Lesson 3: Working with Individuals

Christ_Walking_on_the_Water

How can I build a relationship?

Women are together in a gym

Get to know them

“You can’t serve well those you don’t know well” (Ezra Taft Benson, “To the Home Teachers of the Church,” Ensign, May 1987, 50). Be sure to know the names of individuals and their family members. Pronouncing someone’s name correctly can be meaningful if it is often mispronounced.

Engage in genuine communication

Become a good listener. Be willing to share your feelings, beliefs, goals, and personal experiences as directed by the Spirit.

Respect different lifestyles

Chances are you will have different values and will see the world differently. 

What is the suggested process for working with an individual?

Here is a general outline of how to mentor individuals who agree to work with you:

  • Build a genuine trusting relationship.
  • Assess the current situation (employment, family, work, and challenges).
  • Understand desired changes, goals, and desires.
  • Help explore educational options that would achieve desired goals.
  • Help create a plan to pursue a path.
  • Encourage and support to get started and overcome obstacles.

What keeps individuals from furthering their education?

As you work with members in overcoming obstacles to pursuing educational goals, it will be helpful for you to be aware of some of the obstacles they may experience. Here are a few challenges they might have:

  • Fear—Committing to an education through technical college, community college, or university can trigger considerable fear and anxiety.
  • Cost—The financial burden seems too great, putting education out of reach.
  • Time—It may be hard to juggle work, children, and family life. Fitting in one more commitment seems impossible.
  • Lack of experience—High school may have been a long time ago. The skill set for completion then may be inadequate now.
  • Unsure of interests—There may be too many or too few, making a person feel unable to decide or unable to make commitments.
  • Other urgent needs—Education doesn’t seem relevant or helpful.
  • Physical/mental health—Physical and mental health concerns may feel impossible to overcome.
  • Lack of support—Those close to a person or from their culture may discourage educational efforts.
  • Limiting identity (personal or cultural)—The person doesn’t feel higher education is “for them.”

How do I help an individual overcome obstacles?

You might consider using the Three P’s of Persistence to help an individual overcome any of the obstacles listed above. The Three P’s of Persistence are:

  1. Purpose: Is this worth the sacrifice for them?
  2. Power: How confident are they feeling?
  3. Plan: Do they have an effective plan?

Purpose

An individual may say, “I’m having a hard time staying motivated.” Try asking the following questions to help someone who is having difficulty clarifying their purpose.

  • Why did you start looking for educational opportunities?
  • Is this something you still want?
  • Why do you want it?
  • How would you feel to achieve that?

Power

An individual may say, “I’m just not cut out for this!” Try asking the following questions to help someone who is having difficulty connecting to power.

  • What has helped you overcome a challenge in the past?
  • What does success look like to you? Why?
  • What is in your control?
  • How have you seen God’s help in your life?

Plan

An individual may say, “I don’t know how to move forward.” Try asking the following questions to help someone who is having difficulty creating a plan.

  • What’s working so far and what isn’t?
  • What do you think needs to happen for you to succeed?
  • What is in your control and what isn’t?
  • What is something in your control that you would like to change?

Activity

Read through the obstacles listed above and identify for each one if the person has a vague plan, is low on connecting with power, or doesn’t have a clear purpose. What questions would you ask the individual to help them see how they can overcome that obstacle?

Example

An individual has identified as being fearful of starting college. The person says, “I’ve been out of college too long! It feels too overwhelming to go back.” You can help this person to connect with power. Below are questions you could ask the individual.

  • What has helped you overcome a challenge in the past?
  • What does success look like to you? Why?
  • What is in your control?
  • How have you seen God’s help in your life?

What resources can I use to help individuals?

  • Educational Options Tool—This tool will help provide suggestions for educational options based on a set of questions answered by the member. Options will range from trade schools to community colleges, universities, or online degrees.
  • Education Plan—This resource will help a ward member document the necessary details for an education plan. (coming soon)
  • Report Form—A way for you to report your efforts and share success stories. It also helps the Area Presidency determine the effectiveness of the program.
  • Ongoing Training—Your ongoing training will be provided by BYU-Pathway employees. You will receive an email with further details.

How do I talk about educational options?

Getting a list of names to contact is one thing, but discussing a person’s interest in education is another. How might you respond in the following scenarios? 

Uruguay. Two women talking in the backyard of a house.

Scenario 1—Meeting with Joyce Jensen (Excited)

Joyce Jensen was recommended to the education mentor by the Relief Society president. Joyce started college many years ago but didn’t finish because other things took priority at the time. She has expressed a desire to return someday, but she lacks confidence.

Mentor: Thanks for taking a few moments.

(The mentor takes a few minutes to introduce herself and asks Joyce about her family.)

Mentor: Let me explain the purpose of my visit. I have been called to assist members of the ward who might be interested in furthering their schooling or returning to school after having been interrupted earlier. Sister Pinder recalls discussing this with you at one time. Are you at a point where this may be of interest to you?

Joyce: Oh my! This would be awfully new to me; I’m scared. Give me some time to think about it.

Mentor: By all means! I just want you to know that I am a resource for you if you are interested in pursuing any kind educational goal. But I think I understand how you might feel. I work with a lot of people who felt nervous about jumping back into education. Do you mind if I ask what the scariest part would be for you?

