a failure to me. The end of home teaching is just that.
Our ministering brothers have been MIA since the change. We had regular visits before that, but with the elimination of the high priests group came a reorganization that assigned different men to our family. Just like that, poof! – no visits.
For anyone that believes the “retirement” of home teaching means “no more monthly visits” – please get off your social media and get back to the work of the Lord. There is no better way to check on your families circumstances than to be in the room. There is no more effective way to minister than personal contact – and texting ain’t that!
The former “home teaching” section of Handbook 2 included more than 20 action words to describe home teaching, of which “visit” was only one. The change to “ministering” brings new opportunities and adds a few more action words to the mix, but in no way diminishes the importance of those visits and personal contacts with your families.
I hope that if any member of the Church would like a visit or other interaction with an assigned ministering brother or sister, that he or she would make contact with the person. It’s so easy. And it’s so much more charitable than speaking ill of others.
I absolutely miss the monthly visits with a spiritual message. It was generally the only gospel conversation I had outside of church. It only took 18 months for a VT, then ministering sister to be assigned to me after we moved here. She visits but just chats about whatever. Before she comes again I will ask her to prepare a message as that is what would best fulfill my needs.
As for my visits, one of my sisters is recovering from a stem cell transplant so she can’t have visitors–I write regularly to her. Another is currently not participating and not very receptive to contact. The third has become a dear friend to whom I often give rides to church and RS activities. We exchange books we enjoy and share recipes. She knows she can call on me for any needs.
In the almost two years we’ve lived in this branch we’ve had exactly one visit from the priesthood, and we had to beg for that. Prior to that our HT/VT couple would speak to us at church and count it as a visit. Since the change we haven’t had any ministering visits, and my husband is the EQP! He’s been great about getting the interviews done each quarter and has now divided the assignments between his counselors. The RS Pres. has not interviewed anyone, according to all those I’ve asked. Bless her heart, she’s a wonderful teacher and is compassionate to all, but her organizational skills and leadership are lacking.
It’s my belief that the “program” is inspired and has been the intent of all the previous “programs”, but it takes some heavy duty training and teaching (especially out here in the boondocks of branches) to help the members learn their responsibilities both by having specific workshops and modeling, sort of like mission, zone and district training, including splits, for missionaries.
The over-arching challenge, of both HT/VT and Ministering, is that most people don’t have “relationship skills” or “people skills” any more.
It’s as if most everyone over age, say, 45, has forgotten how to interact socially with people. And most everyone under age 45 never learned.
In accordance with my handle, here are some books I recommend, all available cheap/used on Amazon:
Spiritual Roots of Human Relations, by Covey.
The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peal. Don’t discount the simplicity of his message and methods, or scoff at his 1950’s attitudes. It’s all pretty much gospel based, and sounds like 90% came from LDS general conferences over the last 50 years.
This Land of Strangers, by Robert E. Hall. Read chapters 13, 11, 12, in that order. Chapters 1 through 11 just explain the problem. Then give/loan your copy to your/the EQP.
How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.
Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, et al. All authors are associated with BYU.
And the books of Leviticus and Proverbs. There is good advice in those on how to get along with people.
The Sermon on the Mount.
Addicted to Distraction, by Dr. Bruce G. Chalrton. In print and ebook at amazon, or free on one of his blogs. Just do a web search. Goes into how online addiction and any media/electronic addiction is harming us.
“It’s as if most everyone over age, say, 45, has forgotten how to interact socially with people. And most everyone under age 45 never learned.”
It’s hard not to take a comment like that as a deeply personal attack. Maybe you didn’t intend it that way though.
I am an extreme introvert. 50% of the population is introverted and that’s a good thing (regardless of what Dale Carnegie taught). My inner need is to have just a few very close friendships (my family full-fills this). I know how to interact socially when needed. I’m even good at it. Most people think I’m extroverted. But I find socializing exhausting and don’t enjoy it, hence my dislike of HT/VT visits, etc. I have strengths that make up for this that are tied to being introverted.
For a better understanding of introversion and the dangers of forcing a Carnegie worldview on everyone, take a look at ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain.
“I know how to interact socially when needed. I’m even good at it. Most people think I’m extroverted. ”
Then you’re doing well, and are already part of the solution. My comments were obviously not directed at people in your situation.
What technology and various other social factors have done in the last 25 years is to push people towards, or in the direction of, more introvesion and isolation. Extroverts are now less extroverted, middle-of-the-roaders have shifted towards introversion, and introverts are more so.
This is not about forcing individuals, it’s a group trend. And it’s generational, meaning every new/younger age cohort “shifts” a little bit in the direction of the trend. Or, they themselves don’t “shift”, they just fail to develop the full measure of social skills that the next older cohort had developed.
