Nov 10, 2016
7 min read
 

Reorienting Our Perception of Home Teaching

I think we’ve all been there. You may have a good home/visiting teacher now, but I think we’ve all had no-shows and probably for most of our experience in the Church. Conversely, many of us have probably had experience being a no-show ourselves; maybe we’ve always pretty much failed at it. But what if changing things could be a simple as adjusting our perspective on home and visiting teaching? I’d like to share what’s been working for me and how I got there.

“We haven’t had home teachers for the last two years.”

“I’ve never had home teachers in this ward.”

“We had some good home teachers one time back when I was a teenager.”

Sound familiar? Our faces sour when we speak of home teaching in private company. It feels justifiable to throw our hands up and think that the church would be better off in dismantling the whole system altogether. I think this is completely wrong and I’ll explain why.

Representatives of Jesus

In Matthew 8, I noticed this string of individuals who were coming to the Savior for help. While Jesus helped them, he wasn’t the one seeking the people, they sought him out. What a unique demonstration of faith, to go humbly to an individual and faithfully request a blessing.

In each of these cases and many others in the New Testament, a lesson was taught or a principle was emphasized. Something was said about the purpose of suffering or belief or faith. Then Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and ascended to heaven. What now? Was this unique practice of going to someone to ask for a blessing or assistance simply done away when Jesus left?

Jesus ordained 12 apostles to preach, heal, baptize, and do pretty much the same kinds of the things he did in his ministry. In other words, his apostles were his replacements that he had trained and instructed so that they could carry on his work.

Think of that for a second and then consider what Handbook 2:7.4.1 states:

“Home teachers represent the Lord…”

Turning the tables

No, I’m not talking about the money changers, I’m suggesting a different way of looking at home/visiting teaching. What if instead of waiting for your home/visiting teacher to call, you contacted your Elders Quorum President, Relief Society President, or High Priest Group leader and asked who your home/visiting teachers were.

Then imagine that you called them up and invited them over to your home and talked to them about the kinds of way they could help your family. What if each month you sent them an email or text to inform them of some of the families struggles that they could take into consideration when they plan a lesson.

“Brother/Sister ________, we have been trying to help the kids settle their differences in a more peaceful manner, could our lesson this month focus on that?”

“Brother/Sister ________, we have been struggling as a couple to know what to do with our employment situation, we would each like a blessing to be included as part of your next visit.”

“Brother/Sister ________, we think some wisdom on the value of family prayer would bless our family on your next visit.”

Why can’t we, or in other words, why don’t we exercise faith in the same way that people did in Jesus’ day?

“Oh, I would totally not hesitate at all to call on Jesus to help me, but Brother Sportsfan? Really? He’s never even called us and I think he’s on the verge of going inactive.”

Paul taught the Corinthians:

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (1 Corinthians 1:27)

We can choose to exercise faith in God to bless us through the weakness of our fellow man and, in turn, probably bless them as well because of their ministry.

Need

We should be respectful of the time of others, but we should also not be afraid to ask for help with real needs. I’ve noticed that many people I talk to in church seem to feel that since they are active, that they don’t really need a home/visiting teacher. I’ve also talked to people who don’t go out because they don’t feel that they are needed.

The net effect is that the people are too prideful to invite the servants of the Lord, and the servants shy away because they feel rejected. There are many other reasons at play such as busy schedules, time conflicts, and unforeseen circumstances, and those things can cause legitimate issues, if we’re being fair.

That said, I don’t think that many members have even considered the idea of taking the responsibility of reaching out to the Lord through their home/visiting teachers and to receive a blessing through their ministration.

Instead of trying to push everyone to “Do their home/visiting teaching,” what if we explained the doctrine and principles to the degree that there was a pull coming from a faithful membership?

How we roll

I have implemented many of these principles into my own home teaching experiences. While I cannot and should not compel the families I home teach to change their entire way of looking at things, I can and do ask the heads of household to prayerfully consider what messages or service would best bless their family. I’ll make a few suggestions as examples and play the rest by ear.

This has worked very well. A brother recently informed me that he would like to hear a message on patience because he felt that the family could focus on that more. His agency was respected and his desire for good was revealed, the result was a very spiritual and productive visit.