What now?

If you were mentor, what options are available to you at this point?

  • Bring Joyce’s husband into the mix since this is a family decision? Could he offer support and encouragement?
  • Share a personal experience where you overcame something that seemed impossible?
  • Follow up with how Joyce might overcome this fear?
  • Any other possibilities given your style of doing things?
Two men visiting over a fence

Scenario 2—Meeting with Brandon Mitchell (Not interested)

Brandon is in his late 50s and isn’t very happy with his current job. He has had many conversations with his elders quorum president but is not interested in going back to school. He feels that the window for further education is closed.

Mentor: Hi Brandon, Mark Ventura here. Wondering if I could sit down with you and explain a new program the Church has come out with that might have some interest for you.

Brandon: Apparently I can’t avoid this. The elders quorum president has already contacted me. Come on over.

(Mark sits down with Brandon, spending 10-15 minutes asking him about his family, goals, and employment and explaining that his role to help members with education.)

Mentor: Do you feel that pursuing additional education is the right choice for you?

Brandon: Well, you’ve given it your best. I’ll credit you for that. But I’m really not interested. My life is OK. It goes on, just like yours does.

What now?

If you were the mentor, what options seem available to you? 

  • Ask if it would be OK to research specific resources relevant to his situation?   
  • Ask if you can come back when and if his circumstances change?   
  • Share a recent success story from one of the wards?
  • Any other possibilities given your style of doing things?
Woman talking on a phone at a desk

Scenario 3—Meeting with Natalie (A young single adult)

Natalie is a recently returned missionary with no plans for education. She is currently working at a retail store at the local shopping mall.

Phone Call:

Mentor: Hi Natalie, this is Melony Anderson from the ward. How are you doing?

Natalie: I’m good.

Mentor: Bishop Salazar said you might be interested in learning more about furthering your education. I have a new role in the stake to help with things like that. Are you available to get together sometime this week and talk about it?

Natalie: Sure. I think that would be OK.

Mentor: Would Wednesday night at around 7:30 work with your schedule? I could stop by your home. It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes or so.

Natalie: Yeah, that works.

Mentor: Great! In the meantime, be thinking about your interests and talents. You can even invite your parents to sit in if you want.

Visit at Natalie’s home:

Mentor: Hi Natalie, how’s it going?

Natalie: Pretty good!

Mentor: If I remember right, you just got back from a mission in Michigan. Is that right?

Natalie: Yeah, it’s been about seven months.

Mentor: Seems like you spoke in sacrament meeting just a month or so ago. Time flies! So for our visit today, I want to make sure I don’t take too much of your time. Are you good to visit for about 25 more minutes?

Natalie: Sure! Have a seat.

Mentor: OK, thanks! First, as I explained on the phone earlier, my role as an education mentor is to help people who might like some support figuring out their education and career options. What is something that you enjoy doing?

Natalie: Well, I got a job at a popular retail store at the mall. Seems OK for now. I enjoy working there and helping customers.

Mentor: That’s great. Do you envision a future career in retail or something in the sales or business field?

Natalie: I mean, I like working with people and seeing the new products that come into the store, but I’m at the bottom. I’d have to work up from here.

Mentor: What do you think it would it take to work your way up at your store or even take advantage of other opportunities in the business world?

What now?

How would you continue the conversation?

  • Do you dig deeper for other interests?
  • Ask if her parents are interested in joining the conversation?
  • Be grateful that you were able to find an interest and continue from here?
  • Any other possibilities given your style of doing things?
Young women using laptop computers in a classroom

Scenario 4—Jane (Moving forward)

Jane is a working single mom who has decided to get her associate degree in accounting. She is worried about how to keep everything in balance.

Mentor: Jane, you’ve taken hold of this! This is impressive. We’ve met now for the past three Wednesdays. Look at what you’ve been able to do during this time. We started off with your telling me about your long-held dream of furthering your education—and are now in a position to do so. And based on our discussions, you seem pointed toward junior college and an associate degree. I was also impressed when you went online, found applications for the three schools I gave you, filled them out, and submitted them. Have you had a chance to look over the material I brought on accounting opportunities?

Jane: Yes, but don’t get ahead of me. I’ll probably struggle trying to juggle all the balls—my job, helping the kids with homework, managing my own schoolwork. What do you think? Should I ask the bishop to release me from teaching Primary? I may not be able to handle everything. Have I bitten off too much for a single mom?

Mentor: Education definitely takes time, and you need to find a balance with everything you are doing. Remember, this is like a marathon and not a sprint. The number of credits you take will determine roughly how much time you’ll spend studying. I encourage you to take this decision to the Lord to see if it is the right thing for you now. When you get your application accepted, then we can dig into this a bit deeper.

Jane: I’m hoping to do this. I’ll pray to see if it is the right decision. I hope I can count on your encouragement and support along the way.

Mentor: I’ll be here for you, along with many others.

Jane: Actually, I’m fearful and excited. You have opened a door for me. Now I just have to go through it.

What now?

How would you continue the conversation? 

  • Encourage Jane to get a priesthood blessing from her ministers?   
  • Ask if Jane has family or friends who will support and help her reach her goals?   
  • Let Jane know you will give an update to the Relief Society president?
  • Any other possibilities given your style of doing things?