Saturday, November 29, 2014

5 Weird Ways To Be A Better Visiting Teacher


I haven't always loved visiting teaching. I'm not sure I really understood it until a few years ago. In 2012 they changed visiting teaching. If this is news to you, you should go back and read it HERE. They compared the old way of visiting teaching to the Law of Moses. The new way is the higher law. So, are you still stuck on the Law of Moses where you go once a (every few) months and sit down and have a lesson, chat, and then leave with the old, "is there anything I can do for you?" Don't worry, lots of people still are. But you have an opportunity to do better. When I started following this new route of visiting teaching I absolutely fell in love. Suddenly I was becoming an instrument in the hands of the Lord and it felt so good. I have had sisters I visit teach tell me that I have changed their lives. Whoa, right? I have to tell them that it wasn't me at all. It was all the Lord. Following this new path of visiting teaching reaches the one, ministers to women, and strengthens all of us. All because it is all about being the hands of the Lord rather than following a cookie-cutter program. 

So let me give you 5 weird ways you can be a better visiting teacher that you've probably never heard of before. 

1. Wait Until the Last Day of the Month to Report

That might sound contrary to what you've been told at church. "Report by the 15th!" No way. If you report before the end of the month you imply that your visiting teaching is somehow over, checked off the list, done for the month. But that isn't how visiting teaching is supposed to be. Not anymore. Forget about numbers. It isn't that way anymore. Reporting is just checking in with the Relief Society Presidency and an opportunity to forward on the needs of the women you minister to. There is no "yes" or "no" as to whether or not you have done your visiting teaching. You are supposed to report your efforts for the month,  what you have done to minister, and any needs your sisters have. Now, if an urgent need is found during the month, you should definitely make a call to the Relief Society Presidency and get help. As for the dates involved, forget about it. Don't let your visiting teaching efforts revolve around months or dates. That is SO 3 years ago. 

2. Stalk the Ladies You Visit Teach

I'm not saying you should be a creeper, but friend them on facebook, even if you don't really know them! Follow them on Instagram and check out their Pinterest page. Social media is a great way to get to know your sisters and interact with them. Notice the details. They mention a family event or upcoming trip? Write it down if you need to, or schedule a reminder in your phone to ask about it. Sometimes technology can help you learn how to be a good friend to them. If your sisters aren't on social media, then find different ways to nudge yourself into their lives and get to know them. If you don't know anything about your sisters, sorry, but you probably aren't going to be a very effective visiting teacher. 

3. Skip the Message

Whoa, what? I know, I'm actually telling you to skip the message. I promise I'm not being sacrilegious. Remember the year where visiting teaching was super awkward because the messages were all about being a good visiting teacher? Then you felt like a moron when you went visiting teaching because it was something you should have been doing, but you weren't, so you just felt like an embarrassed hypocrite. Well, those messages weren't meant for you to share with the sisters you visit teach. They were for you. You were supposed to come up with your own message. They started giving messages again because we didn't get it. But let me tell you, it's a better way to visit. Pray. Figure out what gospel topic or message your sisters need or want to discuss.  That means you may need a different message for each sister. Visiting teaching is a safe place to meet the very personal needs of women. The message in the Ensign is for millions of women, it is not for the one. We're changing. It's time to focus on the one.

4. Stop Bringing Cookies

We rely way too much on cookies and treats. Sometimes we even leave a plate of cookies on the doorstep and call it good for the month. We're missing the point. Jesus wasn't talking literally when he said "feed my sheep." Your cookies and treats are a crutch. If you stop leaning on them, you'll be forced to find new ways to be a better visiting teacher.  I promise that you will have a whole new world opened up to you. Once you figure out how to reach the one, then you can consider baked goods as a way to minister, if appropriate. Just don't let it be your crutch. 

5. Treat Everyone Differently

In a world that seems to be focusing a lot on equality and treating everyone the same, I'm going to suggest the opposite. Treat each of the sisters you visit teach differently. Your sisters are all different people with different needs. Visiting teaching them the exact same way won't reach their individual needs. One sister may need someone to go walking with on occasion. Another may be home bound and may need home visits and a listening ear. Another may have a chaotic home life and needs an escape. Perhaps she needs to come to your home to escape! Another may want nothing to do with the church but is willing to let you send her texts. Visiting teaching is about meeting needs. Stop treating your sisters the same. Treat them as individuals and you'll have a better chance at effectively meeting their needs. 

