It’s that Time of the Month!

Photo credit: LDS.org

I have recently been called to be the Visiting Teaching Coordinator in our ward. This is the third time I’ve had this calling – the second time in my current ward and a previous stint in another ward. I personally love visiting teaching and have a testimony of it, even though the execution of it is sometimes less than ideal. We are all imperfect people trying to administer a divine mandate: to mourn with those that mourn, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God.

In theory, visiting teaching is a beautiful idea: Neighborhoods full of people who look out for each other and attend to each other’s needs. In some parts of the country, this is the case – I have many friends whose ward IS the block on which they live. How easy would it be to run across the street and do your visiting teaching? In many other areas of the country and around the world (i.e., my ward), the ward boundaries are far-flung and can encompass dozens, if not hundreds of square miles. It’s a lot harder to run a casserole to someone who lives on the other side of town or farther away. Regardless of where you live, you have been called to be a visiting teacher, so let’s talk about some practical ways that it can be done. The ideal visit, or as I call it, “The Traditional,” doesn’t always work – there are women who work outside the home, who work at home, who homeschool their kids, who are going to school themselves, or any other myriad of circumstances that make “The Traditional” less than practical. The following is a list of strategies that my companion and I have used to contact the sisters on our visiting teaching route. In my opinion any of these contacts “count” as a visit. What’s most important is that you meet the needs of the sisters on your route on their terms, not yours.

* The Traditional: Scheduled visit with a lesson. Sit down together in the visit-ee’s home and have a nice chat and a spiritual message often accompanied by treats and a crafty handout.
* The Crisis: Bringing over a meal, taking care of children, helping clean, helping move, etc.
* The Afternoon (or Morning) Off: Offer to watch a visit-ee’s children so she can get out of the house and have some time alone.
* The Group Activity: Invite everyone on your list out for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a movie, a pedicure, or even a play date.
* The Drive-By: Call everyone on your list and tell them you will be coming over with a treat and a message within a certain time frame. Have a quick chat and hug at the door, and then everyone gets on with their busy lives.
* The Divide and Conquer: Split visit-ees between you and your companion and do any of the above.
* The Help a Sister Out: Your companion is having her own crisis, having a baby, or is out of town, so you handle the visiting teaching for her for the month.
* The Grab At Church: You know that the only time that you, your companion, and your visit-ee will be remotely able to see each other is at church, so you sit in the foyer during Sunday School together and have a visit. Treat optional.
* The Phone Call: Has all the benefits of a nice chat and a spiritual message, and you can get your laundry folded at the same time. (Does anyone else dust and fold laundry while they’re on the phone?)
* The Letter: Sending a letter with the monthly message. Cutesy or funny card is optional.
* The Email: Corollary to “The Letter” – catch up with someone via email or even Facebook.
* The Text: Only to be used in desperate times. Only counts if the visit-ee responds back!

The most important strategy is the one that works best for the sister being visited. Sometimes she might need a shoulder to cry on or a dinner and sometimes she might need a quick check-in. Being able to meet the needs of the sisters on your route takes truly knowing them and listening to the Spirit.

What are some strategies you have used to visit the sisters on your route?

About Andrea R.

(Blog Team) is the proud mother of three sons aged 11, 8, and 6. She is currently working as a freelance science writer and blogger while preparing to apply for a PhD program in Science Education. In between working, managing her younger sons and her oldest son's medical needs, she likes to squeeze in a triathlon if she can. Also, her husband rocks.

23 thoughts on “It’s that Time of the Month!

  1. the one that really bugs is the drop off done by a teenage son. nothing says “i care about you” than “i delegated this task to someone else so i don’t even have to say hi.”

  2. I think the important thing is that we don’t just contact the sisters on our route once a month to fill the quota. We should call them, drop by, send a note, whenever we are thinking about them. Sometimes, the Holy Ghost just puts someone’s name into our head, and that means that we should contact them, even if we’ve already talked to them that month.

  3. My favorite is the Grocery Store Rendevous. I live in a small town with only one major grocery store. On any given Saturday evening, I stand a pretty good chance of bumping into half the ward at the grocery store. I’ve had numerous great, impromptu visits with my Sisters in the produce section. :)

  4. I think whatever you do should meet the needs of the sister you teach first, if possible. And I know it’s not always possible. But I still remember when my mother-in-law died. We were close–she lived in my basement, and I was really upset. I needed a real visit. What I got that month was an “is it okay if we count this?” phone call. What was I supposed to say, no, it’s not? I was mourning and a phone call was not okay.

    And to be honest, I’m old school enough that a phone call instead of a real visit feels like my visiting teacher doesn’t really care about me at all, like I’m low on her priority list. I think if I were in a different place in my life, I might be relieved by a phone call–whew, I don’t have to schedule them in. In fact, just after I had my youngest, I did tell my visiting teachers that they had done so much for me (which was true) that I really didn’t need a visit, and I absolutely meant it.

