After years of spiritual promptings to write a book, beginning from the time he was serving as a bishop in Cedar Hills, Steve Webber slogged through several versions before coming up with one that felt right. When it was finished and he presented it to LDS publishers, they told the first-time author, “Nobody will buy a book on home teaching.”
Granted, “Shepherds of the Flock: Elevating Home and Visiting Teachers to Home Ministers” is an unconventional topic for a book, but the lack of enthusiasm by the top publishers still surprised Webber.
“Next to our roles as husband and father, home teaching is our most important priesthood responsibility,” he said. “I just thought they would want to help promote it.”
The setback didn’t stop Webber’s conviction to get this information into the hands of Church members, so he finally self-published the book.
Webber’s motivation in writing the book isn’t money. He simply wants to spread the word out about the virtues of home teaching, which he likes to call “home ministering.”
“Home teaching has always been a passion for me because I know what it can do for the people that home teach and the people who are being home taught,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’ve been going about home and visiting teaching the wrong way since the Church implemented the current program 50 years ago. The prophets and apostles have been asking us to do it the right way for years now, but nobody seems to make adjustments in the way they do it. I felt like I needed to write a book to help people understand the true purpose, and possibilities, of magnifying our home and visiting teaching assignments the right way.”
In his first attempts at writing the book, Webber began with a straight-forward, doctrinal approach to the subject of home teaching, but soon realized he needed to draw in readers by writing it in the form of a novel, with fictional characters, and he included the topic of visiting teaching, too.
Once he made those changes, he wrote the first eight chapters in just five hours of a flight he took with his wife to Hawaii, then he finished the book on the way home. “It literally wrote itself in just three days,” Webber said.
(Disclaimer: I read early versions of his book and his decision to present ideas about home teaching in this way makes the subject matter more engaging.)
Webber based much of the book on home and visiting teaching experiences that he’s had or seen others have over the years, especially while serving as a bishop.
“The most important thing to understand is that the Lord — The Good Shepherd — has provided bishops with a way to look after and minister to His flock. Instead of the bishop trying to carry the whole load all by himself, he has made each of us ‘under-shepherds,’ and has given each of us the authority and inspiration to minister to the needs of our neighbors and ward members. When I was bishop, I challenged the ward members to do just a couple of things which changed everything. First, I asked them to stop asking the standard question that we ask our families every month, ‘What can we do for you this month?’ That answer is always the same, ‘Nothing.’ I asked them to replace that question with, ‘What can we be praying for this month?’ That single question changed everything. People started opening up to their home and visiting teachers and sharing the things that were most on their minds and in their hearts.
“The second thing I challenged them to do was to pray every day for each member that they were assigned to home of visit teach — during their personal prayers — and then follow the inspiration that will inevitably come. Once they started doing that, and truly serving as the Savior would serve, they began to develop a deep love for the people they were called to minister to. People quit looking at their home and visiting teaching assignments as a monthly task. They began looking at them as family. I know what home teaching did for my family when done the right way, and I saw what it did for our ward, when we applied the principle of praying every day for your families that you home teach. We really became united. People were looking after one another and fires were being put out long before they ever got to me. It lightened the load across the board, not only for the bishop, but for the quorum leaders and Relief Society President because the members were ministering at the family level.”
Webber points out that when home teaching was first introduced, it was called “ward teaching,” then it was changed to “home teaching” in the 1960s. Webber believes home teachers would look at the home teaching in a different way if they looked at themselves as “home ministers.”
“Another thing confuses us about our responsibility is our duty to report on our families monthly. It creates the perception that it is to be done once a month. Keep in mind, proper home teaching is never done,” Webber said. “Needs don’t come a month at a time. Some families I home teach need my attention a few times a month, others a few times a week. It all depends on what their needs are. It’s not a burden because you start to love those people. The message of the book is that home and visiting teaching, done the Savior’s way, brings those involved closer to Christ. The real key to love is service — Christ-like service. The more we serve, the more we become like the Master. Home and visiting teaching provides us all with great opportunities to minister like the Savior would. Once you start praying for your families, you begin to feel the love that the Savior has for those people, and all of the sudden we become more and more like Him. It will be an enormous paradigm shift for most wards and stakes, and for most people, but once we figure it out, I really believe you’ll see these little Cities of Enoch popping up.”
Bishops, stake presidents and elders quorum presidents have embraced Webber’s book and he’s received positive feedback from the Priesthood Department of the Church.
“There is a need and it’s coming from the leadership of wards and stakes,” he said. “It’s going to take a grassroots effort to get it out there.”
A bishop in Highland, Utah who read the book told Webber, “I just finished reading ‘Shepherds of the Flock.’ I wept several times as the Spirit touched me and told me we could do so much better ministering to one another. I want the unity that better home teaching will bring. I want the pure love of Christ in more members’ hearts.”
Because he knows what it feels like to be a lost sheep, he understands what it means to be a shepherd of the flock. While growing up in southern California, Webber was a less-active teenager.
“I was one of those kids with non-traditional circumstances. I was raised by my grandmother,” he said. “Two kids in particular reached out to me and dragged me out to Young Men’s activities.”
Those two young men heavily influenced him in his decision to become active and later serve a mission.
“They loved and cared about me and they invited me to attend church,” he said. “They were my home teachers, even though they weren’t assigned to me as home teachers.”
That’s one reason why Webber has taken his stewardship as a home teacher seriously. His hope is that church members will apply what he’s sharing in his book and that they will strive to become more like the Savior through home and visiting ministering.
For more information on the book, view “Shepherds of the Flock“ on Amazon or reach out to the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.