Home teaching is a sacred calling that affects every individual and family in the Church. Effective home teaching can bless and bring joy to fmilies, as well as to the home teachers, and can strengthen wards and branches.
CATCHING THE VISIONResponding to the challenge of his quorum president, a certain home teacher made up his mind to visit each family assigned to him each month. After some success in that endeavor, he felt moved to commit the names of each member of the families - including all the children - to memory.
Once that was done, he adopted a suggestion he had heard bounced around for years and started taking a token gift or card to members of his assigned families on their birthdays and other special occasions.
As the months passed, his attitude started to change. He felt a desire to fulfill his home teaching duties because of interest in his families rather than to please his priesthood leaders. Sharing special events and activities with his families became a delight rather than an imposition. Reporting to the elders quorum president was an anticipated opportunity rather than an obligation.
SERVING THE FAMILY
One of the rewards of home teaching is to be the first person a family calls when something important happens, said Darrel Hansen of the Boise (Idaho) 10th Ward.
Like most active male members of the Church, Brother Hansen has been a home teacher since he was ordained a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood, for 18 years.
"When you are called on to stand in the circle when a child is blessed, or a son ordained, you have a sense of accomplishment," he said. "Even when there is a tragedy - a death or a divorce - and they call you first, you feel like you are doing your job right."
Brother Hansen, second counselor in the bishopric, home teaches with his son, Ryan. They have prayer before they make their visits, he said. "Prayer puts both of us in the right frame of mind. We also like to have prayer with the families. We let them know we pray on their behalf."
REPORTING THE VISIT
After visiting his families, Brother Hansen has a home teaching interview with his home teaching supervisor.
Brother Hansen's priesthood leader is Max H. Nelson, high priests group leader. Brother Nelson, who has been a home teacher for more than 30 years, said the home teaching interview helps make home teachers more aware of their responsibility and dignifies their calling.
"It gives me an opportunity as a group leader to express my love and appreciation for them, and appreciation for their service," Brother Nelson said. "I find out if there is anything I can do for them."
He said that when he reads scriptures regularly, he feels more prepared for the interview. A favorite scripture is the Savior's admonition to Peter, "Feed my sheep." (John 21:15-17.)
If a situation comes to light during the interview that requires outside support, Brother Nelson has many resources through the ward committees and councils.
KNOWING A FAMILY WELL
Home teaching is best done with heart.
"Being concerned about families and having a love for them; wanting them to succeed" is what home teaching should be, according to Don Staley, elders quorum president in the Kaysville 9th Ward, Kaysville Utah East Stake.
"If you're going to be a resource for your families, you're going to have to know them well enough to know their background," he said. "You have to be close enough to be a friend so you are familiar with their situations, challenges and accomplishments."
STRENGTHENING A BRANCH
The Annapolis Royal Branch, Dartmouth Nova Scotia Stake, is a dynamic example of the proper development of home teaching, said stake Pres. Stephen Allen Maxwell.
A drive to improve home teaching numbers in the branch of 50 active members had a positive side effect as members started caring more about each other. They began participating in weekly service projects together and as they cared more, home teaching became more effective.
"When you share lives that way, home teaching naturally improves," Pres. Maxwell explained, adding that visiting teaching in the branch is also excellent. "They tend to watch out for each other."
The caring and love felt in the branch spills over into the community where members participate in many worthy service projects and causes.
The Annapolis Royal Branch is a witness that home teaching should be more than a program; it should be an outpouring of love and service from the heart.