    But I guess what I’m saying is that the unique ways to visit are great, but ideally let them be ways that fit your sisters’ needs, and think of them first. No one wants a phone call visit when what they really need is someone to grieve with them.

    Question for you all–is anyone else tired of having every single visiting teaching message this year be on visiting teaching? Anyone else find it awkward to discuss visiting teaching with those you visit teach?

  5. @Emily M – YES! I am tired of all the messaged being on visiting teaching. We all ran out of conversations on the topic months ago, and it is awkard to come over and teach on, “how you and I are both supposed to be better visiting teachers.”

    My visiting teacher is a very hands-on gal who isn’t into the traditional at all. Her style is service. I probably only see her the minumum one in three months, but the work she does completely counts as three months work. I also know she’s there as a fall back if I ever need her.

    And, yeah, I do use visiting teacher singular. The other VT is very busy with her own life and having been in a vaugly similar situation before I don’t mind one bit that she’s rather unavailable.

  6. I quit using the messages several months ago and instead focus on the scriptures and service. I have found that this has forced me to spend more time actually preparing a message and listening for the Spirit to guide me to what the sisters I visit need.

  7. Emily M- Yes! I’m hoping that 2013 brings a wider variety of topics. Like Heather G, I’ve sometimes focused on the scriptures listed in the message.

    I think having a variety of options for making ‘visits’ is good, as long as they are really helpful to the sisters we visit. From month to month their needs may change and we need to be flexible and in tune enough to try to give them what they really need.

  8. I knew I wasn’t alone. And now I’m going to be a bit snarky: which have you struggled with more, every single blessed lesson on visiting teaching, or every single one on the history of Relief Society, like last year? Because that got a little old for me too.

  9. Thanks everyone for your comments! I agree with so many of you who have said that the visit — whatever it might be — should be tailored for the needs of the sister being visited. I don’t think the “can we count this as a visit?” comment is helpful at all — it’s still the responsibility of the visiting teachers to know their sisters and meet their needs. You really have to listen to the Spirit and be willing to serve.

  10. I’m feeling a little guilty here. I don’t think I am assigned to visit one person–out of the 10 or so on my list (I should be sure about that number, but I have my VT list and then I am my husband’s HT partner, and I am never really clear on who we visit together)who actually serves as a visiting teacher herself. The only lessons I’ve given from the Ensign this year were the conference ones. It just seemed crazy to tell 10 completely inactive women how to be “better” visiting teachers.

  11. I’m doing okay in the gospel — and quite frankly, every conversation I have with my mother feels like a sermon — so I’d rather just chat and have my visiting teachers get to know me.
    As for your list, I think I’ve hit most of them, with the additon of “helping you clean out your fridge that your roomate didn’t empty before you left on vacation and she moved out.” We about cleared the apartment complex on that one.
    I have one sister who never needed anything, and a visit was just one more thing to cram into her schedule, so when she actually needed me for something, I was more than happy to help.

  12. I think that list covers every VT scenario I’ve ever seen. My mom is one who’ll take a phone call over a visit any day. She doesn’t like to have company over – doesn’t want to clean right before. All she wants is a “you okay?” – “yup” – “okay, see you at church.” kind of exchange.

  13. I could go at this from all directions. I could be mad that one of my VTers forgot about her appt with me yesterday and when I told the other about major challenges in my life she did the “Let me know what I can do.” I hate that – 100% of the time I’ll say, “Nothing” because it’s a cop out for her to say it. But you know what? I’m not mad, because the month before one brought me plants she had divided and the other took photos for free. We’re all human. I hope that the sisters I VT will likewise realize that I’m trying, even the one who refuses to let me schedule an appointment on the last week of the month.

    Emily, I’m also sick of the repeated message. And the fact that the message is, “By the way, I’m not a good VTer but I’m here to tell you to be better,” makes me avoid the message nearly every month.

    While I’m ranting, I’ll throw this out- what are VTers really for?. An elderly sister I visit had major issues the last few months and what could I do? Nothing but a trite visit. I told the RS president what she already knew and she and the bishop coordinated help. Although I did get an email letting me know it was taken care of afterwards.

    Okay, I’m trying to remember what you said about imperfect people trying to administer a diving mandate… deep breaths… Trying is important even if execution is a mess.

  14. Does anyone else wish we didn’t have to worry about a companion? I am good with VTeaching- don’t mind it at all, but when you add in that 3rd schedule to fit visits in it gets hairy!

  15. I’m glad to hear someone else is tired of visiting teaching about visiting teaching. Trying to figure out how come that message keeps getting revisited.

  16. Amen to all comments. Especially not having a companion! But I am blessed to live in a far-flung ward and so I don’t have to have one! I always feel like we have a closer bond and can open up more when it’s just me and the sister I visit.

