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What Ministering Really Is

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With the announcement of the new ministering program, I had one very simple question:  So, what are we supposed to do?

The answer was given: We're supposed to minister.  This was backed up by definitions from the dictionary and etymology, etc.  But that didn't really answer the question I had in mind.  I was struggling with the proper wording of the question to get to the difficulty I was having. 

I went and watched all the videos and all the speeches, etc.  It began to form an idea in my mind.  Here is what I was having difficulty with:

*********************************

People had complained about the home teaching program before because it seemed to be simply a "check box".  That's what we've heard from people like @NightSG.  And they even confirmed his sentiments when introducing the new program in the first place.  So, apparently, it was true more often than we'd care to admit.  Regardless of the extent, it did happen.

I, myself, had difficulty seeing this because I've always had a good relationship with my home teachers and with those whom I home taught.  We became friends.  This was because the format worked for me.  It helped me.  I met people I otherwise never would have met.  I'm not exactly the easiest person to relate to.  But by "assigning" a meeting once a month, I got to know people.  They got to know me.  We soon became friends.  We learned to love one another.  I knew their needs.  I did my best to take care of them and serve them.

Now, the monthly visit isn't mandatory.  So, how am I supposed to set an appointment?  I have no idea.  How do I ask about people?  I have no idea.  How do I get involved in their lives or even get to know them?  I have no idea.  The monthly visit gave me a direction and an excuse to get to know someone.  Now I have no in, no direction, nor method, no excuse, no path.  How on earth do I get to know someone?  Without a set meeting, I probably will go sit in my corner and never get to know anyone.

Apparently, the home teaching program didn't work for some people.  But it worked for me.  Ministering may be what many were hoping, praying, and waiting for.  But I think I'm going to flounder.

The reason is simple.  Our entire system of callings is about defined stewardship over defined areas.  This ministering thing is completely undefined.  We have some names.  But what do we do with them?  Help them, bless them, take care of them.  Ok.  How do you do that?  I honestly don't have any idea.  When an individual has a need that I think I can help with, I'm there with every thought and idea that I can muster.  But how on earth do you satisfy needs when you don't even know who they are?  How do you even get to know someone you can never meet with?

Edited by Guest

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All of the discussion that I have seen, including the talks in GC, all painted the new ministering program as this "organically" grown network of relationships where people just help people. As Orwellian as it sounds, some of these discussions often sounded like the Church deciding to "monitor" friendships ("brother X goes golfing with Brother Y every few weekends, so let's "assign" them together and ask them about their golf games and other aspects of their relationship"). I also could see EQ/RS presidencies identifying the "extroverts" and "social butterflies" of the ward/branch and giving them "more" assignments, because they will be better at naturally and organically building creating and building those relationships. Without assignments, IMO, runs the risk of working very well if you are part of the "in" crowd in the ward/branch, but could leave those on the margins less connected. I expect that the "assignments" are intended to make sure everyone gets included somehow, but I have seen very little discussion. Some of the training videos seem to be about "social skills" -- how to make a new acquaintance, how to strike up a conversation. In the spirit of "can't teach an old dog new tricks, at my age, if I can't strike up an acquaintance with someone, then I don't know if I expect to learn it now.

Other than that, I have seen very little discussion of how the "assignments" are intended to work (other than something that looks very much like the old home teaching/visiting teaching program without the monthly in home visit requirement). I have sometimes wondered if my "assignees" don't have any needs, will it be enough to say, "hello" at church, inquire after their general welfare, and, if no needs are apparent, that will be enough.

I see a lot of people excited about the "new" program. As one who tends to exist on the margins of the ward's social network, It feels to me like it is going to be similar to the old, but the emphasis will end up being some kind of quarterly visit rather than monthly.

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Carborendum, You continue doing what you have always been doing. B E C A U S E  what you were doing was M I N I S T E R I N G ! What is different now is you just don't call in your monthly visits.

You do tell the Elders Quorum President when one of your families needs help that you can't provide alone.

Okay, I am a woman. One of the men in our branch is near and dear to me. He and his wife were my HT/VT since 1979 - until I married a second time and moved out of the state. They are/were my Best Friends/ Adopted Parents/ Foster Parents/ Foster Brother & Sister. They SAVED MY life by sheltering me when I left hubby #1, until I could find a place to live that was safe.

