My cell phone lights up. I’m being ministered to.
But it hasn’t always been like that.
The early members of the Relief Society were limited in their ability and scope to reach others. Their visits were by foot, sometimes by horse, showing up at members’ homes, collecting and delivering goods. Before 1876, there was no telephone and no steam engine. A Relief Society sister’s circle of influence was typically a few-mile radius, and in consideration of the weight of their daily work just to live, these visits could have been considered great sacrifices of time and resource.
Today, we might think that finding ways to minister to members of our ward or other people God has put into our lives can be difficult. But in reality, God has provided many ways for us to reach out to our brothers and sisters in love and care.
How can we minister to others effectively? No doubt, this has been a frequent topic of discussion in your ward and stake meetings, as it has been in our most recent general conference by Elder Holland, Sister Cordon, and President Nelson. And no doubt you’ve heard and discussed the myriad of ways you can reach out to the those the Lord has asked you to minister to. Chances are, these suggestions include in-home visits, dropping food/cookies by, going for walks, writing a letter, or providing service like child care, cleaning, or a meal.
But we shouldn’t overlook the power of modern technology as a tool for ministering.
Types of Technology
Though not much can replace the power and experience of a face-to-face visit, technology of today provides a myriad of convenient and effective ways to minister, but I’ll cover just a few here:
It’s as easy as dialing a number and saying hello or asking how your ministering brother or sister is doing. If you have a cell phone, sending a text is a noninvasive and tremendously convenient way to reach out and touch base, set up a time to stop by, ask if there is a need you can meet, or simply tell them you care.
Email can be used from your phone or computer, and another great way to reach out to those you care for, particularly if you want to minister to those who might not be as savvy with mobile tech.
Facebook has become a virtual world of friends and family. Used with care, Facebook offers a way for us to stay connected with loved ones who live far away. Scrolling through our feed, we can see the happenings in the lives of those we care about and learn more about them. It is a great, non-threatening way to get to know those we minister to. You can also actively reach out to others by posting on their timelines and commenting on their posts. You can also use Facebook’s texting tool, Messenger, to send a quick message to someone as you feel inspired to, maybe about something you saw them post about.
Instagram is a visual social media platform that allows people to share their life through photos. Instagram is a stream of events and experiences—anything you’d like to share. With the ability to literally see visual highlights and updates from those you care about and comment on them, Instagram is another great way to keep up with the goings-on of those you minister to, particularly if they are younger and do not regularly check their email.
Voxer is a new app for your cell phone that I have come to love. It is a walkie-talkie app that lets you record and instantly send audio messages to contacts with the same app. Voxer messages can be listened to while they are being recorded or at a later date. It is a convenient way to send longer (up to 15 minutes) personal messages and have verbal conversations not bound by time constraints.
Skype and Facetime (or an Android equivalent like Google Duo)are apps that allow live, high-definition video conversations. Parents and grandparents can chat with kids and grandkids on the other side of the state. Soldiers can talk with their loved ones around the world. Missionaries can actually see their families twice a year instead of just listening to them on a phone call. And ministering brothers and sisters can chat with those they’ve been asked to care for in the next neighborhood over. With these apps, you have the ability to see the faces of those you want to reach in real-time and establish more personal connections.
7. Marco Polo
Marco Polo has the power of Skype/Facetime coupled with the convenience of Voxer. It is a video messaging app that allows you to record and send video messages to any other Marco Polo user. You can send a video message any time, day or night, and the receiver can watch it at their convenience. It is a powerful way to stay connected to those you love and care for and to let someone know you are thinking about them.
Ministering Through Technology
As I mentioned above, nothing can quite replicate the spirit that’s felt when you are ministering face to face. However, ministering is about taking care of the needs of others, and sometimes their need isn’t for you to show up at their home and chat for an hour. Sometimes they need to simply hear they are loved, to see the face of someone who cares, or to be asked how they are doing. Technology provides us so many ways to do these things “face-to-face” for them.
You might feel impressed to send a quick text, Voxer, or Marco Polo message to a person you minister to just to say hi and let them know you’re thinking of them. You can share a scripture that struck you on their Facebook feed or in a Messenger message. You can comment on a photo someone you minister to has posted on Instagram, or send them a follow-up message about the photo, showing your love and support in times of success or sadness.
If it’s late at night that you are thinking of reaching out to a sister you minister to, you can send her an email, Voxer message, or Marco Polo video she can wake up to, without disturbing her in the middle of the night. Technology can take the scary out of ministering. With its versatility and convenience, we can follow even the smallest of impressions at any time of day.
Sometimes ministering requires great sacrifices of time and effort. But sometimes, it calls for moments of our time—slivers in our days that we cut out for them. These might not seem like much for us, but it might mean the world to someone else.
The Lord knows what those we minister to need. From in-home visits and service to a simple, one-sentence text, He can help us tailor our ministering according to the needs of His children like never before. As we come to Him in prayer for those we minister to, He can guide our minds and hearts so that we can be His hands and feet here on earth, even through our cell phones.