    My 3 or 4 sisters are all high needs so I rarely do a traditional visit. Last time I printed out the message just before I left and scanned it with chagrin as we sat in her living room. She was telling me her husband just lost his job.

    I skipped the message. If they want to encourage us to prayerfully consider our own message, it would be effective to say so.

    I try to serve them in some way during the month and if I have, I report that I had a visit with a message (for me that message was service and love).

    Thanks for highlighting this important topic.

    (And I’d rather just have my vter talk to me on the phone or come and take a yoga class from me to help me improve my teaching or spend an hour painting together. I hate treats because of my allergies, unless it’s fruit, and I don’t want a fruffy message).

    Each of us has different needs and I think the point you’ve all wisely made is to find out what they are in order to serve in the best way.

  17. I have the biggest testimony of the importance of visiting teachers because I was reactivated by mine almost 15 years ago.
    They didn’t do anything amazing – no laminated handouts, no triple tier chocolate cake gifts, no breaking into harmonized hymns – they just cared about me. In fact I bumped into one of them a few weeks back and expressed my gratitude and she looked truly shocked. I really don’t think she knew of the impact she had one me, she hadn’t been trying, but what she had done was live her life in such a way that she had a spirit of charity and love within her so that when she gave the message I had no choice but to feel the spirit in the room.
    The Sprit is the most important thing about visiting teaching. The best thing we can do for our sisters is to try and have it present in our lives and in our visits so that we can feel its promptings to better serve those we care for.

  18. I love all your comments! I love the ranting! The way I see visiting teaching is that it’s a formalized structure to help us do what Christ has asked us to do: serve each other. I think sometimes we have to break down the structure, and even (cue lightning strike) throw out the message in the Ensign and BE THERE FOR EACH OTHER! I don’t think you necessarily need a companion to let someone know that you love them and you’re thinking of them. YES, the Spirit is the MOST important thing about visiting teaching. As you get to know your sisters, the Spirit will whisper to you exactly what they need, and you will be able to serve them in a very individualized manner.

    One thing I didn’t touch on: the flow of information. Note that this isn’t gossip. The sister whose husband just lost his job? Let the RS president and the bishop know. The elderly woman with serious needs? Same thing. There are some things that VT-ers alone can’t handle, but they can convey that information to the people who can organize a larger effort.

    I think everyone who has commented here is doing a great job as visiting teachers. Why? Because you’re trying. Because you care. Because you rant about the canned message and want it to be better.

    Bottom line: Mourn with those that mourn. Comfort those that stand in need of comfort. Stand as a witness for God. That’s visiting teaching.

  19. amen the comments and a couple of a quick reactions. although a companion is a troubling thing sometimes going into areas and home without a back up either as a witness or support is not a good idea. I do not want to hear a busy life as an excuse for either not visiting or not receiving again. that excuse just tells me how unimportant this gospel assignment to you. Finally, how can you know about the conditions in someones home if you don’t visit their home? That is one of the major points of visiting teaching, to personally know your contacts are in a safe healthy home . I strongly vote no on the visits in the hall during Sunday School. You not attending a very important gospel learning experience and gathering a social group in a hall that should be quiet and available. There has got to be another way.

  20. I really just want another adult to talk to. I’ve been a stay at home mom for 19 years with a husband who works a lot and is in a busy calling. However in the last 12 years I’ve gone through visiting teachers on average about every 8 months. I’m tired of being pushed around so much. I have a lot of changes going on in my life right now and now I have to deal with yet another set of visiting teachers. *SIGH*

  21. Well, I have probably shared my stories of a visiting teaching supervisor here. Short version. It was my first calling when I was painfully shy and I had to kind of will myself to make the calls. Then, I met sweet sisters on the other line. It has been a blessing to see the good the sisters do for others and at times when they are not doing well themselves and not able to visit, I hope they don’t feel I am judging them. I am more like I wish I could help and were not home bound. I wish I were rich. Well, I have a visiting teacher who I really like and in addition to visits we have a great online presence that started before she was my official teacher. Later, we became friends on Facebook and are still friends to this day. I invited her to be friends with a neat sister in our ward that I visit teach. Well, they had been friends for a time when the lady that I visit teach thought that she recognized my visiting teacher in public. She didn’t quite introduce herself as she wasn’t positive even of her name at that moment. But she did see later on Facebook that they were both at the Farmer’s Market so it sounds like an actual citing. They had not met in person previous to that.

  22. I actually have an answer for the “is there anything we can do for you?” question that gets asked every month. When my current set of visiting teachers asked that back when they were first assigned I told them I could always use chocolate. Every so often a bag or large bar finds its way to my house, they even remember that I prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate. It’s not an every month thing, probably only three or four times in the last year and a half. But it’s always appreciated.

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