I was recently listening to the excellent LeadingLDS podcast. Kurt (contributes here), interviewed the mysterious person known only as @ldseqpres on Twitter.
@ldseqpres is known for his usually humorous, sometimes snarky, tweets. But he’s a real-life Elder’s Quorum President, with all the problems and issues that come with that calling. And he had some great insights on how to handle some of those problems.
One that really stood out to me was a priority-based approach to home teaching. And he got the idea for it, straight from the handbook! Handbook 2: 7.4.2 states:
Quorum and group leaders assign the most effective home teachers to members who need them most. When assigning home teachers, leaders give highest priority to new members, less-active members who may be the most receptive, and others who have the greatest need for home teachers, such as single parents, widows, and widowers.
In some locations, visiting every home each month may not be possible for a time because of insufficient numbers of active priesthood holders or other challenges. In these circumstances, leaders give priority to visiting new members, less-active members who are most likely to respond to invitations to return to Church activity, and members with serious needs.
@ldseqpres’ solution was to create a spreadsheet with everyone that their Elder’s Quorum was responsible to teach. Next they added columns for each of the items that the Handbook says are priorities:
- new members
- less-active members (likely to respond)
- members with serious needs
- single parents
They would then go through the list, and place an “X” in any the columns that apply to each person/family. Then they setup a 6th column that would add the number of X’s in the previous columns, and produce a numerical total. For example, a less-active widow with children at home would get a 3, or a 4, if there were serious needs.
Once that was done, they could sort the list by the 6th column. That put the people with the greatest need need (according to the handbook) at the top. They could then look at how many active companionships they could form, and assign them to those with the most need.
There’s some brilliance in this approach. Obviously you should still ask for, and follow, the Spirit in creating home teaching assignments. But this gives an excellent baseline or standard to start from. It also allows a ward or quorum to make sure that those who need it most, actually get home taught. It also means you can potentially cut down on the number of families assigned to each companionship, so you don’t overwhelm them, with too much to do.
The podcast episode has many great life-hacking tips for leadership positions throughout the church. Make sure and listen to the whole episode. Image from LDS.org.
Can’t express enough how much I believe in home teaching by priority like this. I lived for a while in a stake where it was practiced methodically, in a fashion similar to that described here. It felt really amazing, there was nearly zero weird (and useless) pressure to “get 100%,” and people were ministered to in incredible ways.
I brought this up in my ward council a couple weeks ago. It’s a way to get more effective HT/VT with the same percentage.
The full list is:
When assigning home teachers, leaders give highest priority to
• new members,
• less-active members who may be the most receptive, and
• others who have the greatest need for home teachers, such as
• single parents,
• widows, and widowers…
• converts before the converts are baptized.
• It is often helpful to assign a youth leader to a family where a young man or young woman is experiencing special challenges.
For visiting teaching:
They give special priority to ensuring that the following sisters are cared for: sisters coming into Relief Society from
• Young Women,
• single sisters,
• new ward members,
• recent converts,
• newly married sisters,
• less-active members, and
• others with special needs.
Thanks @gb! I didn’t research the visiting teaching aspect. But nice to have that list on here as well!
The last time I was the elders quorum secretary, we instituted this program. I built a database of all the members (which is SO much more effective than a spreadsheet), added a mapping portal to the database, and broke the ward down into eight geographic areas. We then created home teaching companionships from those who lived in the same area (or at least adjoining ones) and assigned them a consistent mix of high- and low-priority families. We assigned a companionship to absolutely every family that wasn’t the purview of the high priests group, including dozens that none of the leadership had ever met.
After hours of prayerfully assigning every single family home teachers, we had given each companionship six families to care for, generally four high-priority and two low-priority. The only exceptions were a companionship wherein neither companion lived within five miles of any other Church members, which we assigned them five families that lived between the two of them; and my own companionship, which had seven assigned families because somehow four high-priority families lived within a block of my house.
The instructions from our stake president were simple: find everyone. If a family doesn’t live there anymore, try to track it down. If the family does still live within the ward, but refuse your visits, pass their information on to the bishopric and move on to those who are more open. As for everybody else, the official home teaching report is done on a quarterly basis, and the question is always “How many families were visited, this quarter?” So, visit the high-priority families at least monthly, and visit the low-priority families quarterly or as needed.
Within the first quarter, we had removed so many names from ward records that the average number of families per companionship dropped to four—generally, three high-priority family and one low-priority. For the next 2½ years, my companion and I helped one family through a divorce and remarriage (the husband is now pursuing a restoration of blessings); another through a divorce and a child being paralyzed following surgery; and a third get Church assistance while the wife was temporarily unemployed. None of these families had had home teachers for years, but our inspired stake and quorum presidents came up with a program that put us right where we needed to be, to serve these previously lost sheep—and as an added bonus, our numbers were probably about 90% for that time period, because we truly came to love the people we served.
You don’t have to tell me twice about need-based home teaching!
I’d love to utilize what you’ve built for missionary work and reactivation in my ward, both as a new Ward Mission Leader in my ward and a SQL database professional. I’m sure our Elders’ Quorum President would be interested too (since he’s a big geek like me). Would you consider sharing what you’ve done so far? Let me know.
True, home and visiting teaching is reported to Church Headquarters once a quarter.
However, it is reported for families visited that month—not visited anytime that quarter. The first quarter, for example, is reported in April for families visited in March. We should not be reporting families who were visited in January or February.
I performed a needs analysis earlier this year and am just starting another one (it’s hard to stay on top of home teaching changes). To populate my spreadsheet this time I wrote a simple JS script that can be pasted into the browser’s developer console. Then it will output tab-delimited rows which can pasted into a spreadsheet. I supposed it’s only really useful if you want not only the current household but also the currently assigned home teachers. https://gist.github.com/justincy/2e82ce3f2c4daeaa7a03473f5a4c6355