Home teaching — the holy grail of church programs. If the secret code could be broke, think of the problems it would fix. Because it is a great challenge for so many leaders, any time we can take another swing at solving it I think it is worth our time. Even though we are speaking in the context of home teaching everything in the following posts can be applied to visiting teaching as well.
Hopefully many of you have taken the time to read Change Anything. It is one of the most applicable books for LDS leadership. The core theme of the book is applying the Six-Source Model to difficult personal problems. The same authors of Change Anything wrote a similar book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. This book teaches how to use the Six-Source Model to correct organizational problems or movements on a larger scale–like home teaching. Let’s see what we can do by applying the Six-Source model to the king of elder quorum problems–home teaching.
Start from the beginning
When you have a problem like home teaching that has been a consistent problem for such a long time, it is important to be willing to turn the problem on its head and try ideas that are new and different. If your monthly home teaching percentage is in the 20’s what do you have to lose?….really.
The objective of home teaching
Before we try and solve a problem we need to make sure we agree on the objective. Are we trying to watch over individuals and be willing to mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort and invite all to come unto Christ? (Mosiah 18:9) Or is the objective to simply justify checking a box next to a name so that we feel credible in turning in a home teaching report? We would all agree that the purpose of home teaching is much more than turning in numbers that somehow reflect the effectiveness of the quorum. With that being said, understand that some purposed solutions below are in an effort to fellowship rather than checking off visits.
This will be the first of many posts that will apply the Six-Source Model of influence to home teaching.
In order to effectively create change you must apply each of the six sources. Don’t look at a single source as the only response. These suggestions are not absolute so please add your suggestions by commenting below.
Personal Motivation: Make the Undesirable Desirable
The main focus is to make home teaching intrinsically satisfying. We would all love to see quorum members take action because they WANT to do it. When home teaching becomes a chore that is reported at the end of each month there isn’t much intrinsic satisfaction there. The majority of individuals that are assigned to home teaching do not have a personal MOTIVATION problem with home teaching–it’s more of an ABILITY problem relating to their social life and their environment. However, there is a percentage of people in the group that simply do not find intrinsic satisfaction in chasing people for a monthly visit. In those situations, personal motivation is needed to create effective influence. The Influencer book gives the following strategies with how to approach this problem. Most are applicable and other might not be the best method.
Get People to Try It: This strategy worked for me on my mission when I was encouraged to “just try the cow tongue taco.” I tried it and now I love cow tongue tacos. With home teaching it is a matter of getting companionships out the door and visiting. This is typically done by pairing up the apathetic individual with Brother Go-Get-Em. He will do all the scheduling, preparing, and then be by at seven o’clock to pick up Brother Indifferent. This has seemed to be the typical solution that has been tried since the inception of home teaching. It may work in some cases but don’t make it your ONLY strategy.
Make It a Game: I have heard stories of leaders motivating their quorums through food, activities, and stars on foreheads in order to accomplish home teaching. Making it a game may work in some influence strategies but maybe not home teaching. Can you imagine an elder’s quorum president in front of his quorum showing the top leaders of home teaching on a big poster board? Or rewarding you with a candy bar if you reached 100% for the month? Maybe “making it a game” works for personal weight loss but it seems this strategy would take the sincerity out of it and feel more like a bribe.
Connect Behaviors to Moral Values: Many times the individual doesn’t think he is having an impact on lives by visiting a family and therefore feels no negative impact when he does NOT visit a family. This does not mean he is lazy or lacks moral values. The reason why quorum members go to work 40 plus hours a week is that it is against their moral values to live without a paycheck and let their family go hungry. In their work situation, their moral values are very much connected to their behaviors. So with home teaching, they need to feel like they are making a difference. Here are a few ways to make this happen with home teaching.
- Consider assigning the unmotivated a family that truly needs home teaching. Talk to them about some of the struggles the family has and how the home teachers can really make a difference (see bullet 3). Typically an EQP starts by assigning the active members and then if there is room left they assign some less-actives. Try starting with the less-actives and then if their is room left add the active. This will make the need for home teaching more obvious and motivate those in the quorum more effectively.
