Spending six years as elder quorum president teaches you a few things. One thing it taught me was the futility of focusing on fixing poor homeÂ teachingÂ stats. Another (related) thing it taught me was that it was more important to teach charity and service to the brethren than it was toÂ teachÂ home teaching; it had longer-lasting effect.
After all, what is the point onÂ tryingÂ to convince the quorum they need to get 100% homeÂ teachingÂ when very few of them read their scriptures regularly, and some of them even didnâ€™t have personal prayer.
The problem with not trying to focus on fixing home teaching is that priesthood leaders (bishops, stake presidents, high counsellors, etc) are still in the mindset that home teaching is vitally important. If it were really this important, youâ€™d think weâ€™d measure success of the programme in more meaningful ways other than whether a visit was made.
Anyhow, we read the following quote from Ezra Taft Benson in Gospel Doctrine class today, and it gave me hope I had been on the rightÂ track.
â€œOften we spend great effort in trying to increase the activity levels in our stakes. We work diligently to raise the percentages of those attending sacrament meetings. We labor to get a higher percentage of our young men on missions. We strive to improve the numbers of those marrying in the temple. All of these are commendable efforts and important to the growth of the kingdom. But when individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, these other areas of activity will automatically come. Testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flowâ€ (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , 44).
I have argued for severalÂ yearsÂ that focusing on foundational issues â€” such as scripture study â€” goes much further than focusing on specific programmes.
Elder Ballard had something similar to say in the October 2006 conference:
[F]ocus on people and principlesâ€”not on programs. One of the most important things we do through the gospel of Jesus Christ is to build people. Properly serving others requires effort to understand them as individualsâ€”their personalities, their strengths, their concerns, their hopes and dreamsâ€”so that the correct help and support can be provided. Frankly, it’s much easier to just manage programs than it is to understand and truly serve people. The primary purpose of Church leadership meetings should be to discuss how to minister to people. Most routine information and coordination can now be handled through phone calls, e-mails, or regular mail so that agendas for council meetings and presidency meetings can focus on needs of the people.
My hope is that one day this can become a reality in the church. That the church can one day be run like a ministry and less like a business.