As a newly called Relief Society president, I felt the weight of the needs of the sisters in my ward. I prayed fervently for direction, peace, wisdom, and strength. I wanted to give every sister everything they needed. It was a heavy and sacred privilege. But, one that I learned wasn’t mine.
As I prayed and pondered those first few days of my calling, I was reminded by a loving Heavenly Father that it wasn’t my job to fulfill all the needs of my sisters. They had families, friends, and visiting teachers the Lord could work through. I didn’t have to save each sister. They already had a Savior—Jesus Christ. My job was to minister to the needs of the sisters under my care as Hedirects—one sister at a time, one need at a time. I realized I could do this by asking Him daily, “Which one sister needs me today?” rather than, “How can I save all the sisters today?”
I also immediately began focusing my efforts on visiting teaching in our ward and soon realized that, though our visiting teaching numbers were strong and the sentiment was mostly positive, the temperature of the water was often lukewarm. Some sisters didn’t like who they were assigned to. Other’s felt too busy. Some didn’t think they needed visiting teachers. And a few even felt negatively towards it, citing they don’t like to be forced into friendships with other sisters.
I made this a matter of prayer and knew that I wanted to give the sisters a fresh perspective.
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With the bishop's approval, I asked the men to teach the Young Women and Primary lessons so I could have all the sisters in our Relief Society class one Sunday.
“Thank you all for coming to our special Relief Society lesson. Today we will be talking about . . . visiting teaching.” I mentally lost about a quarter of them right there. Something about the term “visiting teaching” has the power to make the eyes of some glaze over. I stretched my hands out. “Don’t leave!” I laughed and pleaded simultaneously. “It’s not what you expect. In fact, I want to announce that we will no longer be doing visiting teaching in this ward.”
Now the sisters were listening.
“I’d like to talk about visiting reaching.” My announcement was met with quizzical looks. I spent the next 30 minutes talking about what visiting reaching was—it was focusing on the needs of the sisters, not the checklist of the visiting teacher.
I shared with them how to be stellar visiting reachers in four ways:
- Pray daily for your sisters
- Seek for and act on inspiration
- Reach out with “both arms” and
- Report to your supervisor
As they do these four things, I encouraged them to ask themselves these four questions:
- Do I know her?
- Am I striving to love her?
- Are her needs being met?
- Is she coming closer to Christ?
This term, “visiting reaching” was one I lovingly used alongside visiting teaching as I worked with the sisters in my ward and later my stake. As we talked visiting reaching, I found it brought a sense of relief, that the guilt of failing as a visiting teacher could be extinguished, and a sense of excitement that God really will speak to us and trust us to help His daughters which are under our care.
I loved visiting teaching. I loved how it brought us closer to God as we invited Him into our companionships. I saw the good that could be done, the lives that could be changed in large and small ways, as we sought inspiration daily. I saw faith growing as we practiced acting on our impressions. I saw love flowing from and through the sisters of Relief Society.
Now, as we move from visiting teaching (and reaching) to ministering, I can see the hands of God becoming stronger, more versatile, and prevalent in the lives if His daughters on earth. It is a joyous opportunity we have! And when approached with hope, faith, and charity, one that we will want and cherish. From the words of the Lord, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be done unto you; and, If you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation” (D&C 11:8).
Watch for more tips and insights into the new visiting teaching program from Michelle Wilson next month.