My personal objective is to ponder what we need to focus on as a family and discuss those things with my wife. The goal is to decide together as a council on what blessings we desire from the Lord and then engage the help of his representatives. A home teaching visit typically involves conversation and a spiritual message, but blessings can be requested and received as well.

I take the initiative to reach out to the senior home teaching companion and inform them of any desires we might have for our next visit. We have the visit scheduled for the same day and time each month so it’s already set aside. If there are any scheduling conflicts, we communicate and adjust accordingly as needed. This has worked very well for all parties involved and it is simple to implement.

Thy faith

In our experience, the very existence of home teachers allows us to consider what blessings we would like to receive from the Lord and call upon representatives in a manner that allows for the exercise of faith in the same way those in scripture reached out to the Savior. Interestingly, Jesus never said, “My faith and power have now made you whole.” Instead, his focus was on the faith of those that came to him:

  • “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.” Luke 18:42
  • “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” Luke 17:19
  • thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace…” Mark 5:34
  • “great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” Matthew 15:28

Home teaching assignments allow for this scriptural pattern to continue in the lives of God’s children if we will approach it in a manner that is effective. I do not believe that sitting idly by waiting for home teachers call and bring some mystery message will ever do much good; I think we can do better by learning from scripture.

If our own faith drives the home teaching experience then I think more of the fruits of the Spirit, and the presence of the Lord will be present in our homes and lives.

What do you think?

  • Have you ever taken the initiative in calling your home/visiting teachers?
  • If home (and visiting teachers) represent the Lord and we really take that into account, how else does that change the dynamic of how we could look at these situations.
  • What other ways have you found to improve the quality of your home/visiting teaching visits?
  • If you try any of the ideas in this post, please share your experiences in the comments below.

2 Comments

  1. I have tried many of the ideas you describe in your post and have done a reasonable job at minimizing the guilt of being a mediocre (70%) home teacher.

    To me home teaching has always been a classic example of tension between the ideal and practical. Yes, the ideal is to have a spiritual teacher in every member’s home every month. But, like most people, I really don’t care for conscripted friends and the converse applies to those to which I am assigned. In some cases assignments these relationships may be effective; we have heard these stories from the pulpit for decades. In spite of innumerable sermons and end-of-year rallies, I have never been in a ward where Home Teaching was routinely above 30%. My current ward is lucky to hit 10%. This metric has never seemed to correlate to the activity and friendships and service evidenced in the wards.

    A program is best when it can take advantage of existing culture and leverage the practical without imposing a stifling layer of formality. The transition to the new ministering program may take better advantage of natural relationships and allow for more independent, honest friendships. Hopefully, local leaders can exercise a light touch and not regurgitate a failed program under a new name.

    What I would like to see under (light-touch) ministering:
    – Couples (husband and wife) engaging with other couples and families
    – Members organizing study and social groups
    – Families inviting neighbors over for casual, friendly activities
    – Neighborhood service projects

    In other words, I’d like to see members taking initiative to be involved rather than sitting idle until an assignment is given. And, leaders that observe rather than impose.

    Will “ministering” work? We’ll see. (Hey, this is a good post for my blog, thegrumpymormon.com)

    • Very well said, I agree with each of your points. It looks like couples will be utilized where appropriate under the new approach. I think that each of your ideas are possible now that the one-size fits all formalized teaching visit is no longer the definition of success. The new definition of success is whatever is effective in blessing the people.

      The most significant change here is that the church has placed pretty much all its trust in the members in following the Spirit and their own impressions in determining what each family needs.

      I think that the prior constraints were difficult for members to implement because deep down we felt how ineffective and impersonal they were. The idea of having someone assigned to you that you can call if needed is I think a hallmark of our community and a valuable asset. This practicality of this new direction is self-evident.

      It requires a lot of planning and energy to organize the schedules of (if you have say three families to home teach) five families to replicate a formal event each month where after pleasantries are exchanged and information that is freely available online is regurgitated to the family over and over again.

      That alone is a really tough target to hit and at the end of the day, there isn’t much left in the tank to consider more critical needs and how to help in those respects. It all becomes too much, so this shift has been a long time coming and I whole-heartedly welcome it.

      I do believe that the members will take initiative and the benefits will only encourage more people to get involved. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, E_B.

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