What does it mean to minister? The dictionary definition is “to give aid or service.”
What’s interesting to me is that the LDS Church has a whole section of their Provident Living website devoted to “ministering” — which includes topics on abuse help, addiction, caregivers, early-return missionaries, employment, family finances, marital conflict, overcoming pornography, same-sex attraction, single expectant parents, and spouses of pornography users.
On the homepage of the ministering resources page, there’s a letter from the First Presidency to bishops. It says, “The ministering resources listed below have been created to assist you as you respond to the specific challenges members often face.”
Imagine you are called as a bishop to watch over not only the spiritual needs of a large group of people, but the temporal needs — and these people are also going to come to you with many, many other things that they want you to help them with. And you probably don’t have any formal training with the things they need help with. And that’s probably super overwhelming.
The resources are not meant to teach bishops to act as psychologists, but are meant to help bishops help their ward members. Many of the sections include some sort of suggestion that members seek professional help.
Here are some highlights from the website:
Abuse (Help for the Victim)
Helping the victim feel heard and understood may be just as important as any help you can give.
Abuse (Help for the Offender)
When appropriate, discuss with the member the consequences of abusive behavior on self and family, including the doctrine and church policies related to abuse.
Help the member make a plan to avoid or address situations in which he or she is vulnerable to temptation. Review the plan with the member regularly.
Support for Caregivers
If the caregiver and care receiver feel like they are a burden to the ward, help them understand that they are valued and that many ward members are glad to serve them.
Missionaries Who Return Home Early
Encourage the missionary, his or her family, and ward members to refer to him or her as a “returned missionary” and not an “early-returned” or “early-released missionary.”
Consider inviting the member to pursue opportunities for education, training, or certification.
Help members understand the importance of paying an honest tithing, living within their means, saving for unexpected expenses, and avoiding debt.
Help each spouse recognize that no one can change someone else, but with faith, effort, and the help of God, each person can undergo his or her own mighty change of heart.
When members do not seem to respond to normal attempts by leaders to be helpful, leaders should not be offended by their lack of response. Instead, leaders should seriously consider encouraging the member to get a mental health assessment from a qualified provider.
Expressing love and gratitude to the individual for coming forward is an important step to help the member overcome the problem.
Feeling same-sex attraction or choosing to use a sexual identity label (such as gay, lesbian, or bisexual) is not a sin and does not violate church policy or doctrine.
Single Expectant Parents
Reach out in love to comfort, encourage, and care for the single expectant mother or father. Express your desire to help and thank the individual for his or her willingness to involve you.
Support for Spouses of Pornography Users
Spouses often incorrectly assume the problem is somehow their fault. Help the spouse of the pornography user understand that he or she is not responsible for the user’s behavior.