by Jenniffer WARDELL
What does ministering mean for individual members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
President Russell M. Nelson announced at the recent General Conference that both Visiting Teaching and Home Teaching will be replaced by the concept of ministering. Though local ward and stake leaders will work out specific arrangements for people underneath them, church leaders have released some information about the concept on lds.org/mycalling/ministering that will help members receive a better understanding of some of the changes that are coming. There are also videos on the site that offer tips and deeper insight into several concepts.
“We have a heaven-sent opportunity to demonstrate pure religion undefiled before God,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland about the concept of ministering. “To … minister to the widows and the fatherless, the married and the single, the strong and the distraught, the downtrodden and the robust, the happy and the sad – in short, all of us, every one of us, because we all need to feel the warm hand of friendship and hear a firm declaration of faith.”
What is ministering?
It still means regular contact with those people members are assigned to minister to, but there are fewer rules attached to it. The amount and type of contact will now depend on the needs of the person being ministered to, and should be determined by conversation with the person. A mix of contact may be used, including personal visits, texts, phone calls, emails and notes, and can change depending on the changing needs of the person. Performing service for the person is also encouraged.
The goal of ministering is to make sure the person you’re ministering to feels cared for, encouraged and welcomed. As Holland said in a 2016 talk, “[What] matters most is how you have blessed and cared for those within your stewardship, which has virtually nothing to do with a specific calendar or a particular location. What matters is that you love your people and are fulfilling the commandment ‘to watch over the church always.’”
How do members get their ministering assignments?
Though members will likely keep many of the same people they already had contact with during Visiting and Home Teaching, changes in assignments will come during the quarterly interviews. Leaders will discuss the particular needs of each individual with the new ministering sisters or brethren.
What about messages?
The church has previously eliminated specific Visiting Teaching and Home Teaching monthly messages, though many sisters and brothers still brought a spiritual message to share. Though that’s still allowed, depending on the needs of the person, sharing a message isn’t the ultimate goal of ministering.
What about monthly reporting?
According to the church’s official documentation, that won’t happen anymore. Instead, there will be quarterly interviews between partnerships and their Relief Society or Priesthood leaders, updating them about the people they’re ministering. Members are also encouraged to contact their leaders at any time if needed, or speak to the bishop if the situation warrants.
How can younger members of the church get involved?
Laurels and Mia Maids can now serve as ministering companions to Relief Society sisters, the same way priests and teachers have been assigned as companions to Melchizedek Priesthood holders. However, they will not be assigned people to specifically minister to them, and will still be taken care of by the same people assigned to minister to their families.