Imagine a football game with no scoreboard. Also, imagine you don’t know how many yards away the end zone is. The field could be 100 yards or 1100 yards, maybe only 25 yards. If you were the football coach in this type of league what would your game plan be? The best coaches would urge you to focus on getting first downs since you have no clue how far down the field the goal is. As long as you keep getting first downs within four plays, you would at some point start scoring points.
Consider it’s third down and your offense has eight yards to go to reach the first down marker. The quarterback drops back in the pocket waiting for his receivers to get open. All his receivers are covered so he scrambles. He gets slowed down by a linebacker but gains enough yardage to put the ball across the first-down line. The team goes crazy with celebration! They rush the field and put the quarterback on their shoulders and carry him off the field to the locker room. But it was only a first down. Why would you celebrate a first down when a touchdown is the goal?
Now that the reporting metric for leaders is quarterly ministering interviews it is going to be easy to make these interviews the focus of all that you do as a leader. While not a bad idea, what happens over time is that you lose sight of the primary goal (the end zone) which is creating a culture of ministering so that each family in your ward feels supported and part of a larger ward culture of love. Leaders can easily reach for 100% ministering interviews and puff out their chest as they submit their report assuming they are an incredible leader who is winning the Superbowl of church leadership! Don’t get caught celebrating first downs instead of touchdowns.
The Lord has defined the purpose of ministering (or the game): to “watch over… and be with and strengthen them” (D&C 20:53). …to “warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ” (D&C 20:59). Our coaches (15 prophets, seers, and revelators) realize it’s not the same length of the field for each assigned ministering sister or brother. For Sister Widow it might be a long way down until she feels at peace with the passing of her husband. For the Washburn family, it’s a short field because they need new friends in the ward into which they recently moved. Ministering doesn’t have a clear focus or goal line. We want to fellowship families and make sure they have a member support group around them, but we rarely know when we have scored points or won the game. The coaches (15 prophets, seers, and revelators) realize they can’t point to a scoreboard and there is no standard field length they can measure. So what are they supposed to tell their local leaders? They have to find a focus—something they can measure and track. So they ask us to at least get the first down (interview members of your Relief Society or quorum at least quarterly) and then keep pushing for the next first down. The more consistent the ministering interviews are, the more likely members of your group will take action to connect with their assigned families until scoring a “touchdown.”
Some “touchdowns” are easier than others, but they should all be defined before the team runs out on the field. It is up to the ministering sisters or brothers (with help from their leaders) to pray about the family, discuss it as a companionship, and then decide on the primary goal for the assigned family. Do they need to be sealed as a family? Do they need to become active in church attendance? Do they only need a strong spiritual message in their home that is coming from someone other than the parents? Whatever the goal is, make sure it is well-defined. Ultimately, our coaches have identified helping each member receive the next saving ordinance they need as a touchdown.
So the next time you want to celebrate your ministering interview consistency—remember, though the Philadelphia Eagles won the Superbowl they were ranked number four in making first downs. The ministering interview is a marker, not the goal.