One of my favorite ex-callings was Visiting Teaching Leader. I know it sounds like a made up calling, but it was a real thing! What I loved about it was that I got to be the boss of what counted as Visiting Teaching, and I was pretty liberal! I also found it easier to just pick up the slack for the slackers sometimes, and as a result I got to know a lot of people.
I noticed that there are three types of home / visiting teachers in the church (hmmm, maybe these are the same categories of people for all aspects of church):
- Total Slackers. These people figure it’s all voluntary, so anything they do is better than nothing. Actions taken might vary from deliberately avoiding any meaningful contact to making half-hearted offers of help you have no intention of following through on and/or you know they would never accept. It’s all about the motives: keeping it easy for you and keeping all contact superficial. Your VT/HTer might be a slacker if . . . you don’t know who it is.
- Spirit of the Law. These people focus on making a personal connection with their assigned people, something that is unique to the situation and their own circumstances. They genuinely want to befriend and help others and make lasting connections. They are good listeners to both what is said and what is unstated. Your HT/VTer might be a Spirit of the Law person if you consider them a real friend.
- Hard Core. These folks are all business. They have a lot of parameters and rules about visits. Visits must be made by both partners, open and close with a prayer, share the lesson. Some of these people get very serious about making sure children are quiet and not interrupting. They are concerned that it needs to be just perfect in order to “count.” You can sense their tension and irritation when your flexible, unique needs leak into their structured world. Your VT/HTer might be Hard Core if they leave you feeling like you’re the visitor in your own home.
In the latest Ensign, there is an article about Home Teaching. While it’s not great news for Total Slackers, the Hard Core folks seem to be the real target audience. Spirit of the Law, FTW! Here are some of the points made about Home Teaching that Hard Core folks should take note of in their little notepads:
- Where & when to visit. Meet in the person’s home when possible. If that’s not feasible, you might consider meeting near the person’s workplace, taking a walk together, or gathering before or after Sunday meetings. This list doesn’t start and end with one prescription. It seems to me like the beginnings of a brainstorming list focused on thoughtfulness and flexibility. Personal Pet Peeve: I’m a busy person, and some months I am totally cool with an email, phone call, or chance meeting in the grocery store (or dare I say, being skipped). That’s just the kind of gal I am. It’s buggy when the VTer feels that you are an impediment to her getting the imaginary glory associated with a perfect VT record.
- How to visit. The article starts with an example of Pres. Beck (although mysteriously she is only referred to as Sister Beck – has she been demoted?) being asked by a sister who was doing her fricken laundry if she could count it as a visit since she didn’t share the lesson. To which I say, “Where do I get a Visiting Teacher who does laundry??” Rank hath its privileges. The article goes on to cover ways to visit, again with a brainstorming list: Teach and inspire each other (yes, that’s right, a two way discussion, not an impromptu lecture or one person reading from a magazine) – perhaps (note the “perhaps“) by starting with the First Presidency or Visiting Teaching Message. Share your testimony. Share what’s going on in your lives. Develop love by being friendly and caring. Listen sincerely. Keep the confidences others entrust to you. Continue to be a friend, as time often leads to greater trust. Personal Pet Peeve: I totally hate when we’re having a nice chat and one of the two VTers feels she has to pull the conversation to a screeching halt in a way that seems both rude and forced to insert the lesson so she can get credit for the visit. The message received is, “Quit yer yackin’ so I can get back to the business at hand: teaching, not visiting.” Then she gives some threadbare quotes with mundane observations, so she can feel totally good about checking that box.
- Incorporating prayer. It might (note the “might”) be appropriate to ask at the end of your visit, “Can we pray with you?” Personal Pet Peeve: Ward leaders who have made the rule that it doesn’t count if there isn’t a prayer. Also, people who insist on prayer & lesson with teachees who are a hair’s breadth away from the “Do Not Contact” list. Let’s not whack the hornet’s nest, people!
- Minister and ask helpful questions. Observe and anticipate needs. Questions will often bring better results than simply saying: “Call us if you need anything.” (or leaving a post-it note on a plate of cookies that says that, then sneaking away unnoticed). Personal Pet Peeve: Don’t offer help if you don’t mean it.
- Coordination. You might even need to take turns visiting, providing service, and reporting the well-being of those you teach. Personal Pet Peeve: Partners who refuse to be reasonable about needing to visit separately when schedules don’t allow a joint visit.
All right, readers, time for a few polls.
What are your worst VT/HT experiences either as a teacher, partner or victim, er visitee? What is the weaseliest thing you’ve ever counted as a visit? Discuss.