His wife passed away in 2013- 3 years after hubby #2 & I moved back to the area. Because he was single now, the Branch Presidency told me NOT to go visit him on my own. I followed that - until a few months ago - he has declined in health, I fear he has Alzheimer, his 8 blood brothers thing it is misuse of medications. Not taking them as prescribed. I wrote an email to the Branch Presidency, Elders Quorum President and the Stake Presidency (all of whom know this man, worked with him, etc.) that I was going to be seeing him - ALONE- I am his *Daughter* after all. The EQP wrote back, told me(quote) that I didn't need permission to *minister* to my Foster Father. Let us know how and when we can help you and him. [end quote].

Took me three visits to his house to snoop out the names & phone #'s of all of his brothers. Where the meds were and when they were last filled. Opened every closet door, dresser drawers, medicine cabinet (except the one in the master bathroom), all the cupboards, drawers, etc. in the kitchen. NO food, hardly any cook ware or dishes to eat off of, hardly any sheets or bath linens. He did however have close to 2 dozen bars of Dial soap!

My last trip there I bought a new heavy duty clear shower liner, new fabric (butterfly's on white opaque) curtain, new double shower rings and a new clear suction bath mat. The others I stuffed into a garbage bag and tossed. His old shower curtain I put in the washing machine. I just may survive a washing - at least I hope so. I scrubbed his tub and the tub walls. I also cleaned his toilet and washed the floor by hand. They were icky!

That was Mon afternoon. I finally quit hurting not an hour ago. SO- tomorrow I go and clean the roll in shower he had installed for his wife so she could safely bathe. He hasn't used it since she passed, and it is full of spiders. He is going to have to start using it if he back and hip doesn't get better.

What breaks my heart is that from 2013 until now, the Branch Council has been telling me [through my husband- who is the SSPresident] that this man is being taken care of. Well that wasn't so. He was NOT taken care of. His HT has never visited. Our EQP called him and he doesn't even know who he is.

So Dear Brother Carborundum please continue HTeaching the way you have always done. Oh, how I wish you had been my Foster Father's HT, and mine! 

God Bless You!

 

 

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9 hours ago, Carborendum said:

But how on earth do you satisfy needs when you don't even know who they are?  How do you even get to know someone you can never meet with?

I would say (as we did with our new assignment) to reach out to them to introduce yourself and provide contact information. Phone (or messages), letter, e-mail. Then stop by their home, and whether they greet your or not, leave a letter that might in the simplest of terms describe what ministering is and why you are reaching out to them. periodically repeat until you meet them, get to know them, and develop a relationship with them (if they want one). Keep praying for them, even if you don't know them.

Nothing you do is wasted. the Lord knows your efforts and not only will bless you, but will leverage any good-faith effort that to you may deem futile to reach out and bless that person you feel you cannot effectively reach yourself.

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@Carborendum, FWIW, I understand completely.  I give the sisters in my ward the best guidance I know how to give, but otherwise, I keep my mouth shut about my personal thoughts and feelings because I know enough to predict that my explanations will sound to them like excuses, and my confusion and ignorance will sound to them like laziness.  Maybe they are and I'm just seriously messed up, but if we go too far down that path, I may as well just quit going to church altogether.  So I just keep my mouth shut.

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21 minutes ago, zil said:

@Carborendum, FWIW, I understand completely.  I give the sisters in my ward the best guidance I know how to give, but otherwise, I keep my mouth shut about my personal thoughts and feelings because I know enough to predict that my explanations will sound to them like excuses, and my confusion and ignorance will sound to them like laziness.  Maybe they are and I'm just seriously messed up, but if we go too far down that path, I may as well just quit going to church altogether.  So I just keep my mouth shut.

i don't know.  When i was active, i thought nobody else had the same questions i did.  Like none of the things that bothered me bothered them.  i remember once when my parents told me that one time, my mom was in a difficult pregnancy with several other kids - with histories of previous miscarriages - and the bishop called her to be RS president.  My dad stepped in and told the bishop no - and continued to say no, even when the "just have faith" sermon was given.  And i just remember thinking, "why didn't i hear about this before?"  Why doesn't anyone talk about how it's wrong when persistent stupidity (subjective, admittedly)  stuff gets marketed as blessed faith, even when it fails and damages people?

i know i was afraid to call something what i thought it was when i knew that how i felt wasn't going to change.  Because it was like raising a banner that says "i don't follow the mormon prophet.  Reconditioning needed."  A scarlet letter was then affixed and i was marched off for repatriation exercises.

