Relief Society Lesson Plan: Ministering is Motivated By Christlike Love
This Fourth Sunday discussion can be a great opportunity to talk about radical examples of Christ’s ministry and ways we can show Christlike love in our ministry. This prompt starts with a few suggestions to get discussion going (see link).
I wanted to take a slightly different approach with this idea and show a variety of ways that women minister in and out of the Church. The common thread in these stories below is that these are examples in women’s lives about their access to personal revelation and how it showed them how to minister in unexpected ways.
In the manual, Daughters in My Kingdom, we have a chapter on ministry through visiting teaching. (I think it’s also neat to see how the Lord has been preparing God’s people to receive the new ministering program through subtle changes in language over time.) Chapter 7, “Pure Religion’: Watchcare and Ministering through Visiting Teaching, includes several gems about the history of Visiting Teaching and ways Church leaders (women and men) have been inspired to minister to those under their care.
Early on in The Exponent’s history, we did a book club on the blog, discussing Take This Bread: a Radical Conversion by Sara Miles. In “Strangers Bring us Closer to God,” Pastor Miles talks about how she received her inspiration to minister to those in her community by filling the basic need that we see throughout the scriptures, that of being fed. She writes,
“Poking around in the Bible, I found clues about my deepest questions. Salt, grain, wine and water; fig trees, fishermen and farmers. There were Psalms about hunger and thirst, about harvests and feasting. There were stories about manna in the wilderness, and prophets fed by birds. There was God appearing in radiance to Ezekiel and handing him a scroll: ‘Mortal,’ he said, ‘eat this scroll,’ and Ezekiel swallowed the words, ‘sweet as honey,’ and knew God.
And then in the New Testament appeared the central, astonishing fact of Jesus, proclaiming that he himself was the bread of heaven. ‘Eat my flesh and drink my blood,’ he said. I thought how outrageous Jesus was to the church of his time: he didn’t wash before meals, he said the prayers incorrectly, he hung out with women, foreigners, the despised and unclean. Over and over, he told people not to be afraid. I liked all that, but mostly I liked that he said he was bread, and told his friends to eat him…
I couldn’t stop thinking about another story: Jesus instructing his beloved, fallible disciple Peter exactly how to love him: ‘Feed my sheep’… It seemed pretty clear. If I wanted to see God, I could feed people.”
And so that is what she did, opening food pantries in her town because that’s what Jesus wanted her to do, to feed His sheep.
Harvard Divinity School did also talked about helping the larger community in the panel, “Homelessness at Harvard: How Serving Your Neighbor Can Change the World.” This interfaith panel talks about what I truly hope for with the ministering program: working in the larger community with people of various faiths to help those who need it most.
Our perma blogger, Trudy, has written several posts about her call to ministry in prison populations.
But, what if you don’t have time or resources to do a daily, weekly or monthly continual ministry? Our bloggers write about how they have felt inspired to minister and use the scriptures for more examples.
Zenaida writes about prayer shawl ministry as she explores other churches and their ways of serving others.
Emeritus blogger, Melody, writes about how she was inspired to start a women’s writing retreat as part of her ministry.
“As a feminist, I look forward to the time when alterations in structure are significant enough to bring a true balance of power within the Church. Until that time, I’ve been looking for ways to answer what feels like a call to minister in my own way.”
Dora and Liz turn to the scriptures for feminist ways we can see examples of ministry.
In “Healing the Crippled Woman and Church,” Dora writes about Christ’s ministry and how when he ministered he did it in very radical ways.
“In calling the woman to him, he invited her into heretofore exclusively male religious territory, and flouted the conventions that excluded women from public spiritual, social and political activity.
He spoke to her and laid his hands on her for the healing. Interestingly enough, prior to Christ’s ministry, there is no biblical record of men laying hands on non-related women for healings or blessings. She was immediately, ‘made straight and glorified God.'”
In our Women and the Bible series, Liz asks, “How does the model of pastoral care set by Shiphrah and Puah affect how we minister to each other, how we visit teach one another, how we interact with church leadership, and how we act?” Not only is this blog post an excellent example of women ministering in the scriptures, it’s also a great example of how we can interpret and apply the stories we read in the scriptures.
As someone who is not currently considered “active,” I feel like it’s important to address how to minister to those who are on the rolls of the Church but do not come to Church. In her post, “There is Room for You,” emeritus blogger, East River Lady writes this,
“I’d still like to think that when I am ready to return, there will be room for me. If not, I’ll make room. I know it’s there. I just have to find it and carve it out. There wasn’t room for Christ while he went about His ministry–– He was rejected and despised and considered a radical. But nonetheless, He went about His Father’s business and He made room. And his disciples and friends followed and supported Him, while gaining new supporters and friends. Heck, there wasn’t even room for Mary at the inn, but that didn’t stop the Savior from being born! Mary made room for Him! Now, not only is there room for Christ, there are mansions dedicated to His name! And He tells us today there is room for us. And I believe it.”
Sometimes, inactive people don’t come to Church weekly because they are apathetic, but I think this is unusual. Many of us have chosen to stay home for personal and painful reasons. It would be arrogant to assume that someone is inactive because they are lazy or easily offended. How can we minister to those who aren’t active? I would ask the class to share stories about ministering to inactive members.
I’ll share some of my thoughts here because they have changed dramatically since I am on the other side now.
1. Pray for those you want to minister to.
I used to think that when I did this, it wasn’t actually accomplishing anything because more often than not, I didn’t feel inspired to do much more than keeping a person on my list. I now realize that as someone who finds weekly attendance too painful, I love the idea of my visiting teacher (visiting minister?) praying for me every day. In fact, that’s all I really want, and my relationship with my VT has improved dramatically once I told her this.
2. Ask what she would like
This applies to active or inactive. Some people just want a treat, some people want a text, some people want a nice long visit in their home every month. Ask your charges. It will help both of you.
3. Love those you minister to
I sometimes look at how I treated friends and charges who were inactive, and I cringe, but I’m trying to be easier on myself. People can spot someone doing something out of the kindness of their heart and their pure desire to be friendly and show love as opposed to someone who wants to be able to check you off their list…a duty done, a notch in one’s belt. The examples I have linked to in this lesson help are, I hope, ideas you and your class can discuss to figure out how to have that Christlike love.
I love that in the Book of Mormon, we read that charity is the pure love of Christ. I would end this lesson with Moroni 7:46-48,
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.