Home teaching is one way Heavenly Father blesses His children. Home teachers “visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties” (D&C 20:51). They are assigned to families and individuals to “watch over … and be with and strengthen them” (D&C 20:53). They “warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ” (D&C 20:59).Then the handbook goes on to offer ways in which this might be done:
Where possible, home teachers visit members in their homes at least monthly. Home teachers may also find other meaningful ways to watch over and strengthen the families they are assigned. For example, they may render service to the families or contact family members by mail or telephone.Ideally, a face to face visit is best. And under that ideal situation phone and correspondence would only enhance the existing in home visits. This language, though, seems to open the way for letters, email, texting, phoning, internet chatting, Skype, Facebook etc. as viable means of accomplishing the task of being with and watching over the families we are assigned.
Lets face it there are plenty of circumstances that are outside the norm. I know a Bishop who has pretty much turned his Priests Quorum around by texting them. The key is communication and, being in the 21st Century as we are, it is time to look to means of communication we had not considered before. If we haven't the resources to visit every home, we certainly do to send a letter to every home. If we can't stop in, we might at least make a serious phone call.
What I am getting at here is that we need to be thinking outside the traditional box if we are to fully perform our duty as Home Teachers. I'd like to see us getting 100% and if that means sending a personalized newsletter in the absence of a warm body, we ought to do at least that.
Addtionally, the new handbook suggests a few stop gap measures:
With approval from the bishop, Melchizedek Priesthood leaders and Relief Society leaders may temporarily assign only home teachers or only visiting teachers to certain families. In some cases, leaders may assign home teachers to visit a family one month and assign visiting teachers to visit Relief Society members in that family the next month.This is a great, though temporary, solution. Especially, when coupled with this:
In some locations, visiting every home each month may not be possible for a time because of insufficient numbers of active priesthood holders or other challenges. In these circumstances, leaders give priority to visiting new members, less-active members who are most likely to respond to invitations to return to Church activity, and members with serious needs.And this:
Quorum and group leaders assign the most effective home teachers to members who need them most. When assigning home teachers, leaders give highest priority to new members, less-active members who may be the most receptive, and others who have the greatest need for home teachers, such as single parents, widows, and widowers. It is often helpful to assign a youth leader to a family where a young man or young woman is experiencing special challenges. Home teachers should be assigned to converts before the converts are baptized.I think with the guidelines given and the latitude allowed, we can effectively reach everyone in our Ward despite a deficit in the number of active Home Teachers available. We are just going to have to abandon the old conventions and start adopting the new.
A few other "out of the box" examples come to mind:
- We have a brother who is home bound. At a rather advanced age, his body is giving up on him, but his mind and spirit are still marvelously bright. I would be willing to go to his home to be Home Taught. That would free up my Home Teacher to go somewhere else. I suppose there are other valiant families in our Ward who would be willing to make the same accommodation. Who says he has to come to me to be an effective Home Teacher?
- We have three widows who live in adjacent apartments. Would they be willing to be visited together in one or other of their units freeing up a pair of Home Teachers to go to two other families? They have Family Home Evening together once a week anyway.
- Occasionally, we have husband and wife companionships. What if they were assigned another husband and wife companionship and could thus home and visiting teach one another in one visit. That frees up each couple to take one more family.
- So you have a family that is hard to catch at home. How about taking 20 minutes after church to sit down with them in a classroom on Sunday before you all head home.
- Suppose you are a business man who travels a lot. You might be assigned families with the internet and could visit them on Skype from your hotel room. How fun to be Home Taught from Hong Kong or London or Gusher. I realize this solution might make it hard to go with your companion. Still, with the Bishop's approval, perhaps a companion would not be called for as there are no safety concerns at such a distance.
The possibilities are almost endless.
Our Ward has a pretty long list of those who refuse to receive Home Teachers. I personally love to take on those challenges and have yet to fail to get in on a regular basis. I have had to be a bit less traditional in my approach to these families, but I have never failed to be able to meet with them on a monthly basis. As High Priests Group Leader, I don't expect this of all of my Home Teachers, but I do have some who would get out of their comfort zone and make the attempt.
I have one fellow right now who I plan on asking out to coffee in the morning. Of course I will have hot cocoa or something, but I feel certain that he'd love to get out of the house and chum with a buddy at the coffee shop. He will be more comfortable on neutral ground, so will I. He won't feel judged for his Word of Wisdom problem, because I'm the one who suggested it. We can begin building a relationship of trust. Once that is established my new friend and the Lord can take it from there. I'll be handily in a position to help as needed. Hopefully, when the weather warms we can move from the coffee shop to the fishing hole, but who knows, we might form a group and Bob and John and Larry, who are also less active might join us to be Home Taught on a regular basis. Fred, the first guy is a Teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood. He can be my Home Teaching companion.
When I was a Stake Missionary we began teaching a woman whose husband was a less-active member. Soon they were both coming to Church. In no time he accepted a call to be a Home Teacher. He was devoted to the call. One day after we'd taught a discussion to his wife he mentioned that it was getting close to the end of the month and that his companion was out of town. I volunteered to go with him. We visited one of his families who hadn't been to church in years. He invited the brother to come to Priesthood Meeting telling him what a good time he was having in the Elders Quorum. The brother responded, saying, "I'd feel uncomfortable coming back to church. You see, I chew tobacco." His new Home Teacher replied, "So do I," which left him totally without excuse. He came to church.
How's that for a good example. We don't have to be an example of one who pretends to be perfect. What's wrong with being an example of flawed mortal beings attempting, through the Atonement of Christ, to improve. Then those we hope to help can better see how that is done.