In case you didn't catch the hint from this post, on Sunday, I received a new calling. Yea!!! Currently, I am serving as the 2nd counselor in the primary (children ages 18 months-11). I always love receiving a new calling. I enjoy the change of pace.
I also think it is a huge blessing in the church to have different people serve in callings because the change is often good for the people. All people do not need the same things. So if the same person is doing the same calling the same way for some 15 or so years, it is most likely NOT meeting the needs of the people.
Many moons ago, I served on our PTA for the first time ever. I was the membership vice president. It just meant that I drummed up people to join and pay their dues to join the PTA. I was also in charge of the spaghetti dinner to get new members in. I didn't think it would be any big deal because it seemed just like other dinners we had put on at church. No big deal. Only, it was a little bit of a big deal. They had a binder of all of the people who had done the spaghetti dinner before me and how they had done it and what it looked like. I'm sure this was to save time and not re-invent the wheel, kind of a theory. Because I had done so many other dinners for church functions, I didn't bother much more than to glance through the binder and set it down. People would ask me how it was going and I would tell them, "Great! I think we almost have everything in place." The night of the event went great with one exception. With all of our dinners at church, we had never charged admission. For the spaghetti dinner, people paid at the door. Only, I didn't have any cash boxes out to hold the money or to give them change. One of the teachers came to my rescue by providing the change box she had in her classroom and it eventually was all OK. (It might have been good for me to read the binder they left.)
However, I am really glad we don't have binders chalked full of how the previous people before us served in a calling. The benefits of the people always changing is that the calling changes (just a little) as well. Don't get me wrong, we have the handbook which gives us great guidelines and insights and so we have some continuity throughout the church as to how the church should be functioning. But there is also great flexibility in our ability to apply the guidelines. Our job is to seek the Spirit to determine what the calling should look like for our ward and our people, and make adjustments.
I'll give you an example. When I was serving as the Relief Society President, I felt inspired to call a particular sister to serve as the visiting teaching coordinator. The bishopric agreed and extended the call. The sister accepted. As we met to discuss the calling, it became apparent to me that the way I thought the calling should work was completely overwhelming for her. I explained in our meeting that it might be good to get to know some more of the sisters in our ward so it was easier to make some decisions about who should visit teach who and who their companions should be. She was a very shy sister and this thought was completely beyond her ability and comfort level. I had also mentioned that once in a while we might need her to speak to our relief society about the importance of visiting teaching. She had never spoken in front of a large group and didn't feel she could manage it. And when I mentioned keeping the information on the computer, I think that is when our conversation was over. As I recognized her panic in realizing some of the responsibilities I was asking for, I immediately talked about scaling the calling back. We didn't have to use the computer. There was no need for her to meet most of the sisters in the ward, and we could certainly have others speak to the group if necessary. The calling did not have to look like I explained it to her. We could make changes and adjustments that would suit her comfort level and still take care of the bulk of necessary work. (I knew she was who the Lord would have me call.)
Unfortunately, I received a call from her husband the next day to let me know that she had been up all night, crying about our conversation and her feelings of inadequacy. He explained that he didn't think it would be possible for her to fulfill the calling. I felt so bad for her. I worried that I had handled the situation badly. I obviously did not know her well enough to help her to be successful in this new calling. I worried that I had isolated her further.
Sometimes we have to think outside the box and look to the Spirit to help us see how we can have the guidelines of the handbook apply to the people we are serving.
Here is another example.
When I was called to serve as the Young Women's President, we had about 15 active girls, three classes, a full-presidency (minus the secretary) and three advisers. When I was called, I had been one of the counselors. I kept the counselor who had been serving with me. We lost one of the advisers. For months, we tried to fill the other counselor spot. Every time I would pray about who should serve as the counselor, I received the same name. Every time I submitted the name to the bishopric, they came back with "No." My counselor and I would discuss the situation, pray about it, and come up with the same name, resubmit it, and the bishopric again told us, "No." It was very frustrating because every time I went back to the Lord, and explained that the bishopric had told us no, and then I would ask, what do you want us to do now? Every time, I received, "Submit the name again." Seven times!!
I do not know what the process was for. The calling was never extended and for months, we served as just a president and one counselor with two advisers. Then it became apparent I was going to have to release my counselor. (She has gnarly pregnancies and she had just told me she was expecting.) In praying about how to fill the callings, I felt impressed to call my two advisers as counselors and then to just not fill the adviser spots. I read over the handbook and realized that in smaller wards and areas, the young women's staff can be adjusted to fit the needs of the group. (By this time, we had also graduated our oldest Laurels, who were about five or so girls and we didn't have more coming in. The classes behind them were much smaller.) If we just had a three person presidency and each of us worked specifically with one class, I thought that would work. Although, I did feel like we needed one more person to serve with us. But I didn't know who that was. For a while, it was just the three of us.
About a month later, a new family moved into the ward. I felt like she was the answer to our prayers. We submitted her name, the bishopric approved, and she joined our staff, as an adviser to all the young women, not a specific adviser. I also asked her to join our presidency meetings. She was confused and didn't think that was necessary, but I assured her it was. We needed her voice and her experience in our presidency. Both of my counselors were very young in their gospel experiences and this sister was a returned missionary. We needed her insight and strength.
If you are currently serving in a calling and feel like something needs to change, talk to the people you have been called to work with. If you are serving in a supporting staff position, talk to the counselor in your organization assigned to work with you. If you are a counselor, talk to your president. If you are a president, consult with your counselors, counsel with your bishopric member, (and of course, regardless of your calling, counsel with the Lord), and let your voices be heard. When your leader then makes a decision that you may or may not agree with, know that you gave your opinion, and then support your leader, even if you do not agree with their course of action. In this way, we can work in a manner pleasing unto the Lord to bring about his work and great purposes. Sometimes we have to be willing to make adjustments to allow others to serve and sometimes we need to ask others to make adjustments so they can serve. (But that should really be something that you have counseled with the Bishop about.)