Quotes on the New Ministering Program

What is your experience with Ministering thus far?

This is a collection of comments from various women in regard to the new “Ministering”  program to date. Feel free to add your own experiences and thoughts in the comments section.

 

“I actually really like ministering.  I think it is limping to a start — so far our ward is the only ward in the stake that has actually implemented the suggested changes.  But basically it’s saying “go be real friends and stop focusing on form.”  I think it is a good thing but it will take while for the vision to catch.  I don’t feel guilty anymore, which makes a nice change.”

 

“I love idea of ministering, but being assigned makes it awkward for me. Maybe that’s an introvert thing.”

 

“I have mixed feelings about ministering. From a feminist perspective, the visiting teaching program had become almost identical to “ministering” (except for the reporting procedure). It rubbed me the wrong way when they made such a big deal in conference about this “New Program!!” when it’s only new for the men. One speaker acknowledged this briefly, but I’m having a hard time getting excited about “changes” when, functionally, there aren’t any.”

 

“Ministering is like Visiting Teaching Lite – no need to check up every month, no need to share a lesson, no need to do anything, just pat yourself on the back and feel good.”

 

“The way the program was rolled out really did just sound like visiting teaching under another name. I’m frustrated that every minor change is labeled as ‘historic.’ I feel like it’s just another way of setting our standards extremely low. Make every tiny thing seem like a big deal so that we can avoid doing any major repairs or renovations to our spiritual experience.”

 

“Meh, I don’t know. It seems pretty much like visiting teaching to me, just rebranded to sound more Christian.  At least the way it is being implemented in my ward, we are assigned a list of sisters and can make contact with them through visit, phone call or mail. Which is exactly what we were supposed to do before. Except now I have 15 sisters on my list instead of 4. I struggled with visiting teaching before in terms of time, capacity and being introverted—I have no idea how changing the name and then vastly expanding the number of people I’m supposed to “minister” is going to lead more success. I feel like I’ve been set up for failure.”

 

“I actually got switched from two people to one, and she’s someone I see all the time and look after anyway. And my ward is pushing service, not superficial contact.”

 

“Part of the ministering program is that the presidency is supposed to meet with each companionship (or solo person) and talk them through their list.  We currently have it so most companionships have one person who is LA or DNC.  I ask my sisters to just include that person in their prayers, respect the DNC, and if LA do what the spirit dictates, or await any other details from ward missionaries.  The idea that anyone “doesn’t need a visit” is balderdash and doesn’t at all fit with the program.

“I like it. It reflects what’s been going on in our ward better than the title “visiting teaching” did. And I’m thrilled to be rid of those foul lessons.”

 

     “To me this is supposed to be like visiting teaching but without the guilt and formulaic approach.  You’re still supposed to see people and contact them.  And ten per person seems way way too much!!!!  Our limit is four per companionship — one LA you pray for, three others that you can divide up as you see fit — try both to see everyone, or divide and conquer.  We’ve also been interviewing everyone to ask what they want from a minister, so I pass that along in our interviews.  If someone asked to meet at a restaurant, or someone wants someone to walk with etc. then I can tell someone how to really meet needs.  I’m feeling really positive about how things are going.  It has meant a lot of work for me as a presidency person (lots and lots and lots of interviews, plus keeping notes on the interviews so I can follow up with whether people have their needs met) but I feel good.  Two sisters who independently said that they wanted someone to help them be accountable with scripture study are now assigned to minister, so an actual spiritual need is actually (hopefully) getting met.  I’m hopeful that the interview process will not be some kind of intrusive inappropriate “gossip about your sister” session but will instead help us to better match people.

 

That said I was bummed because as a member of the presidency, i was actually never interviewed and so my experience feels kind of erased and irrelevant.  When I mentioned this to the president she brushed it aside, pointing out that the other two presidency members are single sisters and making sure they were set was more important.  Possibly she didn’t understand my concern.”

 

“I haven’t noticed any change at all, except now my self-righteous, list-and-appearances oriented former home teacher no longer visits or attempts to visit. I’m not really getting ministering Sister visits either. It’s as though the change has given everyone in my ward permission to blow off their VT/HT and everyone is just going with that.”

 

“The stake Relief Society president was assigned as my visiting teacher, but she never spoke to me, never emailed, never even said hello to me at church. She knew who I was because I taught relief society ! I guess I thought she would at least speak to me because of her stake calling. Nope! I ended up stopping going to church, partly because no one spoke to me and I got tired of sitting alone or people only speaking to me if they wanted me to pray or do some service. When I heard when the Ministering switch was made, I hoped maybe someone new was assigned to visit. Nope. The stake relief society president and her same companion were still assigned me to. I just asked to be taken off of the list. It took me asking three times to be removed, but I am finally off. Don’t get me wrong—I’d love a visit. But knowing someone is “assigned” to me, and having them never contact me feels too much like rejection. So to me, ministering is just as hurtful as visiting teaching. I’m tired of waiting for someone at church to like me.”