- Humanize the problem. Each month invite a family/single member/ widow into your quorum meeting to share a five minute testimony of home teaching. This helps the quorum members humanize home teaching and see that they are much more than a list of names.
- The elder’s quorum president should interview companionships each month and focus on the needs of the family rather than just making sure a visit was made. When the home teacher gets to strategize with their priesthood leader on how to REALLY help the family they will again feel apart of a life changing work. (More on these interviews HERE)
Honor Choice and Surrender Control: Many EQPs look at their quorum and determine those that are not home teaching are accidentally disengaged. Leaders assume they simply have not captured the vision yet and need further explanation in order to fully understand the blessings they are missing. Would you consider for a moment that these individuals might actually be PURPOSEFULLY disengaged? They purposely feel like home teaching is a farce and think your constant reminders are an annoyance? Their past leaders have tried to connect their moral behaviors through methods that seem preachy and controlling and therefore create resistance. By TELLING them how to home teach rather than ASKING them how to home teach the leader monopolizes the control of the situation and gives them no chance to connect their moral values — which encourages resistance. Once leaders stop forcing an agenda on quorum members and start surrendering control they create engaged teammates. Instead of TELLING the quorum what home teaching is and how to fix it — ASK the quorum what home teaching is and how to fix it. Do you tell them what you want them to get out of home teaching? Do you ask them what they want to get out of home teaching?
President Control: I’m giving you this list of families because it is important that they are visited each month. There are many blessings that come to those that home teach 100% each month.
President Choice: What is it you would like to get out of home teaching?
President Control: There are seven days left in this month. Please make sure to contact your home teaching families.
President Choice: Brethren, I have a list here of some people we haven’t seen in years. What do you think we could do to help them know we are thinking about them.
Once leaders stop telling the group how it is going to be done and begin asking them how to get it done — Engagement happens and fellowship begins.
Please share below what has worked for you in order to motivate the individuals of a quorum.
If a home teacher has charity and actually cares about his fellow humans then they will be a good ht.
John, I totally agree. So if one is a leader of a quorum, how does he go about getting others to be charitable and caring for those they home teach?
I want to be a good home teacher. I work 60 plus hours each week and teach Gospel Doctrine. I assist in any service project I can but still can’t get out and home teach. I live in a rural area. Our home teaching area cover hundreds of miles and some on Dirt roads. I suffer from a debilitating illness so I am tired all the time. I truly want to but by the time I am home it is impossible. Thanks. What can I do?
Steve, Thanks for your candid comment. I think many can relate to where you are coming from. The reality is there are only 24 hours in a day and some really good things simply don’t get done. I’d suggest you meet with your auxiliary leader and together identify what specific needs your home teaching families have. Maybe they don’t need a monthly visit but would benefit from some other form of service. Try not to trap yourself in the monthly visit box. There are other ways to home teach and still “count it”. As long as your auxiliary leader agrees with it then you are good to go.
Keep striving to serve and you’ll find the time. Let me know how it goes.
If I was your Bishop, I would note that it sounds to me like you want to serve, but there are barriers preventing you from executing the program in the ideal state. Most of us do not live in an area where the Stake fits on 4-6 blocks, so I get it.
I would ask – what *can* you do? and look for suggestions like:
– I can call them
– I can visit with them on Sunday before or after Church, or maybe if you attend Mutual, on that night
If your ward is using any form of the Perry Plan, I would suggest to the Quorum leader that you be assigned to families that only need a quarterly contact, and someone they can call if a blessing is needed. If you normally assign 4 families, maybe assign 6 or 8 but they are low-contact families. If there is one less active near you, I might add that so you get some ministering experience.
There are lots of alternatives once someone is willing to serve. If everyone approaches it prayerfully, there is a solution. Heavenly Father wants ALL his children back, and will offer ways that fits what you can do.