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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