 

My visiting teacher of over ten years used to send me a card every month. Since ministering was introduced, I’ve gotten one card saying to let her know if I need anything. I don’t mind; but I also know if I needed something, I wouldn’t ask her because we’re just not close enough, you know?”

 

“I wasn’t visit taught before, really. My Visiting teacher used to at least talk to me at church sometimes, tell me she was sorry she couldn’t visit and ask if there was anything I needed. Now she told me that she doesn’t have to say hi or even try to visit, and told me to just find her if I needed something. I’m not going to ask someone who can’t be bothered to say “hi” for help with anything. Plus, I felt like I was slapped- I don’t know her well enough to ask her for help with anything anyway, but it felt like a burn. When Ministering was announced, I thought that we were going to increase friendship– so I dreamed of attending free art shows or getting lunch and just chatting and getting to know women at church. But that was totally a dream. I have basically been told that my friendship, service and company are not wanted. I feel like I am back in high school and not in the cool kids club. Again.”

 

“The official change does not sit well with me. I don’t like the new name, I don’t care for the way they treated it as a ‘Historic’ change, and I find the vagueness of it to be confusing. Also, ‘ministering’ is not a term we have ever used much.”

 

“I really loved my visiting teacher, even though we don’t attend anymore. We didn’t get together often but she was an older sister in the world and super feminist, but old enough that people smiled talked about how much they loved feisty Sister X. Occasionally we would meet at the playground near her house and just catch up on life and let the kids play. I’m not really sure how to go about asking if she’s still assigned to me and it feels a weird conversation to have.”

 

“It just feels like… confusing. That’s really what it is. It’s like Visiting Teaching Lite. You’re still assigned, and you’re still responsible for sending out that meal train form, but that’s it.”

 

“I’m not a fan of the idea of ministering because of an assignment. And as much as I disliked that part of the Visiting/Home Teaching programs, at least there was a way to know if you were doing it right. And I very much like ministering itself.”

 

“Before, I was assigned four sisters with a companion. Now I have TEN sisters and no companion! How am I supposed to do this?”

 

“In an Email: ‘Ok. Sisters. The ministering letters. As discussed Sunday. Part 1: pray for inspiration, as well as hearts to be open and softened. Part 2: act. Fill in the form letters we handed out with the name of the person you are sending to, and a short line introducing yourself, i.e. ‘Hi I am Mary,  from…’ For every letter you need to purchase 2 stamps and 2 envelopes, one envelope will be addressed to the person you are sending it to or occupant. Address the second envelope to the bishop’s house, and enclose it in the first envelope with the form. Report the date you sent it via text message to the presidency. Part 3: Pray hard for those people! Note. Do not send letters to people you know.’ As soon as I read the email, I felt like I was back in Young Women when we tied  contact cards to helium balloons as a missionary activity. The contact cards all had the bishop’s address. We heard back from one person who found the balloon who only wanted to know how far it traveled. Totally random and impersonal.”

 

“Since I’m in the RS presidency in my ward, I have to conduct quarterly interviews with companionships.  Four couples in our ward are companions (husband/wife) — this is one thing that is new in terms of officialness, though I know wives have long accompanied husbands on home teaching in an unofficial capacity.  I asked the President how the reporting would work.  She said the EQ had asserted that he would interview all men regardless of whether we interviewed them or not.  She said no.  She said it is important that men report to women sometimes.  So they divided up the list and two couples report to the RS, two to the EQ.  That means that, for the first time ever in my church experience, and adult man reports to me and is accountable to me.  Both of the men I interview are in their sixties and seventies and have long had church experience — always and forever I would have been subordinate to them as (formerly) high priests.

 

The interviews weren’t some weird power trip for me or something, we just chatted about the people they’re assigned to minister to and their needs.  But it struck me as an infinitesimal yet important change.  Women having stewardship over men is as you all know a vanishingly rare occurrence in the church, and so to me this is a eensy step in a good direction.”

 

“The sisters I’m meant to minister to don’t seem to…need me or like me. So there’s that.”

 

“I really liked visiting teaching. It gave me, an introvert, a good reason to ask to come over and hang out with someone and get to know them. I’d probably never do that without the official sanction/push to visit.  I never did lessons, but I did like the visiting aspect. I’ll be sad if ministering means no more visiting.”

 

“The ministering thing is just visiting teaching with a new name and maybe a little less guilt for not doing it. I’ve been kind of a slacker visiting teacher for the past few years. I could make excuses like an absurd work schedule and my own natural introversion, but a lot of it is just that if I have a free evening, I would rather spend it at home with my cats than visiting assigned ward members or letting assigned ward members visit me. With the change to ministering, I’m still a slacker, but now I don’t feel bad about it. I’ll help people when they’re in need, but I don’t impose myself on people.”

