Before you drop the phone and bury your head in the bag of chips, consider the importance of home teaching in the Church today. We all have days like that and figured you might need a little hop in your step as you meander through your neighborhood, visiting families. So, we’ve put together a little guide for great guys like you, to give you a little perspective on home teaching: How to be a better companion, how to be a better home teacher, how to have better visits, and how to help less-active families.
How to Be a Better Home Teaching Companion
You have a typical relationship with Brother Stuart, your home teaching companion. You salute each other after sacrament meeting, sit on the same row in Priesthood, and even exchange a few words about the First Presidency’s message before ringing the Phillips’s doorbell. But remember, the whole is only as good as the sum of its parts. You’re a team, a partnership, a companionship. If you’re going to be an effective home teacher, you need to work on your relationship with Brother Stuart.
Make an effort to become friends with him, whether he’s fifteen or fifty. If the families you teach see that you get along with each other and trust each other, they’re more likely to take in what you have to say. It’s like reliving your missionary days, except with a not-so-permanent companion.
Keep in good touch with your companion and discuss possible meeting times that work with both of your schedules. Divide responsibilities between the two of you; for example, Brother Stuart could make the appointments and you could plan the lesson. Next month, switch off. Be sure to encourage and motivate each other, even if you end up doing all of the work. Discuss ways to help the families you visit teach, and implement these plans.
How to Be a Better Home Teacher
Now that things are in good working order between you and Brother Stuart, it’s time to focus on your part. Forget those windshield wipers for a second and think: What could you be doing to improve your skills as a home teacher? What do you need to work on personally?
No matter how long you’re assigned to a family, it’s important for you to get to know them, listen intently, and be aware of their needs (such as health concerns or spiritual dilemmas). Pray for your families, offer priesthood blessings and service when prompted, refrain from judging, and respect them. Remember to pray with your companion before starting your visits so that the Spirit can be guiding you right from the start.
It’s always a special treat when home teachers remember birthdays and special occasions. Whether you drop off a treat, make a phone call, or leave a note, you have the ability to brighten someone’s day. Prepare lessons that allow for inspired messages. And remember: One monthly visit is the minimum, not the maximum. When it comes to home teaching, it’s the quality and not the quantity that counts in the long run (though quality might mean making more than one trip on occasion). You’re there to make a difference in their lives.
Additionally, live your life in accordance with gospel principles so that you can teach by the Spirit (again, this should be ringing a bell to those of you who are returned missionaries). Marion G. Romney counseled that home teachers should “so live that they always enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost and act under his inspiration in the discharge of their home teaching responsibilities.”
How to Have Better Visits
You’re crowded on the couch with three munchkins on your lap, Rufus at your feet, and Brother and Sister Phillips on the piano bench facing you. After little Josh’s fifteen-minute prayer (with help from Mommy), you’re ready to start the lesson. Brother Stuart’s already covered the obvious topics: yesterday’s rain shower, Bishop’s testimony last week, and how great Sister Phillips’s apple pie tastes. So, now what?
There are a few guaranteed tips to having a better visit with your families. Most importantly is for you to teach with love. Be concerned; don’t just talk, but invite discussion and listen. Be positive and uplifting about the principles you are teaching. Before entering, leave all thoughts of your foreboding rent and teaching Scouts at the door. Be sure to begin and end each visit with a prayer and focus on the needs of your families.
How to Teach Less-Active Families
The bishop has already talked to you about visiting less-active families, and after teaching the Melas family in Brazil twenty years ago, you’re a pro. Here are a few reminders that may refresh your memory.
With those who rarely or never go to church, it’s especially important to contact them as regularly as possible. Invite them to church and sponsored activities, and be ready and willing to help and serve often, whether it’s watching the dog while they’re on vacation, or stopping by for a little chat while you’re both out mowing the lawn.
If you’re having a hard time contacting them, use a variety of methods (phone calls, flowers, treats, cards, notes, small gifts, etc.) without becoming a pest or overbearing. Here’s a hint: Ask your wife for some ideas. Try leaving a copy of the monthly message or other appropriate thoughts and quotes. Pray for inspiration for a way to reach them.
Always make your maing focus being a genuine friend and an example, and don’t worry so much about “changing” whatever choices they may be making in regards to their activity. Also, contact their family or friends, if you feel it's appropriate, to find out if there are any special concerns you should be aware of. Finally, make sure to keep the families in your daily prayers.
Now that you’ve heard our five minute message about home teaching, it’s time to get back to reality. That’s right, Brother Stuart’s still on the phone. Your next line would be, “Hey, Randy, how are you? Good to hear. No, I’m not busy tomorrow night. My wife’s sister is coming over to help her with the kids. Sure, I’ll prepare the lesson. I’ve already been thinking about it.”