If you’re still puzzled by the concept of ministering, then I offer some things to consider which will drastically alter the perspective you have about this higher law. At least for me, these inspirational discoveries have changed how I feel because I finally feel like I have the power to act. Haven’t many of us, despite lesson after lesson and discussion after discussion, still pondered, “But, HOW DO I DO IT? How do I know I’m doing it? How do I do it better or differently than visiting and home teaching?”
So, what has helped me? My perspective of what ministering is supposed to look like has changed, and that has changed everything else and given me the ability to act with understanding and power.
What we perceive, believe, and think has an incredible amount of power to expand or limit our ability to receive personal revelation and guidance from the Holy Spirit. If we are wearing sunglasses, or an eye patch, our field of vision will be changed. Colors will be different. Peripheral vision will be challenged. So, what we think ministering is, how we picture it in our minds, has the power to keep us from ministering. So, our perspective has to change if we are grasp the “how-to”.
What Ministering Does NOT Look Like
In the past, visiting and home teaching was primarily focused around assigning two people as a “companionship” to watch over and care for a list of families/individuals of varying numbers. So, visiting and home teaching looked like this:
The problem with this perspective is that time, culture, and tradition turned it into a one-way flow of service from the companionship to the assigned individuals/families. The question was always, “How can we serve you?” or “What can we do for you?” This question was delivered with differing levels of sincerity. Some, surely, truly wanted to serve. Others were secretly hoping the response included an easy form of service, or a “we’re good for now” response, because such responses absolved them of having to invest further time and thought…until next month. And these are not necessarily unrighteous or unloving people. We’ve all felt that way from time to time.
The problem with this perspective is also that somehow “watching over and caring for” got boiled down to only “how can we serve you,” and most other forms of love and ministering were never even considered (Yes, there are many more!). At times, the truly diligent were able to bust this system and actually love and minister. They did so because they thought outside-the-box and sought the guidance of the Holy Ghost, or at least were sufficiently open to its promptings. But these instances were rare as a whole.
What Ministering Does Look Like
Ministering is still begun by assigning a companionship people/families to minister to. This companionship with assigned people is to maintain order and to ensure that everyone is being ministered to. But, that is the end of any other similarity to visiting and home teaching. This is what ministering looks like:
Ministering power and authority comes from more than a companionship serving an individual or family. It is not a one-way flow of service. It is a circular flow, a radial flow of love between the component people and families.
That means ministering includes service with those to whom we are assigned. It includes those to whom we are assigned serving us. It includes inviting all within our circle to aid us, aid each other, or even to aid those with whom we may associate with outside of our “assigned” circle. It includes seeking the direction of God, through the Holy Ghost, as to which of these radial flows will best help us to increase the love and unity in our circle. We are not, and should never be, limited to service only in one direction.
Ministering also means that spiritual thoughts are not boxed or scripted. It means being in tune with the Holy Ghost through prayer, experience, and understanding so that spiritual thoughts shared are directly related to the spiritually perceived needs of our ministering circle; and/or are prompted by real discussions we’ve had with them.
Ministering also means that we ponder specific Christlike love tactics (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42) that we may be inspired to use either alone or in combination with the other radial flows of love.
If you study Christ’s ministry, you’ll will find that He ministered in five (5) clear ways. In fact, His service was rarely ever given unless someone had served Him first, or served by His side first, or He had invited them to talk with Him, or walk with Him, or to feed Him, or to follow Him, etc. It was then after these things that they came to Him with questions or needs. He served others during/while/after He had created opportunities for others to serve Him or with Him.
This is how the Savior ministered. He used all five of these flows (back and forth between Himself and all those whom He reached out to). He used His needs to invite others to serve with Him and to directly serve Him. Indeed, He used none of His powers to build Himself a home or to get an occupation to earn money to eliminate His needs. He felt no shame in receiving charity or help because it was never “about Him.” It was always about how He could use every aspect of His life to minister to others.
Christ never gave packaged or boxed sermons. He walked with, talked with, served with, and was served by all. In these interactions He followed the promptings of the Holy Ghost to share parables, ask questions, and give sermons that were applicable and needed. Christ’s service was always in direct relation to the needs others had—which He learned about through the other forms of ministering.
In all these ways/flows, Christ was able to use godly love tactics to discern gospel questions, bless others, and give kindness and service in return. And that means that if we want to minister as He ministered, we must use all five. We must learn to:
- Actively find ways (seek revelation) to gracefully receive from others, and use our needs to empower and learn the needs of those in our ministering circle.
- Actively find ways (seek revelation) to invite those in our ministering circle (not just our companion) to serve with us as we complete service to others (whether in our circle or without).
- Actively find ways (seek revelation) to have discussions with and understand what spiritual thoughts/testimonies we need to share with those in our ministering circle.
- Actively find ways (seek revelation) to be inspired—through all our other interactions with our ministering circle—as to what forms of service we can offer them.
Notice, clearly, that giving service is only ONE of the ways we minister. Service flowing from the companionship to the other members in the circle is only ONE of the directions that love and ministering can flow. True power in ministering comes from the unity we create by all of the other flows back and forth between each other. We create this back and forth unity by NOT focusing only on one direction for the love to flow or only on one type of ministering.
How To Know You Are Ministering
- If you are learning to own up to your needs and to use them to let others serve you, you are ministering.
- If you are learning to find opportunities to invite people to serve with you as you serve others, you are ministering.
- If you are gaining experience and learning about others needs as they serve you or serve by you, you are ministering.
- If you are receiving inspiration on ways you can help others during your interactions with them, and you follow that inspiration, you are ministering.
- If you are receiving inspiration on thoughts you can share, testimonies you can bear, as you serve with and discuss with others, you are ministering.
- If you are beginning to see ministering more clearly in the scriptures as you study them, you are ministering in your own life (or minimally, understanding it better).
- If you find the structured visits/meetings you do make and the service you give are more inspired and more sincere, you are ministering.
- If you are becoming more humble and better at gracefully admitting your needs and gracefully receiving help, you are ministering.
- If you are beginning to see how much more unifying and genuine ministering is than visiting and home teaching, you are learning how to minister.
If you feel you still do not yet grasp the spirit of ministering, then I make three suggestions:
- Study the New Testament, praying both before and after to be able to understand better how to minister. Record any impressions you have during and after studying.
- Evaluate your life and eliminate anything that may be hindering you from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. This may be anything from what you eat, how you seek entertainment, grudges you’re holding, and so forth. Pray for and work to remove these hindrances to the Spirit.
- Make lists of needs you have and ways that you can involve others in helping you eliminate those needs. Make lists of needs of others you wish to meet and ways you can involve others in helping you meet those needs. Make a list of needs that you can contrive that will allow you to invite others to help you. Make a list of things you know others might like and invite others to help you fulfill those wants/likes. Then, start acting on these lists.
I hope this is of help to some. It may be simply the way I think that it has taken me so long to wrap my head around ministering. But, I was determined not to let it become “the same” as before. And the only way to do that was to see it differently, to pay closer attention to what Christ did in His ministry, and then find a way to package it for my own life.
Best of luck to all of you as you rise up to minister with power.