“Activation through Visiting Teaching,” Ensign, Feb. 2004, 71–72
I enjoy reaching out to sisters in my ward through the visiting teaching program. I have a testimony of the importance of these personal visits and make them a priority. Throughout the years, some of the sisters I have visited have been less active. As I have befriended them and helped them grow in the gospel, I have learned several ways to help activate and retain those I visit:
Fast and pray. To determine a sister’s needs, consider fasting and praying for her. Before each visit, pray with your companion to invite the Spirit and to seek guidance.
Befriend. Get to know her personally. Ask about her interests, her background, and her family. If you know how to do family history research, offer to help her start. Another way to build your friendship is to remember her birthday, anniversary, or children’s birthdays—information you may be able to obtain in a get-to-know-you visit. Celebrating the birthdays does not have to be expensive. The fact that you remember them is more important.
Inform and invite. Provide information about your ward and stake. Notifying your sister of leaders’ phone numbers, meeting schedules, and plans for upcoming activities is especially helpful. Invite her to Sunday Church meetings, as well as home, family, and personal enrichment meetings.
Listen. Sometimes the sister you visit will need a listening ear, not a solution. Try not to judge, and encourage her to seek help from the bishop or Relief Society president when needed. And if your sister wants to recount favorite memories from her vast life experiences, listen and respond politely. While it is important to share the visiting teaching message, be careful not to interrupt something your sister needs to say.
Introduce and include. When she attends Relief Society, be sure to sit with her. Introduce her to the presidency, to the sisters sitting nearby, and to those who share her interests. Also invite her to join your circle of friends for other social occasions. If she has a spouse or children, introduce them to members of the elders quorum, Primary, or Young Men and Young Women organizations.
Serve. Show you care throughout the year by sharing a start from your favorite plant, a batch of warm cookies, or a Church magazine. Especially meaningful are gifts of time. Try to help with something she needs to have done. Instead of saying, “Let us know if there is anything we can do,” offer assistance. If she’s been working in the yard, for instance, ask, “Could we help you plant your flowers?” Then let her decide if she’d like the help.
Uplift. Be optimistic in your visits. All of us experience challenges and need support from others. But as visiting teachers we should be careful about discussing our personal or family problems during visiting teaching. Focus on the sister’s needs, and if she needs a boost, contact her throughout the month with a short, unexpected phone call or a note of appreciation.
It is important that we reach out to everyone, and visiting teaching provides a wonderful way to do that. Stressing the importance of activation and retention, President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, “Put your arms around those who come into the Church and be friends to them and make them feel welcome and comfort them and we will see wonderful results” (“President Hinckley Urges More Missionary Work in Venezuela,” Church News, 14 Aug. 1999, 7).
Bunkie Griffith, Irvine Fourth Ward, Irvine California Stake