Bonus: Never ask "Is there anything I can do for you?" It's a cop out. Live the higher law. Do unto others as they would have done unto themselves. Figure out their needs and meet them. Don't just ask the standard question when you know that the socially traditional response is, "nope, I'm fine!" 


When I served in a Relief Society Presidency I found that sisters often underestimated their efforts in visiting teaching. They beat themselves up for what they didn't do, and didn't realize all of the things they were doing. A sister once reported that she had failed to do her visiting teaching that month. I told her that was a bunch of crap. I knew that she watched the children of the woman she visit taught several times that month, had brought them dinner, and had been checking in with her almost daily. But she hadn't visited and shared a message. This sister was beating herself up for not following the law of Moses, and neglecting to see where she was following the higher law. It's time to live the higher law. We can be better. We need to be better. The Visiting Teaching program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an inspired program that allows sisters to be instruments in the hands of the Lord. Every woman deserves the opportunity to feel those ministering hands in her life. Be the hands!
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27 comments:

  1. You sooooo get it! I love this post! This is what we should be talking about in RS!

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    1. I'm so glad you came by! Thank you for the support. It is kind of scary to put my thoughts out there in such a vulnerable way. So truly, thank you!

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  2. Awesome post!

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  3. This gave me happy goosebumps! I'm hoping to be assigned a "route" soon...new ward. Thanks for sharing this...absolutely hit the nail on the head!

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  4. I really love this. funny enough, its not a blatantly spiritual post but I teared up and felt the Spirit. Thank you!

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  5. I have another way: not only praying for your sisters, but letting them KNOW that you pray for them, that you think of them.... I know that when my amazing visting teacher says, "So I've been thinking about this thing you said, and praying to find some ideas for you, and I felt this, and this...." I sit up and listen, and I feel so loved that she is thinking about me more than just that one time a month she wants to come visit.

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    1. I love that idea too! thanks!

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    2. As a full-time missionary and as a counselor at youth camp run by our local Institute I would often pray for the people I was serving right in front of them - at the end of a lesson, or before sending the youth off to bed. It can be an amazingly powerful and personal expression of your love for them.

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  6. I really needed to read this tonight. Thank you for giving me a different perspective and softening my heart on this subject a bit.

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  7. Insightful and brilliant! Law of the Gospel vs Law of Moses for Visiting Teachers. THANK-YOU for your post!

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  8. I LOVE this! Thank you so much. I am teaching this week and will be touching on these points. Fit perfectly with my lesson,. Thanks again!

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  9. I didn't know it changed. I remember helping my mother care for
    babies at our home to help out a tired mother, housing young families until the blizzard passed, helping a young mother of 6 dress her children for bed during our visiting teaching. Calves were given to less fortunate neighbors to raise for food. My mother traveled 12 miles ea way every day to help a new mother suffering from depression after her 4th child. When mom was on her death bed, her visiting teachers came every few days to cheer her up and check on the well being of dad and younger brother. Food was sent home from church for a special Sunday dinner. My great grandmother left her 11 children to help the suffering during the 1918 flu epidemic as well as other times of need. I don't think sisters today can do much better than that. I only hope I have done as well.

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    1. So if I'm reading this and understanding this "change" The Law of Moses Style of visiting teaching is the Visit, Lesson(Message) and check it off the list the numbers game. to the higher law of actually connecting and helping and getting to truly love your sisters. Is that correct?

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    2. The change is actually an effort to get back to the roots of visiting teaching which are exactly what you described. At some point we moved away from that to a law of Moses style where we visited, taught a lesson, and checked it off the list. What you describe is an exact example of the higher law for which we should strive. Too many sisters were introduced to visiting teaching under the law of Moses and that is all they know. It takes time for the large ship that is the church to change course So yes, the change is to get sisters to truly love the people they visit teach rather than play a numbers game.

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  10. WOW! Seems too little to say, Also, Thank You isn't nearly enough! As a newly called VT District Supervisor in our newly formed VERY large Ward, I will be sharing this information with our VT Coordinator. Great Stuff!! TFS!!!

