Myths of Ministering, Myth 8: “A sister seems to be avoiding us—so maybe we should just leave her alone.”
This is not entirely a myth—some sisters may be avoiding their ministering sisters because they really don’t want to be contacted. And sometimes a person just needs her space for a shorter or longer time. After all, this is ministering, not stalking. But there are some things we can do other than choosing to feel rejected or resentful, or giving up and excluding our sisters from our thoughts, feelings, prayers, and ministry. The Lord doesn’t want anyone to be “left alone.”
- Try to have at least one face-to-face contact. This could be a very brief drop-in at a sister’s door if all attempts to make an appointment have failed, or finding out who she is and introducing ourselves at a church meeting or other activity she attends. If we pray before we act and invite the Spirit to testify to the sister, we hope she will feel that she is more than an assignment or a box to be checked off—that we really do want to get to know her, or at least to be available if she needs us.
- Give her contact information in writing. If we can do this at an initial face-to-face meeting, great. Otherwise, we can send her a card introducing ourselves. We can let her know that we want to contact her in any way that is comfortable for her—a visit, a meeting outside her home, a call, an email, a text, or a note, however occasionally. Prepare an easily posted card with names and contact information and include it in the letter. (Her address is probably available on the LDS Tools app or on lds.org, in the directory via your LDS Account. If not, ask a member of the Relief Society presidency to help you find her address.)
- Perform specific acts of service. Until we know a sister’s situation, we may not know what she needs. If you can shovel a walk or leave her a copy of the ward Relief Society newsletter each month, that could be a beginning. This is not the time to perform anonymous service—she needs to know that her ministering sisters are there for her. We can leave a note with our hope that we’ve freed up some time for her by mowing her lawn or making a treat, or just our wishes for a happy day. If the RS newsletter mentions an upcoming Relief Society or ward activity, we can highlight it and offer a ride, and give her our phone numbers again. We can send Christmas, other holiday, and birthday cards (her birthday is on the directory at lds.org), or maybe just a “thinking of you” note every once in a while—but don’t repeatedly request a more involved relationship if your sister doesn’t seem to want that.
- Be her friend on social media. If she’ll accept an offer of friendship on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, or another site, or if you follow her blog (google her name to try to find it, if she has one) and make an encouraging comment occasionally, that could help you learn more about her and let her know you’re thinking of her. It could also lead you to things you have in common. This information may help you know what kinds of service you could offer and what you could talk about with her beyond Church-related subjects.
- Be bold. If you can bring yourself to do it, after you really are convinced that you’re being avoided, write one letter and tell your sister that you want the level of contact with her that she wants, but that you hope to develop a friendly and supportive relationship. Bear a simple testimony of ministering as the Lord’s plan for sisters to watch out for each other, or whatever your testimony may be. If you don’t yet have a testimony of ministering, read the “Ministering” information on lds.org or chapter 7 of Daughters in My Kingdom (available on lds.org) and see if there’s a quotation that speaks to your spirit that you could include in your letter, or quote a favorite scripture or paragraph from General Conference. More than anything else, testify of the love that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for her, and their awareness of her as an individual, a precious daughter.
- Pray for her. Even if you don’t know your sister yet, you can pray for her daily, by name, and ask the Lord to bless her with whatever she needs. Ask the Lord to prompt you with ideas to contact her, to develop a relationship if she is ready for one, and for the gift of charity that you might love your sister as the Lord loves her and be guided in your relationship with her.
- Report your attempts to make contact and your insights regarding your assignment. Report your ministering when a member of the Relief Society presidency requests it and detail any attempts to make contact with your sister. If you firmly believe that she wants to be left alone, report that—but also report any small attempts to reach her or any service. Regardless of her interest in being ministered to, you can still be her ministering sister without being overbearing or intrusive. Certainly you can ask the Lord to bless her. That may be the most you can do, but that is not a small or insignificant act of service.
“Visiting teaching is about ministering. Jesus ministered anytime and anywhere. We can do the same.”
—“Keep in Touch with Her Anytime, Anywhere, Any Way,” https://www.lds.org/liahona/2018/01/keep-in-touch-with-her-anytime-anywhere-any-way?lang=eng
Edited and revised 4 August 2018.