Trends are not about any specific individual, it’s the aggregate. But when enough individuals shift, and the numbers get large, society is affected. This is the message of chapters 1 through 11 of Hall’s “This Land of Strangers.”
Our society is not static. Few socieities are. But the shifting is accelerating, cohort to cohort. Key demographic stats are getting worse faster: delayed marriage, lower rate of marriage, lower fertility rate (below replacement), delayed age of child-bearing, increased rate of OoW births, increased divorce rates, increased rates of STDs, increased rate of suicide, increased rate of drug overdose deaths, huge increases in obesity, increase in heart attacks among under-40’s, dramatic decrease in church attendance. These are signs of a society in decline.
Another aspect is the herd-mentality and local traditions : people absorb their assumptions from those around them, from those slightly older, from their parents, and from leaders. If the majority if adults in a ward don’t talk to each other immediately before and after the meeting block, then the kids will just assume that such talk “is simply not done” and such an assumption will be their “normal.”
“What technology and various other social factors have done in the last 25 years is to push people towards, or in the direction of, more introvesion and isolation.”
And while I won’t argue that the isolation is a good thing, I do believe the introversion is. The US has been the most extroverted-heavy nation in the world for quite some time. Our culture learning to make space for introverts is a positive. Carnegie (and I pick on him because he’s featured in Cain’s book) and the salesman-mentallity swung the pendulum too far one direction. It’s healthy for it to swing back to the middle. But again, isolation isn’t the goal of that.
I like that the shift to ministering has taken away cultural guilt and organizational guilt and replaced them with godly guilt.
My ministering sister has been through a lot and has a hectic life, so I asked her to lunch. It was great! I don’t know how much of my life she learned more about, but I learned a ton about her.
One of the ladies I minister to went to dinner with me. Again, a great conversation and fun to share time together. I’ve reached out to her and others with cards and letters.
Of course, another aspect of being God’s hands is being God’s hands in the lives of our family members.
If one has done a Self Reliance Workshop, there’s an awesome Foundation Principle talking about using time wisely, with a video titled The Gift of Time. It gives a pattern for how we can actively seek God’s guidance about the things He would have us do, as well as who He would have us work with.
Along these lines, there’s a great book by Liz Wiseman called Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. Though it is focused at corporate settings, I actually learned of it from my sister, who is applying the principles to her role as a stay-at-home mother and home-schooler.
I don’t think the organizational and cultural guilt has disappeared yet, but I am hopeful that someday it will. We will know it is still present for as long as we continue to hear people complaining about their ministering brothers and sisters, and as long as leaders continue to ask for reports.
The purpose of the interview between the leader and the minister is to learn about how we can help the minister become a better disciple of Jesus Christ and live the Gospel. It’s not designed to elicit “reports” about people. Of course, a caveat would be if there is a matter that the leader happens to know about and he or she is simply gathering information that may be pertinent to continuing ministering efforts.
The real problem here is that the home teaching program existed relatively unchanged for several decades. For many current church leaders, they don’t know anything different and there is a deep-seated “muscle memory” for asking questions that sound in home teaching instead of ministering.
It’s going to take time to adjust. I suggest we be patient with each other.
“The purpose of the interview between the leader and the minister is to learn about how we can help the minister become a better disciple of Jesus Christ and live the Gospel.”
I will be honest and admit that a requirement/assignment where I have to go to a meeting where someone else is assigned to help me become a better disciple of Jesus Christ in my personal life has an ick factor for me. I love reaching out when I feel inspired by another person to seek their help. But someone taking on that responsibility without being invited into my deeply personal spiritual life crosses a privacy boundary for me.
ReTx, you have just explained why home teaching failed. 🙂
How about this way of looking at it? Instead of “have to go to a meeting where someone else is assigned to help me become a better disciple of Jesus Christ in my personal life,” I like to think of the elders quorum or Relief Society president seeking after their members and offering any needed or desired assistance, and then they report on the number of members with whom they made contact. My responsibility to become a better disciple of Jesus Christ in my personal life remains my own affirmative duty.
Yes, it will take time.
As a church, pastoral care has always been our strong suit. Compared to other churches, we do a far better job of reaching out to our members.
Block teaching, ward teaching, and home teaching were all good programs for their times and were enormously beneficial. But times change. I am sure ministering will be the same, once we get the hang of it.
My companion and I asked the sisters we visited their preferences and both indicated that they prefer regular visits with a message. Meanwhile my companion had a health crisis that made ordinary things a challenge. We are spared of feeling guilt when we don’t have the opportunity to see them in their homes but we find other ways to let them know we think of them. It should be about love and when it is only duty and guilt driving the process it’s a failure.