Here is a report from the front lines:
Writing is just an exercise of thinking about something. It doesn't necessarily represent final conclusions for me. Nothing is really set in stone as far as what the end product will look like. Ultimately, I just follow the direction of our stake president, bishop and EQ president (keys). I try to be a good influence but ultimately— I’m flexible. I am also brainstorming as I’m writing this. This letter is part of pondering process. Hopefully it leads to a good place.
Some of what I was trying to verbalize was my hope that 1. we are not under condemnation for failing at HT/VT, 2. I think our social situations really have changed which has made the old HT/VT program more difficult to comply with 100% 3. I see ministering as an improvement and adaptation and not a “lesser law” 4. I hope that God is not frustrated with us and that we are not under comdemnation because of our past failures.
We have been talking about the “ministering overlap” and we’re thinking the new ministering guidelines allowed us some greater flexibility. The Augusta Ward needs our best minsters to be focused on the higest priority members. But at the same time, there still needs to be a backbone of assigned priesthood. (see Ministering Q/A). According to the Ministering Q/A, LDS leadership is requesting a system of ministering coverage overlap for purposes of access to priestood and emergency response.
The Augusta Ward has had a system of priesthood Zones and Zone leaders used for emergency response. We have many transient members (eg military, students). So, we split the ward into Zones and assigned geographical call lists to brethren who are “permanent party”. Using this framework, we have successfully been able to contact all contactable members within 2 hours during emergency situations.
MLS did away with “GeoCodes” and has made printing out a ward “Head of Household” list via “GeoCode” no longer possible via “Custom Reports”. I am hopeful the online MLS LDS tools will again allow “GoeCodes”. We may have to use something like “HT districts” or assign “Zones” or “Ministering Districts”. I think we had also put the Geo Code designation in the “Secondary Address”. I would be great if there was an online tool kinda like the missionaries are just now using, where we can draw a “box” on a map and we can create a list and see a graphical representation of all members/Heads of Household within that “Ministering District”. However, I think it still is necessary to have a “GeoCode” designation and the ability to print a custom ward list/Head of Household according to “GeoCode” or “Ministering District” or “Zone” or whatever. Alphabetical lists don’t always work. We need our technology to support our ministering efforts.
We intend to weave a complex ministering “spider-web” and hope we get adequate coverage. But hope to back it up with a simplified prieshood backbone of ministering district leaders (Captains of 50/10). The fact is, it is easier to minister when your assignments 1. live close to you, 2. live close to or on the way to work 3. all live close to each other. This isn’t Utah where your entire ward consists of 2-3 streets.
Assigning Experiences Not People
Ruth expressed the opinion that after covering the ward with ministering prieshood district leaders, the real work of ministering should be more focused on the situation (eg pregnancy, reactivation, new-member discussions, illness). She was seeing This is how the ward council operates. The Ward Council operates sometimes by “putting out fires” or adressing needs as they arise. But I think its okay to assign people because its people that matter more than whatever they are going
through. However, Ruth says people appreciate help but don’t want to feel like a “project”. But ultimately, I’ve had self-assigned and assigned long-term relationships with people and seen results on both after short-term and after long-term involvement. Also, ministering district leaders will help with the needed interviewing.
I am glad you brought up ministering interviews. This is where we started. I was thinking to report on this, but we already have our plan set up and moving forward. We actually realized, that we are going to need to conduct 2 interviews. Interview #1 is to assess ministering needs and ministering capability. Interview #2 would cover assignments.
We are going to have the entire EQ and RS leadership together with Ministering Coordinators divide up ward list alphabetically and conduct interviews. We are formulating a standardized information sheet to be filled in as part of interview #1 so we have necessary data to make assignments which will be given during interview #2. Attached is a preliminary draft of Interview #1 data sheet.
Not A Program?
I am not sure I am really getting some of the rhetoric about ministering that it is “not a program” and that members should not “complicate” things as we tend to do. I see this rhetoric as a shade condescending. I am not sure how the “not a program” reasoning is supposed to help. In my mind, ‘A system of assignments to achieve a goal = program’. So, why insist that it is not? I do get the “simplification” part, which is encouraging. But we are still maybe dealing with a complicated ministering “spider-web” with overlapping ministering districts. On our side, we just need our leaders to 1. understand logistically what they are requesting, 2. clearly explain what they want us to do and 3. have reasonable expectations.
The truth is, this still sounds like a program, and its still somewhat complicated but has been adapted and refocused on ministering due to shifts in technology, social and family dynamics. (ie people are more open to divulging all their problems publicly on Facebook).
Remember that our lives are different that our parents. Many of our wives now work outside the home, and we are expected to watch our kids much closer while carting them around to their various extracurricular activities. Visiting 10 families every month and sitting down to review the “First Presidency Message” and then asking “Are you remebering to do your ....?” and “Is there anything we can do for you” just wasn’t working. Especially when the Church Handbook of Instruction says Church Programs are meant to support families.
So how can Ministering involve and unify our families? I think, we would do best to involve our kids and the entire family in our ministering opportunities. I think the while family should minister together. Assigning the family to give new member discussions or to visit the hospital or to make a meal which might make monistering something that unifies a family and not “Dad’s gone home teaching” or “Mom’s out doing her visiting teaching”. And now both Devin and Faith can potentially be independently scheduled.
1. Condemnation vs Social Adaptation
2. Ministering Overlap
3. Prieshood Backbone vs. Spider-Web
4. Assigning People vs. Assigning Experiences (people projects vs. putting out fires)
5. Interview #1 vs. Interview #2
6. Not a program?
7. Family Ministering Dynamics