I don't think the Home Teacher's job is to be a catalyst for change. Still, I have been taught quite often in various ways to try to tip the balance in peoples lives in order to get them back to church. While I have seen that method seem to work and while I've seen a number of Home Teachers take credit for such; I strongly suspect that the facts are that something else stimulated the change, the people were sufficiently humble, and the Home Teachers were simply fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.
God uses life as change's catalyst. I've seen it over and over, especially in 12 Step settings. So often has a person turned up a meetings because it was mandated by the court as part of a rehabilitation process. So often that person made all the meetings and said all the right things and then stopped coming as soon as they were no longer under the judge's jurisdiction. We're cool with that. We in recovery understand that if they are not ready yet, God will use life to get them ready. We have learned to be patient and let God's process work. It is easy to tell when it has; when that person who so blithely left our company comes crawling back with a new found humility and a deeper awareness of need. You might ask then, what do we do at the meetings. We simply share our experience, strength and hope with those who come. We don't preach. We don't scold. We don't even give advice. Who are we to tell others how to live their lives. In sharing our own experience with addiction and the process of recovery we are offering hope and testimony which are really the only things they need. They already know they need to make changes. They already know what they're doing wrong. They already feel guilty and full of sorrow. They don't need any of that from us. What they need is the hope and belief and tools they can use to do something about it. And they need to know that someone understands and cares and might help. Also, they need to spend time in places where they can feel and comfortably enjoy the Spirit. They need a place safe from condemnation, recrimination, accusation and manipulation.
I bring this up because most of those we Home Teach who are not active in the Church are dealing with some sort of addiction. They are in a trap they have no idea how to climb out of.
Now, when we go into someone's home are we creating that kind of an environment for them? Are we building? Or are we wrecking? I'm confident that those who reject Home Teachers have had plenty of condemnation, recrimination, accusation and manipulation. It has come from parents, spouses, friends, law enforcement, the pulpit and yes, even Home Teachers. Is it any wonder they want no more of it.
Now, what can we do to correct this? The answer lies in what the Church Missionary program calls BRT, Building Relationships of Trust. These people in our charge are tender, fearful, banged up and wary. It may take a good deal of unconditional love to get them to let down their guard. It will take: long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned. It will take kindness and pure knowledge and a complete lack of hypocrisy and guile. You will notice that I left off persuasion. I wanted to discuss that one a bit further. At first, at least we are not there to persuade them to come to Church. Lets start with the basics. Lets persuade them that we can be trusted. Trusted to love them for who they are, right where they are. In this kind of persuasion actions speak far louder than words. The second we put conditions upon that love, were done.
I'll finish with a story. I lived for in a small town the years I was in 7th and 8th Grades. I had a friend there, we'll call him Jim. Years later when I was nearing 40 my occupation took me back to that town. One of the people I was dealing with bore the same last name as Jim. I inquired after him. It turned out the lady was Jim's wife. We'll call her Sue. Immediately, Sue hastened to explain that Jim was no longer the reprobate he once was. I explained that he was a fine fellow when I knew him. She then proceeded to tell me his story. After they married, Jim became an alcoholic. He couldn't keep a job. He was in an out of jail. He'd lost his drivers license to a string of DUIs. He'd lived a tough life.
I asked, "So he's doing better now?"
"Yes, much better!" was her reply. She went on to tell me about it. We had two wonderful Home Teachers. They came to our home on a regular basis. Jim would never stay in the room when they came by the house. (He obviously had his guard up.) Our Home Teachers were always there for us. They never made Jim feel shunned or disapproved of. When they saw him on the street they would always wave and smile. Occasionally, they would catch him in the yard and just visit. Then one day they came to the house when Sue was out. Jim apparently forgot to peek out the window before answering the door. Seeing who it was Jim told them that Sue wasn't home and that they might want to come back later. They pointed out that they were his Home Teachers too and would love to visit with him. There was a long awkward moment before Jim finally asked them to come in and sit down.
The Home Teachers went in, treated Jim with respect. Deliberately avoided conversation that might make Jim uncomfortable. They never asked if he'd found a job yet, for instance. They never mentioned that he'd recently been in jail. They never condemned him for the pain he'd put his wife through. They never even mentioned the church. What they did do, was express an interest in Jim and those things that were of interest to him. Jim is an excellent wood carver and they got him showing and teaching about his craft. After twenty minutes, they got up, shook his hand, thanked him for sharing his gift with them and excused themselves. When the Home Teachers got to their car, Jim came running out and invited them back in. They returned to the house. Seated back on the couch one of the brethren asked Jim what he wanted. Jim said that he didn't really know. He went on, a bit embarrassed, to say that he'd just felt so good when they were there and that when they left he'd felt lousy again. He didn't want to feel lousy right then, so he ran out and asked them to come back so he could feel that good feeling some more. You can imagine what happened next.
Sue told me with tears in her eyes how thankful she was for good Home Teachers who did nothing more than love her husband just the way he was. They didn't bring Jim to the point where he wanted to change. They were just patient enough to wait, love, serve and be there on the day that time had come.