Over the years, I’ve had sisters share a number of questions and concerns with me about Relief Society, with additional ones being shared with the ministering changes. Some are logistical questions. Others are deep-seated concerns. Below I address a few of these, in no particular order.
Hopefully the answers will provide you with further clarity.
When we were visiting teachers, my companion and I used to split up our monthly duties; one would call and make the appointment while the other would give the assigned monthly message. How do our companionships work now that we don’t have monthly visits and messages, and we are encouraged to just do what the sister needs?
This is a great question. The short answer is that you pray individually and together for your sisters, and as inspiration hits, let each other know. If an opportunity to serve arises, coordinate together to meet her needs. You might fulfill the needs of your sisters together or sometimes apart, but you can always be united in prayer and love for them. You can also support and uplift each other as you're serving your sisters.
► You'll also like: What My Relief Society Learned About Ministering Long Before the Program
What if I don’t like the sister I’m asked to minister to?
First, trust in the inspiration received by your Relief Society president and bishop. They have the mantle of revelation for the sisters in your ward/branch, and with their counselors, have most likely put in many hours of thought and prayer into your assignment. You’ve been given this sister for a reason—even if she rubs you the wrong way. Trust in that.
Second, be prayerful. The Lord can give you insights into this sister, soften your heart, and allow you to feel His love for you her.
Thirdly, know that it’s okay to not “click” with everyone. The world—and wards/branches—are filled with many different personalities, and some simply don't mesh well with ours. You can still pray for her, seek inspiration and charity for her, serve her, and help her take steps closer to Christ, even if she’s not your personality type. The Savior asked us to love everyone, but He didn’t tell us we had to like them all. I think you might find that, as you strive to do what she needs, you might end up liking her after all.
► You'll also like: Ministering: How to Be Given Love for Someone Else
I feel like I’m being assigned a friend. I don’t like that.
You’re not being assigned a friend. You’re being asked to be God’s eyes and hands in the life of one of His daughters for a time. Sometimes friendships develop out of our ministering ties. Other times not. But every time we can help Him meet her needs in faith and love.
► You'll also like: A Powerful Lesson on Ministering from Mary, Martha, and Jesus
What if the sister I visit teach tells me personal information I think the Relief Society president should know. I feel like I’m gossiping if I share the news. What should I do?
If your sister shares a burden or situation in which you feel needs assistance from the Relief Society president or bishop, such as welfare needs or abuse or other serious issues, talk with the sister and ask her if she’d feel comfortable with you sharing the information with your Relief Society president. Extend love and let her know the only goal is to help. The Relief Society President will take the situation to the bishop in confidence and together, often with your help, will prayerfully seek a way to help her. This is not gossip, but the divine way to help your sister receive the spiritual and temporal assistance the Lord has to offer.
What if the sister I’ve been asked to minister to wants to be left alone? What should I do?
This can be a tough one. First of all, we need to respect the wishes of our sisters. We should never force ourselves upon them. I was a Young Women leader years ago. We had a young woman who refused to come to church. Inspired by a story of a Young Men leader who continued to show up at a young man’s house until he came back to church, I left church one Sunday and, with some of the other young women, went to her home and brought her to church. We wanted her to know how much she was loved and missed and how badly we wanted her there with us. She was so upset that she refused to come for months afterward. I felt awful. In my enthusiasm, I hadn’t taken the time to ask God what she needed. I thought I could actively love her back. But it didn’t work.
Sometimes the sisters we are assigned to have no interest in ladies coming to their homes. Or they might not be interested in church altogether. The first thing you can do is pray for inspiration. Then act on it. Reach out to her via phone, text, social media, or a house call if you feel inclined. If she expressed the desire to be left alone, you might ask her what she does feel comfortable with then. Would an occasion note be okay? How about a phone call? Or a trip to the frozen yogurt place? I’ve had wonderful luck this last one. Remember, it’s about the needs of the sister, and sometimes they need to be cared for slowly and from a distance. And that’s okay.
Watch for the last installment of this series of Ministering messages with additional questions and answers next month!