During the Sunday afternoon session of April 2018 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson announced a significant change to the way members serve and care for each other.
The separate programs of home teaching and visiting teaching will be “retired,” he said, becoming a coordinated effort called “ministering,” a “new and holier approach” to Christlike caring for others and helping meet their spiritual and temporal needs.
As we learn more, I will try to add helps to aid us all in this new program, but the most important thing is that we learn to love and care for those we asked ask to "minister" to.
Living and Serving Like Jesus
What does ministering mean to the members in your ward or branch? To find out, you could write Ministering on the board and then invite members to write words around it that they associate with ministering. Members could find words or phrases to add to the list from scriptures like the following: Matthew 25:34–40; Luke 10:25–37; 2 Nephi 25:26; Mosiah 18:8–9; 3 Nephi 18:25; and Doctrine and Covenants 81:5. What do we learn from these verses about ministering? You could ask members to share examples of ministering they have seen. How can our ministering help meet people’s spiritual and temporal needs? How can it help people come closer to Christ?
To learn about how to minister effectively, members could share stories from the scriptures in which the Savior ministered to others—several examples can be found in John 4–6 and Mark 2:1–12. Members could share what impresses them about these stories and what principles they learn about ministering. For example, how did the Savior personalize His service to others? How did He meet people’s spiritual needs as well as temporal needs? Class members could share times when they have seen people use these principles in their ministering.
To explore the power of ministering motivated by Christlike love, you could write the following sentences on the board and invite members to suggest ways to fill in the blanks: When I truly love the people I serve, I . When I serve for other reasons, I . What can we do to ensure that our ministering to others is motivated by Christlike love? How do we develop Christlike love for those to whom we are assigned to minister? (see Moroni 7:45–48). Perhaps members could share examples of ministering that was inspired by Christlike love.
President Russell M. Nelson said, “A hallmark of the Lord’s true and living Church will always be an organized, directed effort to minister to the individual children of God and their families” (“Ministering with the Power and Authority of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018). What does President Nelson teach are some of the “organized, directed” ways in which the Church helps us better care for individuals? Why are these efforts “a hallmark of the Lord’s true and living Church”? (see Mosiah 18:21–22 and Moroni 6:4–6 for some ideas). What blessings have come into our lives or the lives of others because people ministered in their Church callings or assignments?
The experiences of the sons of Mosiah illustrate that the way we see people affects how we minister to them. You could write on the board How the Nephites saw the Lamanites and How the sons of Mosiah saw the Lamanites. Then invite members to search Mosiah 28:1–3 and Alma 26:23–26 to find words and phrases to write under each of these statements. What does this comparison teach us about how the way we see people affects the way we minister to them? How can we learn to see people more as God sees them? (see D&C 18:10–16).
To help members better understand the value of focusing on the needs of others as we minister, you could compare ministering to giving and receiving gifts. Have we ever received a meaningful gift from someone who clearly knew what we needed or wanted? How is ministering similar to giving a thoughtful gift? Consider discussing stories from the most recent general conference that demonstrate how people ministered according to the needs of others (see, for example, Jean B. Bingham, “Ministering as the Savior Does,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018). Members could also share other stories that demonstrate this principle.
How can we learn what others’ needs are? Invite each member to make a list of some of the people to whom they minister. Next to each name they could write an answer to the question “What does this person need to come closer to Christ?” As applicable, encourage members to include ordinances each person may need to receive. Invite members to continue to think about this question and seek inspiration to help them meet the needs of others.
Elder Robert D. Hales said: “The gospel plan requires giving and receiving. … Individuals in difficulty often say: ‘I’ll do it alone,’ … ‘I can take care of myself.’ It has been said that no one is so rich that he does not need another’s help, no one so poor as not to be useful in some way to his fellowman. The disposition to ask assistance from others with confidence, and to grant it with kindness, should be part of our very nature” (“We Can’t Do It Alone,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, 91, 93). Why are we sometimes hesitant to accept help from others? How does our willingness to accept help bless those who serve us? Give members a few moments to ponder ways they can be more open to receiving the ministering of others. What does 1 Corinthians 12:13–21 suggest about why we need each other?
To help members consider the many ways we can minister to one another, you could invite them to review Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s message “Be With and Strengthen Them” (Ensign or Liahona, May 2018; see also “Ministering Principles” in other 2018 issues of the Ensign and Liahona). Members could divide into small groups, and each group could think of several scenarios in which a person might need help. They could then brainstorm various ways in which people could minister to the spiritual and temporal needs of the individuals in the scenarios. Ask the groups to share their ideas and ponder whether any of the ideas discussed could bless the people to whom they minister.