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 have been assigned. (Who wants a grumpy home teacher like me anyway.)
In some cases assignments have been effective. We have heard these stories from the pulpit for decades as a method to motivate us action, to catch the spirit. But, often these stories have just left us feeling guilty or ignored.
In spite of innumerable sermons, pep-talks, 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 get 10%. Yet, this metric has never seemed to correlate to the activity, friendships, and service evidenced in the wards.
There is a common business axiom that says: “Culture eats policy for breakfast.”
A program is best when it can take advantage of existing culture and leverage the practical without imposing a stifling layer of formality. In other words, to be effective, culture IS your program.
Programs and policies are seldom effective at driving culture, thus home teaching has never really been successful (>50%) as a general rule. This is not to say that there haven’t been wonderful experiences, only that the ideal has seldom been on the reality RADAR.
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.
Audience: “Failed program?? That’s harsh.”
Yes, failed. What else would you call a program that yields 100% guilt and 20% success?
What I would like to see under (light-touch) ministering:
- Couples (husband and wife) engaging with other couples and families
- Members organizing gospel study groups
- Hiking, quilting, reading, or woodworking groups
- Families inviting neighbors over for dinner or casual activities
- Neighborhood service projects
In other words, I’d like to see more members taking initiative to be involved friends rather than sitting idle waiting for an assignment. And, leaders that observe and encourage rather than impose; a little MBWA would fit the model.
Will “ministering” work? We’ll see. It might take a few years for us to figure it out, but I have high hopes (and less guilt).