Part of A Happier Ward Series – (ward health)
Has your ward or branch fully adopted President Nelson’s “Ministering”? Would it surprise you that a lot of wards haven’t caught on to it? Here are the results of a recent poll.
In April of 2018, President Nelson retired (his word) the visiting and home teaching program and replaced it with a new concept called “Ministering.”
The effectiveness of ministering is a remarkable piece of modern inspiration. It genuinely is not just another name for visiting and home teaching. If your ward has embraced ministering as outlined in the handbook, congratulations! By now, you have witnessed how potent it is.
Ministering is as much about shaking up the RS and EQ presidency roles – as it is about empowering every member, no matter their level of faith or conviction.
Ministering calls RS and EQ presidencies to a higher, holier mission than ever before. Presidencies are now responsible to talk to every member of their organization face-to-face every quarter. In fact, ministering reports are about whether the presidency visited with each member – not about whether anyone did their ministering assignment. Leaders make sure every willing soul has a ministering assignment – including inactive members.
That’s a game-changer right there. Ministering reports now measure how the presidency is doing its calling.
Visiting with everyone may sound daunting for a large ward – but it is surprisingly doable. My Salt Lake City ward had approximately 660 members with about 225 sisters. We followed the handbook, and our Relief Society did it! Somehow, we each became inspired experts on how to visit with everyone in our ward. Much to our surprise, we not only were able to do it every quarter with few exceptions – it was a joy. The face-to-face meetings built camaraderie between all of us too. Our RS attendance reached historical highs.
Serving in a Relief Society or Elders Quorum presidency today – is genuinely the errand of angels. Your reach and your power to affect good are more significant than ever.
There is always resistance to change.
The response to President Nelson’s advancements varies from ward to ward. Some leaders view “ministering” as merely a new marketing slogan for the old program. They have changed very little and consequently still don’t talk to many members outside their usual circles. Some leaders ignore it just as much as they ignored visiting and home teaching. Others embrace it and experience notable results.
As an amateur Relief Society President in SLC in 2019, I saw it work wonders. We even had inactive members ministering and proudly reporting their efforts. How? Well, anyone can minister simply by being a nice person.
Everyone is eligible to minister and should be invited.
Once I explained to more cautious members that no lesson prep was involved and we simply wanted them to check in on so-and-so and make sure they were okay – most would say yes. Follow-up discussions about the neighborly deeds performed by less involved members – validated them. They also felt more connected to us.
The beauty of the new ministering program is that people can successfully minister at their level of commitment. Ministering casts a much wider net of involvement than visiting and home teaching.
My stake had not yet adopted “ministering” when I was called to be a Relief Society president in January of 2019. I was surprised by the amount of resistance to my efforts to implement ministering. In fact, some people who were prominent members of my ward were especially averse to switching over. I bet some of you have similar situations.
What to do? I made “Ministering” a Relief Society lesson with a detailed handout (backed up with solid references) to win converts. I’ve included that lesson plan as a download at the end of the post.
More conversions to ministering slowly took place as my presidency and my secretary (per the handbook) committed to interviewing sisters every Sunday after the 2nd hour. We had double time slots – 12:10 pm and 12:20 pm. Every quarter we rotated districts, so each of us interviewed a different set of sisters each quarter. This created more associations and validations. We always had treats, and we made sure to lift and validate and empower sisters.
We had no interest in guilt trips. This was about building relationships with them and between each other.
1) If we could visit a “companionship” together, great. If not, we visited with them individually (which was most of the time). I preferred individually. The conversations were more intimate.
2) We also tried our best to meet face-to-face, which included some doorstep visits. (I had a fantastic, committed presidency.) If that didn’t work, we then permitted ourselves to make phone calls and then text (in that order). As a last resort – we left notes on their doorstep.
3) Also, different personalities respond better to different people. That’s just life. By rotating which presidency member the sisters met each quarter, we increased our reach and success rate.
4) After explaining Sister Bingham’s definition of ministering (found below), we always asked, “Is anyone in the ward ministering to you”? Lots of useful insight comes from that one question!
An Invaluable Ministering Handout
Here is the lesson/training outline I shared with the sisters. I’ve included a link to a word document at the end of this post. All quotes are linked to the Church website.
Ministering: How is it different than visiting teaching?
- Ministering is truly different than visiting teaching: “We have made the decisions to retire home teaching and visiting teaching as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as “ministering. (President Nelson)”[i]
- No monthly message nor coordinated visits with your ministering partner. “Ministering does not include a set monthly message in the Church magazines nor a prescribed way to keep in contact, such as in-home, face-to-face visits each month-even though visits are important when they are possible…” (President Nelson)[ii]
- Your leaders will interview you every quarter. These interviews will typically be short and will take place at any time during the quarter. Although you are counseled to make some connection every month, the quarterly reports simply record did the RS presidency interview YOU about your ministering? We will ask how your sisters are doing and what do they need? Were you able to make connections since the last interview? What can be done if connecting is difficult?
[iii]The six priorities for ministering are:
- Please make contact with them in person, by phone, via text message, via social media, or a letter.
- Get to know them. Learn about their lives, relationships, and circumstances.
- Become a friend. Make an effort to become the kind of friend they need.
- Pray for them and for guidance.
- Minster to them in ways that are individualized and customized.
- Maintain the relationship. Regularly touch base.
Handshakes at Church and other meetings/activities are among the most essential aspects of ministering: Seek out those you minister to and greet and acknowledge them at Church! Elder Rasband taught Elder Godoy a vital principle when Elder Godoy suggested they skip the handshaking at a regional conference because of time constraints. Elder Rasband said they would cut the talks short instead. – “It was for me ‘a message without words,’ said Elder Godoy, “just shaking hands, being with them, spending time with them was a message of ministering and how important they are to the Lord.”[iv]
From Sister Bingham – General Relief Society President
What Does Ministering Look Like? “It looks like going for a walk, getting together for a game night, offering service, or even serving together. It looks like visiting in person or talking on the phone or chatting online, or texting. It looks like delivering a birthday card and cheering at a soccer game. It looks like sharing a scripture or quote from a conference talk that would be meaningful to that individual. It looks like discussing a gospel question and sharing testimony to bring clarity and peace. It looks like becoming part of someone’s life and caring about him or her.”[v]
This is all about having conversations as a friend, and building peer-like, warm associations in all their varieties.
“Each member of the Elders Quorum and Relief Society presidencies conducts ministering interviews. Even in a large ward, leaders will find that interviews are manageable when a few are held each week by each presidency member. Ministering interviews do not need to be long to be effective.”[vi]
“Ministering interviews can and should be held throughout each quarter – and not reserved for the last week or last month of the quarter. As leaders hold interviews regularly, they will find that can accomplish the spiritual and temporal purposes of ministering.”[vii]
May your ward empower its members and fully embrace the new ministering program. If you don’t yet have an assignment, ask for one and lead the charge.
Here is the printable document:
[v] Ministering as the Savior – April 2018