Heather Berube and her husband, Eric, find joy in their five children and one grandson. As a travel consultant for almost 20 years, she loves to travel and explore with her family and help others do the same. Heather grew up on the West Coast and has served in various music and teaching capacities as well as Young Women and Relief Society presidencies, and ward and stake Primary presidencies. She loves learning and currently serves as a Service Coordinator in South Jordan, Utah.
Quite recently, (July 31, 2020), the Church published significant updates to the General Handbook: Serving in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The “Elders Quorum” and “Relief Society” chapters were rewritten, simplified, and organized around the work of salvation and exaltation. Since October 2018, the Relief Society and elders quorum presidencies have taken primary responsibility for that work within the ward, under the keys and direction of the Bishop, so the majority of his efforts can be with the youth.
Principles of Caring for Those in Need
The very first chapter of the General Handbook teaches that “the work of salvation and exaltation focuses on four divinely appointed responsibilities” and that “we come unto Christ and assist in God’s work by:
- Living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Caring for those in need.
- Inviting all to receive the gospel.
- Uniting families for eternity.”
I’d like to focus on one of those aspects of God’s work, caring for those in need, highlight changes emphasized in the handbook, and offer some practical tools and ideas on how to plan and coordinate that service.
As a recently-called Relief Society compassionate service coordinator, (now just service coordinator), my stewardship is to help the Relief Society presidency “plan and carry out service to people in need.” The option to call a Service Coordinator in the elders quorum was added, so now both organizations have the same additional calling, as well as other leaders, members, and resources to assist the presidencies in this work.
“Caring for those in need includes: Serving and ministering to individuals, families, and communities; sharing resources, including Church assistance, with those in need; [and] helping others become self-reliant.”
Members of the Church have a covenant responsibility to reach out to those in need (Mosiah 18:8-11), and the Lord, through His Church, has organized ministering and welfare to provide for temporal needs and increase self-reliance.
“Ministering brothers [and sisters] seek to understand and respond to the needs of those they serve. Members may need short-term assistance at times of illness, births, deaths, job loss, and other circumstances. When needed, ministering brothers [and sisters] ask [respectively] the elders quorum [or Relief Society presidency] for help. With the bishop’s approval, the presidency may call a service coordinator to organize these efforts (see 8.3.5).”
They can provide meals, care for children, or share resources and information on available employment. Members are to do all they can to take care of their own needs and when they can’t, they should look to their families first for help. “When this is not sufficient or feasible, the Church stands ready to help.”
“When a ward member dies, Relief Society and elders quorum presidencies offer comfort and assistance. Under the direction of the bishop, they can help with the funeral. Relief Society and elders quorum presidencies, ministering brothers and sisters, and others continue to offer comfort and assistance after the funeral.”
Depending on the circumstances, a death in a family can lead to other long-term needs.
In Chapter 126.96.36.199, under Seeking Service from the Elders Quorum, Relief Society, and Others we learn that:
“members may also provide guidance to help with long-term welfare needs, such as health, sanitation, nutrition, preparing for a career, finding opportunities for education, starting a small business, or managing family finances. After leaders ask others to provide assistance, they remain in contact with the needy individual or family to provide encouragement and to help in other ways as necessary.”
Many others can assist quorum and Relief Society presidencies in taking care of those in need as welfare or employment specialsts:
“Welfare specialists serve as resources to help the bishop and elders quorum and Relief Society leaders perform their welfare duties. The bishopric may call an employment specialist to help members prepare for and find suitable employment. The bishopric may also call other welfare specialists to help members with needs such as education, training, nutrition, sanitation, home storage, health care, family finances, and the Perpetual Education Fund.”
Additionally, ward council members also share a significant role in counseling together and coordinating efforts for short and long-term needs (see Chapter 22.2.2, “Ward Council”). And finally, leaders have the entire Lord’s storehouse which:
“…is not limited to a building used to distribute food and clothing to the poor. It also includes Church members’ offerings of time, talents, compassion, materials, and financial means that are made available to the bishop to help care for the poor and needy. The Lord’s storehouse, then, exists in each ward. These offerings are ‘to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, … every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God’ (Doctrine and Covenants 82:18–19). The bishop is the agent of the Lord’s storehouse.”
Except for orders for food and basic goods, leaders should not feel alone or overwhelmed in striving to care for those in need. Ward council members, ministering brothers and sisters, service coordinators, welfare specialists, and other Church members can all help, which will enable the bishopric to focus on the youth, and the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies to focus on the all the aspects of the work of salvation and exaltation, and their numerous other responsibilities, while finding joy in their service.
Practices of Caring for Those in Need
Service is far from one-size-fits-all for every family, congregation, and area of the world where needs and resources vary greatly. I have listed some simple tools and a sample checklist for planning and organizing service that will hopefully be applicable to most.
Member Tools App:
- Directory: Service Coordinators and assistants can view both the ministering sisters and brothers assigned respectively to each sister and family.
- Reports: Provides access to the ministering districts and assignments for both ministering sisters and brothers. Inside the assignments, the “meatballs menu” option (●●●, next to the companion’s names) enables sending a group text message or email to both companions at once. This is so helpful in notifying ministering sisters/brothers of a family’s needs, asking them to provide a meal or other service, and to coordinate urgent or ongoing needs.
- Map: In the Directory under each household is a map, which when pressed shows neighboring members. Press on each neighboring house with a dot to see who lives nearby and might also be willing to serve. Often, less-active members are happy to help and serve when asked.
Google Sheets & Sheets App:
- Create easy to email/share sign-up sheets for meals, childcare, rides, and other needs.
- “Share” the sheet to quickly report back to the elders quorum or Relief Society presidency.
- Use the Sheets phone app to easily see and edit the details “on the go”.
- Keep a record of the dates, times and people who have volunteered and refer back to it so “the same 10 people” aren’t repeatedly invited to help.
Sample Checklist for Meals
Presidency Member or Service Coordinator
- Contact family in need and ask:
- Any food allergies or dietary restrictions?
- Number of days/meals needed, days of the week/dates, and delivery time?
- Contact volunteers: Ministering Sisters/Brothers; neighbors, Others (sign-ups).Prayerfully ask, “Who would be blessed by this opportunity to serve?”
- Enter volunteers and schedule in Google Sheets and email to the presidency
- Contact the family in need to inform when and by whom the meals will be delivered
- Text message the volunteers to thank (and remind) them the morning of their scheduled meal delivery
- Send a follow-up text to the family to make sure a meal was received; ask if there are any other needs
- Report back to the presidency any concerns or additional needs
Communication is key to helping things go smoothly for both the members who are giving and receiving the service. Ultimately, the most powerful and insightful tool we can use to serve those in need is personal revelation. In seeking to understand how we can help, we can turn to the Savior in prayer, and to the Spirit who enlightens our minds. President Henry B Eyring taught that we “…were given the power to help lighten those loads when [we] received the gift of the Holy Ghost.”