Anyways, point being, i think you underestimate the respect that others have for you - and how much your honest thoughts would sooth another person with similar doubts.

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11 hours ago, Carborendum said:

Apparently, the home teaching program didn't work for some people.  But it worked for me. 

@Carborendum, just keep doing what you're doing, because you were already ministering.  If the monthly thing works for you and the families you're working with, then keep it up.  No one says you can't visit every month-- keep doing what works.     If you have the same families you had before, keep going.  If you have new families, approach it like you would if they re-assigned the HT routes: get to know them and become their friends like you have been.  Say, "hey i really like coming over once a month, usually around the 31st, does that work for you?"       The point of the new program is NOT to stop an awesome setup like you've got going-- keep going!  Your way of doing things if just as valid as other ways.  

And other folks will do what works best for them.   For example, I like hanging out a the church after RS  every other month or so-- that's when I'm available and Christ-centered.  I really dislike Sunday afternoon home visits because that means I spend the entire day frantically cleaning instead of hanging out with my family.    So we've been doing chat-after-church for years now, and it works great.  And now this model has the same approval as the traditntal model.  Do what works for you, whatever that is.  

Edited by Jane_Doe

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Guest LiterateParakeet

Carb, I agree with Jane_Doe, and Iggy it sounds like you were ministering already, just keep up the great work.   My understanding of what the new program does is put more emphasis on people and on following the Spirit than (yes) checking boxes.  

I love it because under the old program my Visiting Teachers were supposed to come to my home(two of them) once a month, visit for about 15 minutes, and give a specific lesson from the Ensign (whether or not that this met my needs or not...it was one size fits all).   Years ago, I told my visiting teacher that would not work for me.  So we made adjustments particular to my situation that did work for me.  But in essence we were "breaking the rules".  Now, my VT can keep doing what we've been doing...what meets my needs best....and it is called Ministering...no rule breaking.  

I feel the most important difference between the two programs is simply that now we are focusing one the needs of the person we are ministering to rather than following an outlined set of rules.  There's only one "rule" now, LOVE.   It sounds like you were loving people well already, so continue on.  

@Iggy wonderful ministering to your foster father.  I'm sorry no one ministered to him sooner.  I think your story is a perfect example of what is being asked of us though...loving people and helping them in the way that they need.  Well done. 

Edited by LiterateParakeet

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Guest LiterateParakeet
13 hours ago, Carborendum said:

Now, the monthly visit isn't mandatory.  So, how am I supposed to set an appointment?  I have no idea.  How do I ask about people?  I have no idea.  How do I get involved in their lives or even get to know them?  I have no idea.  The monthly visit gave me a direction and an excuse to get to know someone.  Now I have no in, no direction, nor method, no excuse, no path.  How on earth do I get to know someone?  Without a set meeting, I probably will go sit in my corner and never get to know anyone.

I have a weekly "appointment" with one of my closest friends.  We both have complicated schedules, but we want to see one another, so we have a standing appointment on Monday afternoons.  We meet at a certain time, for a certain amount of time, and at the same place (her house).  

No one told us we had to do that.   We don't report to anyone about doing that.  We simply do it because we want to.   If you and your families WANT to do a monthly visit then do it.  This program is all about meeting the needs of the people.  If the families you have are the same as before, then just ask, "I liked our set up from before with monthly visits.  Would you like to continue that way?"  

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Some observations that are going to tick some posters on this forum off.

It seems to me that most posters that were excited that home teaching be changed are individuals with issues that think they can off load their eternal problems on someone else.  Those that were concerned about the change were individuals that struggled trying to figure out how to improve the help for those they were assigned - or even not assigned.

For those that had not seen or do not see this trend – it is kind of 1. How can I get more out of others (especially home teachers assigned to me) of what I want for me - Verses  2. How can I do better at helping others in need that are assigned to me.

To be honest I still see a disconnect.  It is a tough love kind of thing – how do I help someone help themselves.  The other attitude of poor helpless me – All those that are supposed to help are dong a horrible job and they need to change.  I have a really good excuse for all my problems which are not at all my fault.

I do not mind helping others.  It happens almost daily.  But – and this I believe to be a very important notion – I am not willing to work harder, longer or smarter than others are willing to do for themselves.  For example – I do not mind helping someone move – though I am in my 70’s I am in good shape and can move heavy things – but I do not like or believe I am helping someone that sits in a chair and expects other to do everything while they continue to complain about how bad their help is and has been.  Clue to life - if you are in need; do not get ticked off or complain to anyone or about anyone willing to or trying to help.