 

“I hear less from my sisters, but I think they have also been there in ways that I’ve needed on the weeks I’ve really needed it. At the same time, I wish I would get a text once in a while.”

 

“I went for about a year without visiting teachers visiting me, and I was okay with that, and now with the change to ministering, I still haven’t been visited by my ministering sisters, and that’s fine, too. I’ve had a diligent set of home teachers for the past year, and they never made me feel like they were checking a box. They’re now my ministering brothers, and they’re still diligent, and it’s business as usual. But now I don’t have to feel like I need to make time for them that I don’t have if a particular month gets busy.”

 

What are your thoughts and experiences with the developing Ministering program? What would you change, if you could?

Spunky

Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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10 Responses

  1. Amelia says:

    I love serving. With assigned service, I am faced with sister who don’t really need me. I feel guided to serve when the person needs it, one of my sisters or not, and I feel much more comfortable with that.

  2. Mel says:

    I was assigned a pair of new ministering sisters and a pair of ministering brothers, but have never been contacted by either set. Our ward is cliquish and has spent 4 years ignoring my family exists so this is not really a change, but still hurtful.

  3. Karen says:

    My problem with the Ministering program is that I feel that you are being told who you have to help and then they check up on you afterwards. You should be helping everyone who needs help even those not in our church. I have never had a vt from my ward and have been in he ward over 2 years and the person I am supposed to minister to is the person who was my visiting teacher. She won’t even reply to my txt messages I know who she is but never been introduced and I am a very shy person so I can guarantee I will never go up to her.

  4. Jan Signore says:

    So interesting to read these responses, great article. I’ve always loved VT, the opportunity to know sister who I might otherwise never have known. I miss the reporting because I think, regardless of intent, the new reality is that less (or nothing) will be done. There has to be some accountability in my view. It makes me so sad to read of some sisters who feel rejected because of never having been reached out to! For the first time I have VT/HT who have never even said hello, let alone reached out in their capacity as such. In a new ward now for seven months, nothing. Disappointing.

  5. Anon for This says:

    The sister assigned to minister to me is putting in a huge effort to be my friend. She’s a nice, friendly person, but I’m an extreme introvert and have zero interest in building a friendship. Mostly, I just want to be left alone because I have so much freaking work to do daily/weekly/monthly. I feel so much pressure from my new minister that I’ve taken to hiding from her at church. Which has led to an onslaught of chatty text messages. My hubby thinks I’m being rude, but in any other social situation my lack of enthusiasm for this relationship would be clearly read, understood, and respected. Because she is ‘assigned’ to me and sees me as a ‘project’, she ignores my signals and (I’m guessing) sees herself as doing the righteous thing. Unfortunately, the RS Pres also sees me as a project (I am so not a project! I’m just introverted and overscheduled!) and thus I am hesitant to complain.

    • spunky says:

      I’m sorry for your situation, Anon for this. I’ve never had anyone make any real effort to be my friend at church, so confess I wish I knew what that felt like.

      I’m also not so sure, re: “but in any other social situation my lack of enthusiasm for this relationship would be clearly read, understood, and respected.”

      I think Mormons sometimes are very socially awkward and untested. I know so many Mormons who are only friend with other Mormons, which isn’t bad, but in a “forgiveness culture,” means we sometimes tolerate anti-social behaviours like gossip, nosiness, self-righteousness, and cheesy answers for everything (“just pray about it!”) Maybe send her a message thanking her for her energy about the new program, but how uncomfortable she is making you feel, and let her know that you’re too time poor to participate in ministering right now, but you’ll let her know when that changes? (because it doesn’t have to change.)

      Regardless, good luck. Introversion is real. <3

    • Emily says:

      Maybe you could frame it as, “what I NEED from a ministering sister is just knowing that I have someone I can call if a situation comes up.” It seems like church leaders have been pretty clear that we should be working to meet needs of individuals, and that it can take different forms.

  6. Maggie says:

    The months between the end of Visiting Teaching and the beginning of Ministering (for my ward, it was April-May-June) were so important to me: I felt like it was my time to prove to my assigned sisters that I really liked them, and that I wasn’t contacting them so I could tell someone else that I had. And I think I did better at giving heartfelt, necessary service during that time than I had in years as a visiting teacher. I am socially awkward, and forced, and weird. But I also care so much about the women I’ve gotten to know in my new ward, and I know a little bit more about their needs than I did before the program switch. I can see myself doing more in the months ahead instead of less.

  7. Aspen Hassell says:

    I personally enjoy the ministering changes. I’ve been assigned a young women as my companion. The mindset of service has helped me to look outside just my assigned women to those all around my ward and neighborhood. I feel my service mindset has really expanded since the announcement of the program. It was a good kickstart for me, especially as a newlywed.

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