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  11. Great post! Lots of wonderful things to think about, improve on, and do! Thank you so much. :) One clarification, the "report by the 15th" is for the previous month. So by the 15th of February you need to have your visiting teaching for January reported (not simply the numbers, but how your sisters are doing kind of reporting). This is so that the Relief Society President can get the reports, see what the needs of her flock are and if there are any lost sheep she needs to reach out to (plus the report is also sent on to the Stake level).

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    1. I've heard it taught many times (back in the day) that you should schedule your appointment by the 1st, visit, and then report by the 15th so you aren't waiting until the last 2 weeks of the month to visit. That is what I was referring to. Reporting by the 15th of the following month is something that belongs with the new program. Perhaps you are too young to have had one of those fridge magnets handed out to you ;)

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  12. These are great! When you get to know your sisters you will know how to serve them best in time of need...then you wont need to ask "Is there anything I can help you with?" You will know what you can do to help!

    I love the "stop bringing cookies"....and then add "bring a treat" (if you are more like me and never bring treats!) haha

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  13. Such a great article. I've been telling visiting teachers who stop a conversation because they have to give the lesson for years that I can read it myself. I'd much rather have the visit and honestly get to know them.

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  14. I have been asked to give the Presidency Choice lesson in May. My president asked me to call it "Visiting Teaching 101" So many women in our ward consider passing by someone in the hallway on Sunday and saying, "HI. How are you?" visiting teaching and they call it in as done. I appreciate all of the things you have said here and i think it could be the basis for my lesson. Thank you for this.

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  15. Thank you for this post. I confess that I don't truly liked to do the visits, specially because of the way we are told to do. But after reading your post, you helped me to gain courage again to start my visits again.

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  16. Thank you so much. You have enlightened me with what I should be doing as a Visiting Teacher. I will certainly incorporate what you have said into my visiting teaching. I really want to know my sisters more but have felt awkward in doing so. Thanks to you, I no longer feel that way and am looking forward to going visiting teaching next month.

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  17. I once was taught to call, write a heart felt letter, visit to chat, have ice cream, and each week you find yourself wanting to visit YOUR FRIEND that you visit teach. Once you are a friend, you see someone's needs and their feelings when they need help. Its the love of the Lord shining through! I saw one ward who wiped away their old visiting teaching list. Took the active sisters and assigned a pair to take another out for ice cream. The next month, that pair continued to do another ice cream date, and they had a new sister added. Within the summer they increased their visiting teaching by 50% and their Sunday activity increased also! All in the name of love.

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  18. I personally despise the idea of "reporting" to the RS Presidency the needs of sisters I visit. It opens up the gossip chain and is an unnecessary step. Unless the the sister you visit wants her "needs" shared then you should keep it to yourself. We spend too much time in the church trying to "fix" everyone. I think we'd see much higher activity in the church if this chain of gossip was broken. We should be taking care of each other because we covenanted to do so at baptism, not because of another improved church program. Excuse my pessimism but I don't need someone coming to my house, calling me, and texting me every other day trying to discover my needs. If I have a need that I want someone to know about I'll let them know. And chances are it is going to be a trusted friend that I talk to, not a visiting teacher that has been "assigned" to visit me for a couple of months.

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    1. AnonymousJune 26, 2017

      I think the point of the message is not to go hunting for someone's needs exactly, but to be in contact with them so you can become their trusted friend. When you become a trusted friend you wont have to hunt for their needs you will be told of them or you will know them because you love and care for your friends. However if you only see a new person once a month and then only to deliver a message and a plate of cookies how can you truly be a trusted friend. Friendship and love for that friend should be our first goal. You are correct that gossiping destroys trust and the building of that friendship and love. I feel that as a true friend you would know when it is appropriate to share a need with your reporting. However if I see a Sister in need I like to try and build that friendship by offering MY help. Isn't that what the Lord would do? I admit I have only been doing this a very short while so I am still learning a lot. The sisters I have been "assigned" to I did not know beforehand, but I am happy to say that they are now my friends and do as much for me as I do for them. Isnt that what it should be about. If we share ourselves and be a friend then we find we are truly blessed. I don't know you and I hope I don't sound like anything but a Sister who loves you and prays for your true happiness.

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