 

The Traveler

Edited by Traveler

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Here are my thoughts from what I have read, and the trainings we have received:

Overarching Principles of Ministering:

  • Priesthood Keys
  • Authority and Power
  • Ordained, Called, Set-Apart, or Assigned
  • Sent
  • Promises and Blessings
  • Bring Others Closer to Christ (Charity)

A climate and atmosphere needs to be created where individuals are able to minister with power, receive inspired revelation for timely ministering, and to be able to magnify our priesthood. (A statement combining the three main concepts of President Nelson, President Oaks, and President Eyring).

President Monson, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”

Principle #1
We must recognize the similarities between Home Teaching and Ministering. It would be unhealthy and unwise to deny these obvious similarities. They use similar scriptures, there is similar language, and yet they are different.

Home Teaching = The Program

Ministering = Life Style

Principle #2
True Ministering will begin in our homes.

Principle #3
Ministering is recognizing a need and filling it if we can, even if it is not an assigned family. After filling the need we can report the need filled to the assigned ministering brothers and sisters. "Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you." (Jacob 2:17)

Quick to observe. We need to recognize when our ministering families and ward families (ones) are in need, and they in turn need to be open to ministering.

Principle #4
How often do we fast and pray for our assigned families or friends, such that, when the time is called upon for us to minister with power we can? (e.g. Jesus to the apostles specifying some things require fasting and prayer)

Principle #5
We in turn need to be open to ministering. We need to be more open to being ministered to in our lives, and a willingness to be more open about our struggles so we can properly be ministered to.

An example that was shared was from a brother whose wife was asked a more intimate question, and his wife decided to be thoroughly honest this time. This honest resulted in activities and events between these two women that otherwise would not be occurring if his wife simply said, "I'm fine."

Edited by Anddenex

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@Iggy I am so sorry to hear about your foster dad! Glad that you have been able to help him now.

I think that we may be changing the program because it imposes an unreasonable burden in some very low lds density countries as people live too far apart. Some people who previously were being seen once a month are going to lose out because their ministers now have an excuse not to visit. I worry about people who don’t know how to maintain appropriate boundaries. These people will be able to cause a lot more trouble.

Edited by Sunday21

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Guest LiterateParakeet
6 hours ago, Sunday21 said:

Some people who previously were being seen once a month are going to lose out because their ministers now have an excuse not to visit.

I see it differently.  I think the kind of people, like Carb or my husband, who were great home teachers before will now be great ministering brothers.  The focus now is doing it out of love for others and love for Christ.  If someone uses the new program as some sort of excuse not to love and minister, then they don't understand the program, or the Lord's ways.

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3 hours ago, LiterateParakeet said:

I see it differently.  I think the kind of people, like Carb or my husband, who were great home teachers before will now be great ministering brothers.  The focus now is doing it out of love for others and love for Christ.  If someone uses the new program as some sort of excuse not to love and minister, then they don't understand the program, or the Lord's ways.

We are a struggling area of the church. We are a low performing ward in a low performing stake. Some of the things that happen here would not happen elsewhere. Before the change, it was a pretty small minority who visited. Now? We needed the discipline of enforced visits. However, I can understand why the church moved to the new system. The old system must have been a real burden in very low density Lds countries.

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I have a theory that order (aka structure, rules, law) allows the weak to be(come) strong.  It is very apparent that these changes remove some of the order (structure, rules) from the VT/HT program.  I have no doubt that this is the Lord's will at this time.  This change requires us to become less dependent on the structure and rules in order to become strong.  This change requires us to become more dependent on the less-easily-obtained guidance of the Spirit.

I expect there are many of us who are ready for this (hence the change).  I expect there is a need for us to increase in personal strength and ability to be guided personally by the Spirit (hence the change).  Perhaps the old system hindered (some of) these from reaching or expanding their full capacity.

I expect many are already beyond this point and have been living the ministering way guided by the Spirit for a long time, perhaps their whole lives.  I doubt the old system hindered these in any way.  I doubt the new system will make much of a difference for these people - they will continue to excel in this area.

However, I know there are others who aren't ready (or at least, don't feel ready), who feel like their anchor has been cut and they are drifting or being left to the wind and waves.  I have great sympathy for these folks, who want to do good, but struggle to find their way without the structure to support them.

