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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Two Words that Finally Helped Me Grasp the Genius of the New Ministering Program

I have to admit that I was a little puzzled by the new ministering program in the Church, where home teachers and visiting teachers have been replaced with "ministering brothers" and "ministering sisters." When it was first announced, to me it looked a little like a name change with a welcome decrease in statistics, but still seemed essentially the same, or maybe even watered down. Was this really an important step for the Church? Today, while nominally fulfilling an assignment to give some training to others on the topic of ministering, lights went off in my head that were triggered by two words: "strengths" and "scheduling."

That second word was used by a member from Ghana as he answered a question I posed and explained his view on the ministering program. In the old system, the emphasis in his mind in his work as a home teacher was on scheduling. "Can I get my schedule to align with my assigned families' schedules so that I can get into their home and visit them?" The difficulties of scheduling to get into a home were a major part of home teaching for many of us. Now that's a much smaller issue. The emphasis is on what we can do to help and to be friends. Ministering can include visiting, but it can also include meeting for lunch, going to an activity together, talking on the phone, sending an inspirational thought, spending time praying for the welfare of others and thinking of creative ways to help, etc. For a great discussion of what ministering looks like, see the inspiring talk of Jean B. Bingham from the April 2018 General Conference, "Ministering as the Savior Does."

Whether you can successfully make a visit before midnight of the last day of the month is a non-issue now. The only real issue is ministering. Less structured, more flexible, and more loving. Scheduling: that is no longer the key. A subtle difference, but crucially important.

My wife points out that visiting teaching was also highly centered around scheduling. In fact, the issue of scheduling was often at the forefront in selecting assignments for visiting teachers. The scheduling issue revolved around evaluating whether groups of sisters were free during the day or only free during the evening or weekends in order to make appropriate matches based on the potential for overlapping schedules that could permit visits. But now that the scheduling of visits is less important, leaders and members may be more free and more creative in making assignments and in making ministering work to really bless lives and not just foster visits. Yes, visits are still important and desirable, but not the key goal that we need to achieve and report on.

The other word, "strengths,"  instantly opened my eyes to another subtle but important aspect of the new program. It hit me this morning about 10 minutes before I heard the comment on scheduling. While reading some of the resources on ministering for stake and ward leaders (available at LDS.org or in the Ministering section of the Gospel Library App), I saw the word "strengths" in the Frequently Asked Questions document. I noticed this in Section 15:
As needed, elders quorum and Relief Society leaders counsel with the ward council regarding strengths and needs identified in ministering interviews and make and enact plans to serve and bless ward members. [emphasis added]
I would see similar language in other parts of that document and in other new resources.

That word "strengths" touched me: when discussing the people being ministered to, we aren't just focusing on problems. We are being encouraged to see the whole person, including strengths as well as needs. Understanding the positives, the goodness, the talents and capabilities of our people can help us understand them more fully, and also help us recognize opportunities where they can help or inspire others and grow more fully by using their strengths. I really like the idea of actively considering the strengths of others when we seek to minister.

This theme of also considering strengths came up later today when my wife and I watched the video below, "Ministering Interviews," on the issue of interviews with ministering brothers and sisters. So simple, yet to me so inspiring. Within the discussion once again is the recognition of the need to look at and consider strengths as well as needs. That subtle but emphatic guidance is healthy, holistic, and healing. It's there because the work of the Church is now even more effectively oriented at truly ministering to others. The changes announced this year represent one of the Lord's many "small means," but through this revealed guidance great things can come, even miracles, if we will accept this direction with energy and faith and do more to bless the lives of others around us. Less scheduling, more discovery of the goodness and strengths of others, and more Christlike ministering. I'm slowly beginning to see the power and the revelation behind what I initially misunderstood as minor adjustment.



Related resource: see the videos on ministering at LDS.org.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where I live (unfortunately) visiting and home teaching was rare, especially if a member was not in the right cliques of the ward, nor a member of the Mormon country club in the community......in other words, deemed not worthy of anything by any member who was better.

The ministering program is utter BS. The current LDS leaders are idiots and are not in tune with God.

Jeff Lindsay said...

What makes you feel that the old HT/VT approach was greatly superior to the current system?

Looks like you're having a difficult experience where you are. Sorry it's so painful, wherever you are. But it also sounds like there's an attitude regarding others that might add to the difficulty. Have you always felt so negatively about your church leaders or is this a recent thing? I hope you'll be able to see the good in them. There are some really great men and women among them.

Anonymous said...

"There are some really great men and women among [church leaders]."

One of them just got excommunicated.

Rozy Lass said...

My goodness, Anonymous sure has an attitude problem; but he/she/it can take that up with the Lord later.

Thanks for sharing your insights about Ministering. When it was announced I felt like the leaders were just explaining better and giving more focus to what HT & VT was always supposed to be, which is building relationships and ministering to the families or individuals under our watchcare. The thought that came to me when this new focus was announced: "This is going to lead to Zion!"

Anonymous said...

Ask any EQP how they feel about this new program.
It doesn't get done, and it's not going to get done, and it's going to peter out and disappear soon. Nice try, fellas!

Jeff Lindsay said...

Wow, Anon @12:00, you must know many thousands of Elder Quorum Presidents. Cool. But for some reason, the ones I know seem to be a lot more positive about the change.

Jeff Lindsay said...

The main struggle, though, seems to be getting comfortable with the new terminology.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if they put it in the form of a chiasmus people could get more excited about it...