While the Savior often spoke to multitudes, He was deeply interested in individuals—including those who were forgotten, overlooked, rejected, or misunderstood. Just as the shepherd in the Savior’s parable left the ninety and nine who were safely in the fold to seek after the one (see Luke 15:4), you can reach out to those who are missing from your class. Your opportunities to teach and lift class members and help them come unto Christ extend beyond the classroom and beyond those who attend your formal lessons.
Reaching out to less-active members is not only the duty of a home teacher, a visiting teacher, or a priesthood or auxiliary leader—teachers can help with this work as well. Teaching is much more than presenting a lesson on Sunday. It involves ministering with love and helping others receive the blessings of the gospel, and this help is often exactly what a less-active class member needs. We all need to work together to reach out to those who struggle, and as a teacher you may be in a unique position to help.
President David O. McKay recalled the story of a boat full of young men floating down a river toward a dangerous waterfall. Noticing the dangerous situation, a man standing on the shore shouted at the young men to turn around, but they could not see the waterfall and ignored him. Again he shouted a warning, and again they laughingly dismissed his warning. Soon, however, they were in the midst of the rapids. They tried desperately to turn the boat around, but it was too late. President McKay taught, “It is one thing to stand on the shore and cry: ‘Young men, ahoy! There is danger ahead!’ It is another thing to row into the stream and, if possible, get into the boat with the young men, and by companionship, by persuasion, … turn the boat from the rapids. … Let us get into their lives.”1
Questions to ponder. Who among those I teach seems to be struggling or is not attending class? What can I do to reach out to him or her? How could other class members help?
As you seek inspiration about your class members’ individual needs, remember those who are struggling or who do not attend regularly (your leaders can help you know who needs the most attention). A person may withdraw from Church participation for a variety of reasons—many of them hard to detect. But Heavenly Father knows and loves His children, and if you do your part, He will help you know the best way to reach out to your class members who struggle with the gospel and invite them to return.
Questions to ponder. Do I know the names of all those I am assigned to teach? Do I pray for those who are struggling? How can I become more aware of their needs?
Scriptural example. What do I learn from John 10:14–15, 27–29 about how the Savior feels about the people I teach?
The people who have the most powerful influence on an individual—for good or ill—are usually those in his or her home. Because the home is the center of gospel living and learning, your efforts to strengthen a class member will be most effective when you work together with a supportive spouse, children, or extended family members. When trying to help a young person or a child, for example, talk to his or her parents; they can help you understand their child’s needs and how to address them.
Question to ponder. What can I do to support the efforts of the families of those I teach?
Invite with Love
Sincere expressions of Christlike love have great power to soften the hearts of class members who are struggling with the gospel. Often these individuals simply need to know they are needed and loved. As President Thomas S. Monson has taught, “Asking them to serve in some capacity may be just the incentive they need to return to full activity.”2 It could be something as simple as asking them to participate in an upcoming lesson—to share an experience or feelings about a scripture. You could ask other class members to show their concern for these individuals by visiting them, inviting them to class, or even providing transportation if needed.
Questions to ponder. How have I been strengthened spiritually by an invitation to serve others? Could I help a member of my class grow spiritually by asking him or her to serve in some way?
Scriptural example. How did an invitation to serve help change Amulek’s commitment to the gospel? (see Alma 10:1–11).
Be Patient and Persistent
The shepherd in the Savior’s parable kept looking for the lost sheep “until he [found] it” (Luke 15:4). Not everyone will respond immediately to your efforts. But the Savior urged us to never give up: “Unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return … , and I shall heal them” (3 Nephi 18:32). Trusting in the Lord’s timing, keep looking for appropriate ways to show those who do not attend that you love and miss them. You could use personal visits, phone calls, text messages, or other ways. You may be surprised at the long-term influence of your patient, persistent efforts to reach out with love.
Questions to ponder. How has the Savior shown patience with my weaknesses and struggles? How can I follow His example with those I teach?
For an inspiring example of a leader reaching out to a young man who was not attending quorum meetings, see the story of José de Souza Marques in the first few minutes of the video of Elder Mervyn B. Arnold’s general conference talk “Strengthen Thy Brethren” (LDS.org). (See also “Strengthen Thy Brethren,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 46–48.)
For the Discussion Leader
Share and counsel together. Begin by inviting teachers to share recent teaching experiences and ask questions related to teaching.
Learn together. Invite teachers to discuss one or more of the ideas in this section. Do not try to cover everything in one meeting.
Practice. Invite teachers to share ideas with each other (in small groups or all together) about ways they have reached out to people who were not attending their classes.
Prepare. Decide together on a topic for the next meeting, and invite teachers to prepare.
David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Oct. 1968, 7–8.
Thomas S. Monson, “See Others as They May Become,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 68.