(And yes, there are some who feel like they've been set free from the obligation to minister.  I don't particularly feel any sympathy for these - they don't want the support, they want to avoid their duty.  I might feel sorry that they wish for something less than God wishes for them, but that's not really the same as sympathy.)

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50 minutes ago, zil said:

I expect there are many of us who are ready for this (hence the change).  I expect there is a need for us to increase in personal strength and ability to be guided personally by the Spirit (hence the change).  Perhaps the old system hindered (some of) these from reaching or expanding their full capacity.

Let me provide an example that will change in my life that, I believe (due to my personal lack), will increase the Spirit of my ministering. Often I would receive an impression about visiting one of my families. My first thought always, "Oh, ya I haven't yet visited them this month."

Here is the question, was this an impression to visit them immediately (or contact them immediately to minister), or was the Spirit reminding me of my assignment before the Lord? I have wondered if the Lord was telling me to see them (not schedule a home teaching visit), but because I was more inclined to "home teach" (monthly visit) I may have missed opportunities where I could have truly ministered to a family at a time of need.

Now if I receive an impression, the thought never occurs, "Oh, ya I haven't yet visited them this month." It is an immediate text or stop by."

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On 6/21/2018 at 12:20 AM, Iggy said:

NO food, hardly any cook ware or dishes to eat off of, hardly any sheets or bath linens. He did however have close to 2 dozen bars of Dial soap!

Uh, he's single and he's male.  I'm not sure why you think this is unusual.

I have two sets of sheets and three towels, one of which lives in my emergency gear.  There's more cookware and dishes in my camping gear than my kitchen gear, and I have almost a full case of Irish Spring.  (It was on sale, and if I stop using soap, it'll be because I have bigger problems than impulse buying.)  Currently, my actual food products available consist of four frozen egg rolls, four frozen waffles, three bagels, two pounds of sugar, half a pound of butter, a quarter box of HEB store-brand Cocoa-Pebbles-like-cereal and five oranges.  My only real concern with that at the moment is that the cereal sounds pretty good for dinner but I may not have enough milk for even one mug of it.

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6 hours ago, NightSG said:

Uh, he's single and he's male.  I'm not sure why you think this is unusual.

I don't thing it is *unusual*, I am alarmed that his belongings are gone!

He is a Widower who did the bulk of the cooking even when his wife was alive. During the last 8 years of her life he took to using boxed cake mixes & cookie mix in packages (Marie Callandar's). His wife also bought a new towel set (4 bath, 8 hand towels & 8 wash cloths) every 3 months, along with matching fabric shower curtain, toothbrush cup, soap dish, bath rugs and toilet seat/tank covers. She had sets stored in 18 gal plastic totes stacked up in a corner of the master bedroom. She rotated them as often as they rotated food in the cupboard. Same for sheet sets w/matching quilts, shams, bed skirts. The ONLY thing she never changed out were her curtains. Every 5 years I made her take them down and launder them, I washed her windows and we put them back up. Like I said, I have known them since 1978.

She also had servings for 4 in each of the Fiesta ware colors dinnerware w/serving pieces. Plus her wedding china from her first marriage - service for 24 w/all the serving pieces. With the flat ware to go with both. The flat ware to go with her wedding china was gold w/electroplated stainless core.

He has never in his 79 years eaten frozen store bought anything, and he never will. That is what I am so upset about. His wife was house bound for 12 years, and the last 5 years she was chair bound. Because of her health problems she couldn't lay down in bed, thus she slept in a recliner. She could however get out of her chair, into her electric scooter to get past the kitchen and down the hall way into the bathroom. He had to help her bathe - that is why he renovated the master bathroom and took out the garden tub and installed a roll in shower.

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Guest

@Iggy Sounds alarming, I hope there hasn't been any elder abuse going on. So sad that you thought he was being cared for only to find out he needed help. Some people fall through the cracks and it's hard to see. I am glad he had you.

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Based on the ministering interviews in my Ward, I don't get the sense that there has been a noticeable decline in visits (at home or otherwise).

However, I have observed a marked increase in comradary within the new quorum and the Ward in general, as well as an outbreak of spontaneous kindness and generosity, not to mention several inactives who have recently returned to church.

I find this very encouraging given that the program is relatively new and most of us are still trying to figure it out and get a more firm sense for how it is, or we are, supposed to operate. Perhaps that is part of the beauty of the less structured and nuanced program--i.e. our shared struggle towards discerning the  solid and concrete makes us more mindful. Who knows?

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

Edited by wenglund

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