Myths about Ministering, Myth 3: “I don’t know her—how am I supposed to begin this relationship? I feel like I’m imposing on her.”
One thing the Lord wants us to do is to get to know, appreciate, and work with people we might never otherwise meet or spend time with. This is an inspired, ingenious aspect of the Church organization along geographic lines and through callings, rather than completely through choice and affinity–it is part of having “our hearts knit together in unity and love” (Mosiah 18:21). But it is difficult to be asked to contact and develop a relationship with someone you have not met and who may not be inclined to meet you. Yet, we are asked to do exactly that to see that each sister is watched over and cared for through ministering.
It may be comforting to remember that you are not just pushing into this woman’s life: You are on the Lord’s errand. (See “Myths about Ministering, Myth 1” about visiting teaching being more than “assigned friends.”) Here are some practical suggestions for things you can do to get this relationship started:
- First, pray—that you will develop a greater testimony of ministering; that it will be a good experience for you, your companion, and your sisters; and that the Spirit will be with you all.
- If you are new to ministering, or you haven’t had good examples, ask the person who gave you the assignment for ideas or resources. You can read about ministering at lds.org by typing “ministering” into the search box, reading Handbook 2: Administering the Church, section 9; Daughters in My Kingdom, chapter 7; and Jeffrey R. Holland, “Emissaries to the Church,” October 2016 General Conference (yes, it’s about home teaching, but change that to ministering and it applies). All of these are available on lds.org
- Contact your companion and talk about ministering and when you can contact your sisters (evenings? weekends? weekdays? at church?). (A future “Myth about Ministering” will deal with companionship issues.) If you can’t initially contact your sisters together, you’ll add stars to your heavenly crown (as my aunt used to say) if you volunteer to make the first contact.
- If possible, you (and your companion) should introduce yourselves to your sisters at Church. You’ll want to check in with her at church meetings and Relief Society activities as often as possible.
- Soon after your initial contact, call each sister, remind her who you are, and ask her how she wants the ministering relationship to work: Does she want a scheduled visit in her home? Would she prefer regular or occasional calls or texts?
Finding inspired answers to such questions and using all available methods for making contact with those they are assigned is central to inspired ministering. To provide Christlike service, ministering brothers and sisters cannot rely on routine visits or predetermined messages; they seek inspiration and counsel with family members to best care for those to whom they are assigned—using the time and resources they have.–“How is Ministering Led By the Spirit?” Frequently Asked Question 12, Ministering, at lds.org
- If you weren’t able to introduce yourself at Church, you may have to call a sister without meeting her first. This is a hard thing to do, but we can do hard things. If a sister is impossible to contact or visit (for example, her contact information on lds.org is wrong, or she seems impossible to find), notify the person who gave you the assignment as soon as possible.
- Try to have at least one face-to-face contact (and, we hope, many more). This could be a very brief drop-in visit at a sister’s door if all attempts to make other contact have failed. Ask each sister if she would like to be contacted by phone, text, or email, and double-check her contact information. Some sisters can’t or won’t be able to visit in their homes; you could invite a sister to meet at a park or restaurant or to go for a walk, or plan to contact her at Church. Take her a card with your names and contact information.
- Some reasons to contact a sister, even if your relationship is new: for her birthday (on lds.org or ask a member of the Relief Society presidency to find out), Christmas, other holidays; when you like something she posts on social media (search her name to find her); to remind her of upcoming events, such as General Conference women’s session and other general, stake, or regional meetings, or to remind her of Relief Society weekday or evening activities. Consider offering her a ride or arranging to meet her there.
As a ministering sister, you are the Lord’s representative to your sisters, as much as a missionary, a bishop, or a Relief Society president. This one-to-one stewardship is a reflection of the way Jesus Christ cares for, atones for, and blesses each of us (see 3 Nephi 17). Consider His words–each tailored to a specific need–and some variations on them:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. (Matthew 25:35–36.)
For I was new in the ward, and you welcomed me;
Busy, and you worked around my schedule;
Shared with you, and you respected my confidence;
Lonely, and you visited me;
Discouraged, and you gave me hope;
Needed help, and you helped me.
My house was a mess, my dog jumped on you, and my children were out of control, but you kept coming back.
We didn’t seem to have anything in common, but you kept trying.
And I’ll always remember you.
Therefore, dearly beloved [sisters], let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed (D&C 123:17).
Edited and revised 4 August 2018.