The compassionate service aspect of Relief Society is a powerful teaching tool for both the giver and the receiver. When it’s administered correctly, it can help all of us come closer to becoming Christ-like and returning to our Father in Heaven.
Today, let’s look at the giver. One challenge Compassionate Service leaders face is that people want to choose who to serve. “Well, I don’t want to take her a meal because she’s inactive and this won’t convince her to come back.” “I don’t think she deserves any help.” “She should have prepared better for this.” “Her husband is in the military. She’d better just get used to being alone.”
If we can teach the sisters that by the time they’re asked to help, someone has already made the judgment of whether or not the recipient is deserving of help, we can teach them to serve unselfishly. Too often, bringing help to an inactive person is seen as missionary work, not service. Help the sisters to see it as pure service and nothing more. The Savior didn’t restrict his service to strong church members, and we mustn’t either. While it isn’t inappropriate to be limitations on service, and we don’t want people who want nothing to do with the church to change their minds only when they want something, we can decide to serve those people on our own and under circumstances that will allow us to be Christ-like. For instance, a visiting teacher may feel that since this sister always allows her to come to the home to visit and give a message, arranging service for her is a way to show appreciation and friendship for that.
Sometimes sisters are simply uncomfortable giving service. They may feel insecure about their skills or shy with people they don’t know well. We can teach them to serve by first helping them to feel comfortable with service. As compassionate service leader, I once sent out a list inviting women to sign up if they’d like to serve. I listed various types of service and asked them to check which ones they were comfortable doing, and if they could be asked at the last minute. They could also mark availability. People who are less used to serving are more comfortable if they can do what they feel successful at. For instance, I’m happy to watch a child, but since I don’t cook well, I’m not comfortable being asked to bring food. If I am asked, I want time to think about what I can bring. When someone has served a great deal, she will gradually be more comfortable moving outside her comfort zone.
When faced with people who want to choose who to serve, we can soften their hearts with an explanation, if we can do so without gossiping. “Sister Martin often takes meals to her neighbors. This time, we want to bring her a meal.” “ Even though there are teenagers who could cook this meal, I feel Sister Callahan needs a reminder there are people who care about her, so we’re bringing it in ourselves.”
Next week we’ll discuss teaching receivers through compassionate service.
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