We had a RS presidency meeting this morning devoted to Visiting Teaching only. We have a very poor record in this ward - for years the percentage has hovered between 40 and 60%. Now, I don't think we visit for stats, but those kinds of numbers tell us that almost half of the sisters in our ward do not get visited. And many of those not visited are the same ones all those months. It is a real problem. So, we had a meeting to try to find some ideas on how to change the hearts of the visiting teachers so they begin to understand what an important calling this is.
We had already decided that we would not have a Visiting Teaching Conference this year. First of all, it is not required by the handbook. Secondly, the sisters who attend are not the ones who need it. Thirdly, the last couple of years, it has been held during Relief Society meeting on Mother's Day, with all the sisters in the ward attending, and I totally didn't like turning Mother's Day into a meeting about what you are doing wrong! Fortunately, the president and other counselor totally agreed with me!
So we met to try to find some ways to encourage the sisters all year long. After talking about what some of the underlying problems might be, we came up with a few ideas. We decided to keep it simple - after all, the biggest way to change something is to focus on the little things that make a difference. We are also concerned about "The One" and wanted to keep the focus on individual sisters, not on overall numbers. Among our concerns is the lack of unity in the ward. We are much improved from a few years ago, but there is still not a closeness that we would like to have. We also decided that probably the biggest stumbling block is the simple act of just making the appointments. We have seen that when appointments are made, the sisters will go, but no one wants to make calls to set up appointments. There is also the issue of accountability. The sisters do not see this as all that important and if they don't go, no one will really even care.
With that in mind, we will begin doing a Visiting Teaching Challenge as part of our opening exercises each Sunday. We have already been doing that a little, but we will make it more focused. On the issue of accountability, we will do more VT interviews, perhaps three or four times a year, if necessary. That way we can work more closely with those who struggle with doing it and offer personal support.
To help build unity and so the sisters get to know each other a little more personally, we will have small socials with the companionships and the sisters they visit, perhaps 6 or 8 routes at a time. We will meet in one of our homes, and will share a very brief message, have refreshments and socialize, and do interviews. We are hoping that it will strengthen the bond between the teachers and the sisters they visit if they have a relaxed social time. We will do this every couple of weeks until we get through the whole list.
We also wanted a fun way to graphically show how many sisters are visited each month. We decided to take the "warm fuzzies" from Primary and change it to a Relief Society visual. Each month once the reports are finished, we will have two glass jars set out - one will have a warm fuzzy for every sister that was visited and the other will have a warm fuzzy for every sisters who was not visited. Hopefully, it will show the sisters in a simple and non-threatening way just how many sisters are being missed each month.
I think those are the highlights of what we are going to do. We will re-evaluate regularly and make changes as necessary. It is such a challenge in our busy world to get sisters to take the time to do visiting teaching, and yet it is really important. We never know which sister was in need that month, nor what long term effects visiting has on the lives of individuals. But, it is clear that when a ward never even gets close to visiting 70% of the sisters that there are many needs that are not being met and many lives that are not being helped.
Visiting Teachers are the hands of Christ in providing service to the individual sisters, but they are also the heart of Christ, bringing His love into their homes and allowing the power of the Atonement have an influence in those lives that need it.