“21. Ministering,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).
“21. Ministering,” General Handbook.
The Savior showed by example what it means to minister as He served out of love for His Father and for His Father’s children (see John 15:9–10). He loved, taught, prayed for, comforted, and blessed those around Him, inviting all to follow Him (see Mark 8:34). Ministering brothers and sisters prayerfully seek to serve as He would. To provide such care, each member household has priesthood brethren assigned as ministering brothers to watch over the family or individuals who live there (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:47, 59). Each adult sister has ministering sisters assigned to watch over her.
Elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies instruct ministering brothers and sisters in how to care for and strengthen individuals and families. Presidency members can give this instruction in ministering interviews, in Sunday meetings, or in another meeting.
Serving as a ministering brother or sister is part of the covenant made at baptism (see Mosiah 18:8–11). Accordingly, ministering brothers and sisters are not called, sustained, or set apart.
Because stake presidencies and bishoprics are responsible for all members of the stake or ward, these brethren are not generally assigned as ministering brothers to specific individuals or families. High councilors and functioning patriarchs may be assigned, based on local circumstances, as determined by the stake president. If they are assigned, a member of the elders quorum presidency makes the assignment.
Members of the stake high priests quorum, their wives, and their families have ministering brothers and sisters assigned to them by their elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies, under the direction of the bishop.
Ministering brothers represent the Lord, the bishop, and quorum leaders. They “visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:51). They are assigned to families and individuals to “watch over … and be with and strengthen them” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:53). They “warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:59).
Ministering sisters represent the Lord, the bishop, and Relief Society leaders. As sisters minister, they prayerfully seek to serve as the Lord would, “comfort[ing] those that stand in need of comfort” and helping each become a true disciple of Jesus Christ (Mosiah 18:9; see also John 13:35).
Ministering brothers and sisters seek to be led by the Spirit as they provide Christlike caring. They counsel with those they are assigned and seek inspiration about how best to meet their needs, using the time and resources available.
Ministering brothers and sisters are flexible in how they minister. They customize their contacts, service, and any messages to meet the needs of members. Personal visits are important when they can be made. Ministering brothers and sisters may also reach out through phone calls, texts, emails, letters, contacts at church, attendance at family events, and service.
Meeting individual needs starts with prayerful consideration and with a conversation with the assigned individuals and families. Ministering brothers and sisters listen so they can understand how best to serve. They discuss the frequency and type of contact members desire. They also discuss the kind of messages members would like.
Ministering brothers and sisters can be an important source of help to members. Some ways are listed below:
They help members strengthen their faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
They help members prepare to make the covenants associated with the next ordinance they receive. They may help parents (1) ensure that their children are blessed and (2) prepare their children to be baptized and confirmed. They may also help parents prepare their sons to have the Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon them and be ordained to priesthood offices at the appropriate ages.
They become acquainted with members’ interests and needs, and they recognize special events in their lives.
They offer help when members are unemployed, ill, lonely, moving, or have other needs.
They help members become self-reliant.
Ministering is a coordinated effort between the elders quorum and the Relief Society. Working under the direction of the bishop, the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies prayerfully coordinate ministering as follows:
The elders quorum presidency recommends to the bishop ministering companionships and ministering assignments for the individuals and families of the ward. The Relief Society presidency recommends ministering companionships and ministering assignments for Relief Society sisters. Elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies discuss specific assignments before recommending them to the bishop.
As appropriate, the ministering brothers and sisters of an individual or family may discuss together their efforts to meet needs. When necessary, they may counsel with their quorum or Relief Society presidencies for additional help and resources.
Elders quorum presidencies hold interviews with ministering brothers at least quarterly. Relief Society presidencies hold interviews with ministering sisters at least quarterly. (See 21.4.)
Elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies meet together at least quarterly to discuss the strengths and needs of individuals and families learned through ministering interviews. Elders quorum and Relief Society presidents share in the responsibility of organizing and conducting the meeting. As needed, the presidencies work together to coordinate ministering assignments.
Following that meeting, the elders quorum and Relief Society presidents meet together quarterly with the bishop to address the needs of individuals and families. They may also discuss changes in ministering assignments and obtain the bishop’s approval for their recommendations.
As needed, the elders quorum and Relief Society presidents discuss with the ward council the strengths and needs identified in ministering interviews. Members of the ward council make plans to serve and bless ward members.
The elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies prayerfully recommend to the bishop assignments for ministering brothers and sisters to care for individuals and families in the ward. Presidency members discuss the strengths and needs of individuals and families. They recommend dedicated ministering brothers and sisters for new members, less-active members who may be receptive, and others such as single parents, widows, and widowers.
After the bishop has given approval, a member of the elders quorum or Relief Society presidency meets with ministering brothers or sisters to give them their assignments and to counsel about the strengths, needs, and challenges of those to whom the brothers or sisters minister. This conversation may take place in a ministering interview or whenever needed.
The elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies normally assign brothers or sisters into companionships of two. A married couple may be assigned to minister together if that would most effectively meet the needs of a particular individual or family.
Teachers and priests serve as companions to Melchizedek Priesthood holders. After consulting with parents and leaders, a member of the elders quorum presidency extends ministering assignments to teachers and priests.
Young Women may serve as companions to Relief Society sisters beginning in January of the year they turn 14. Parents and leaders counsel with each young woman, who may be assigned as a ministering sister when she is willing, able, and sufficiently mature to serve. A member of the Relief Society presidency extends ministering assignments to young women.
A young woman serving as a companion to an adult sister does not have ministering sisters assigned specifically to her. She is ministered to by those who minister to her family and is also cared for by her Young Women class presidency and adult leaders.
The guideline that two responsible adults be present with youth does not apply to the assignment of ministering companions. However, under the direction of their bishop, leaders should use wisdom and seek inspiration when assigning youth as companions to adults.
Adult companions should avoid situations that might be misunderstood. They should use care regarding isolated one-on-one situations so that youth have a safe and rewarding experience with ministering. Additionally, leaders should use wisdom in not assigning youth to difficult home or family situations.
When a youth is assigned to a companion who is not his or her parent, leaders should confirm that parents do not object to the assignment.
Elders quorum leaders in young single adult wards recommend to the bishop ministering brothers for each member in the ward. Single members who live together as roommates may have the same ministering brothers. However, ministering brothers should focus on serving the individuals and should report on each person separately.
With approval from the mission president, leaders may consider asking full-time missionaries to help with ministering on a limited basis. The mission president communicates this approval to the stake president, who informs bishops. When such approval is given, full-time missionaries are assigned primarily to visit new members, part-member families, and less-active members.
Members of the elders quorum presidency hold interviews with companionships of ministering brothers (including teachers and priests, as circumstances are appropriate). Members of the Relief Society presidency hold interviews with companionships of ministering sisters (including young women with ministering assignments, as circumstances are appropriate).
Interviews are held at least once each quarter; they may be held throughout the quarter and need not be long to be effective. Preferably, these interviews are held in person and with both members of the companionship. A married couple assigned to minister together can meet with elders quorum leaders, Relief Society leaders, or both.
Ministering interviews are held to:
Counsel about the strengths, needs, and challenges of assigned families and individuals.
Determine what needs the elders quorum, Relief Society, ward council, and others might assist with.
Teach and encourage ministering brothers and sisters.
Between interviews, ministering brothers and sisters communicate information as needed—in person or through phone calls, texts, or emails. Ministering brothers share confidential information only with the elders quorum president or directly with the bishop. Ministering sisters share confidential information only with the Relief Society president or directly with the bishop.