Home Teaching: The Wrong 100%
This topic is something that I was had begun to draft a few times, but never got to the point of publishing. However, I'm so excited to hear the news about the change to the "Ministry Program" of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that I want to publish it and add some of my thoughts.
The Best Home Teacher I ever Had
Back in my YSA Ward years the best home teacher that I ever had simply sent me a text once a month to ask something like "Hey guys, how's Tuesday at 6pm for dinner? I'm thinking Buffalo Wild Wings. Is that good?"
We'd simply go out for dinner once a month. It might be Pizza or Sushi or whatever. Sometimes he came by the apartment. Sometimes he invited his girlfriend.
We just ate and chatted. I don't recall having a specific message. He may have worked something about the message into the conversation as was relevant. I don't recall. What I do recall was feeling that I had a friend who loved me and who inspired me and lifted me up.
What I heard today from President Holland affirmed to me that this is the kind of Ministers that we ought to be - trusted friends.
The Wrong Reporting
Not all 100%s are equal.
Realistically, barring some miracle of tremendous faith, a ward will never get 100% home teaching.
In fact, I don't even believe that 100% home teaching is something we should have been striving for, not, at least, in the way we were being taught.
Think about it - all of that talk about "our ward" or "our stake" being at "27% home teaching" was essentially in vain. It was a useless metric - having the form of accountability, but lacking the power thereof.
Psychologically, we all know that it's impossible to get 100% home teaching and, therefore, it further distances us from the goal.
What I mean to say is this: No matter how much I try, I cannot get my ward 100% home teaching. If I extend all of my efforts to reach the goal, I can't ensure that it is met. So why should I try?
Before I was psychologically denied my personal accountability on account of not being able to reach the goal even with perfect execution of effort.
In the previous system of metrics my efforts didn't really count.
Metrics that Matter
I wouldn't have said it with these words before, but now that I have the "right words" to explain it, it's even more true.
What we really should have been asking were things more like "What perentage of home teachers are ministering?" and "What percentage of families are being ministered to?"
And rather than focusing on months, I think should have been focusing on quarters and years - and on individuals, not "the ward".
I think it would have been more successful if broken down in more meaningful ways. I would have liked to have had goals that were personally 100% achievable, more like:
- Month 1: Meet your companion
- Month 2: Reach out to all families
- Month 3: Attempt communication with all families
- Month 4: Try a different manner of outreach to families with which there was to communication
After a few months the district leaders might add some questions during the reporting like "Do you feel like you and your companion 'click'?" and "Which families do you feel like you 'click' with?" and then if something's not working just switch it up.
The percentages that I would want to be tracking month-to-month (but per-year rather than per-month) at the ward level (but not pushing for at the EQ-level) would be something like:
- % of families who know who there home teacher is
- % of families who have been (each of) reached out to by, communicated with, visited by, and served by their home teacher
- % of home teachers doing home teaching
- % of companionships that report working well together
- % of companionships reporting that they 'click' their families
- % of families reporting that they 'click' with their home teachers
Looking at individuals (and using the percentages just to help hone in at-a-glance), I think we should check and adjust companionships or family assignments to get the following:
- 100% of families have a positive relationship with their home teacher
Going Mainstream (Christianity)
I'm actually extremely excited that we're joining our other brothers and sisters of the Christian faith by simply calling our ministering "Ministering" rather than "Home Teaching" or "Visiting Teaching".
I can't quite explain why, but it just makes me so happy that when I'm having conversations with other Christians about my faith I can share more common ground with them through similar vocabulary.
In a way it's ironic because I always thought mainstream Christian "Ministering" sounded a little more "preachy" than "Home Teaching", but in truth I think they've had it right maybe a little longer than we have to some degree.
The Miracle of Inspiration
There are so many times that I've felt very strongly (like a fire burning inside) that there's a better way to do the things that we, as a church, are doing.
And there are so many times that within short weeks, months, or years later I've seen the same or better, better ways be preached and take hold in specific programs or the church as a whole.
I'm glad at these times when the inspiration that I believe I have received is validated by the very Presidency and Apostles obviously having received it as well.
It makes me feel more empowered and embolded not to "challenge the church" but rather to "boldly break the cultural mold" - like my inspired home teacher years before.
We're all just babes before God. All learning and trying to be better. I hope that others can see this wonderful change in the same way - that the church (and its members) are growing up.
Stuff that I'm not bothering to work into this personal essay in such an organized form but I think might still have some value...[draft March 18th, 2018]
Disclaimer: This essay comes from my own thoughts which have been a’ brewin’ inside of me for quite some time. However, I think that my thoughts are in line with what Jeffery R Holland taught in https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/10/emissaries-to-the-church
"You are doing better than you think you are. But we can be better." - Sister Julie B. Beck, "Relief Society: Question and answer with Sister Julie B. Beck," September 2011.
"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates" - Thomas S. Monson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, p107
We say that the purpose of Home Teaching is to reach out to the one and to make sure everyone has a friend, but then we discuss the issues of how to report and how to get to the impossible goal of 100% of families in the ward home taught each month.
I think we need to change the metrics:
First of all, let’s reset the focus to be more along the lines of what Elder Holland suggested: that 100% of families have a relationship with their home teachers. Also along with Elder Holland’s comments, I think we should split the metric to not just be a binary check or blank box.
I think the questions ought to be:
What was your relationship with your families this month?
The report would have a drop down box with the following options:
None - self explanatory.
Outreach - a text (or email) was sent, a message was left on the answering machine, or a note was left on the door. Some method of contact was tried and it’s highly likely that the person contacted received a message of some sort.
Communication - You got a response.
Visit - you set an appointment (or didn’t) and made it to the home
Service - the family reached out to you for a favor or maybe to invite you over for dinner, and you were able to accomplish whatever it was.
The goal isn’t to get to a visit every month, but rather to have a relationship.
So how do you eat an elephant?
Break it down into bite-size chunks that can accomplished in various stages over time.
Sidenote: I also think that the use of technology to automate tasks that can reasonably be automated and to facilitate communication rather than passing out papers and complicated (by today's standards) calling trees should have taken place.
By AJ ONeal
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