This is an article co-authored by Ryan Gottfredson, Ph.D., a leadership professor and Adam Ellsworth, a full-time attorney and former elders quorum president
You have recently been called to a position that, while it has a familiar name, is essentially a brand new calling with no prior precedent. You are probably thinking, “What do I do now?” As a leadership professor and a recently-serving Elders quorum president, we have come up with a few tips for things that you should do and not do to ensure that your quorum gets off to a positive start.
The long-term success of your quorum’s ministry will depend on your ability to understand the Lord’s will, understand your quorum’s needs and abilities, and act and help your quorum to act accordingly. You may feel like a winner as you watch elders and high priests interact as one, or you may feel like a loser when you report to the stake president that your quorum still feels like two separate and distinct groups. True, changes and improvements take time. However, we have found that long term success is accelerated by starting off with just a few small initial “wins.”
New Elder Quorum President Dos & Don’ts
DO NOT move on to regular lessons
…without addressing the significant changes that have occurred—specifically the merger of High Priests and Elders into one quorum and the change of focus of your ministry. If you fail to discuss the changes with your quorum, you will come across as an ambivalent leader who is not in tune with, or does not care about, the needs of his quorum members.
While you might feel pressure to jump right into the regular lesson schedule. Your time with your quorum is precious and there are more important things you can do to ensure that the merge is successful than jumping into a lesson on a conference talk (as good as those can be).
DO listen to your quorum
Throughout your tenure, hearing the voice of those you lead and serve is going to be critical to your ability to bless their lives. Have a great small win by allowing your quorum to talk about the changes that have occurred. Here are some questions for you to consider asking:
- What are they most excited about?
- What potential do they see?
- What are they concerned about?
- Who is most likely to be negatively affected by the changes, and what could the quorum do to be of support to those individuals?
- How can the quorum ensure that everyone feels like they can be a positive contributor to the quorum?
Also, allow time for questions that they have. If they have questions or concerns, spend time addressing them either in the moment or in subsequent weeks.
People are not necessarily averse to change, but when change occurs, they feel unsure and unsettled about what it means for them. This is your opportunity to show that you are an emotionally intelligent leader by addressing this uncertainty that many are surely feeling.
DO NOT focus only on the spiritual connections – lessons and formal ministry
Spiritual quorum lessons and formal ministry are vital, and eternally speaking, they are the most important. But if you haven’t helped your quorum engage socially, you will have a harder time helping your quorum spiritually. Which brings us to…
DO make opportunities for the quorum members to connect socially
For most wards, the new elder’s quorum is a merger of two previously established groups. For these two groups to come together as one, time and effort must be spent to intentionally form the new group.
One of the best ways to do that is to let the quorum interact socially. They need to get to know each other on a personal level, not just on a church level. The high priests need to connect socially with the elders and vice versa. If they do not have this opportunity, a division will remain in the quorum that could last your entire term of service.
From working both as an elders quorum president and, in Ryan’s case, with over a hundred group formations, we learned that one of the best early indicators of future success is the degree to which the group connected on a social level before connecting on aspects related to their responsibilities.
This is an opportunity for your new presidency to be creative. Different quorums have different interests, so have another small win by putting together a board game night, sports game night, movie night, potluck, target practice, or whatever, and by finding ways to give your quorum members opportunities to engage socially.
DO NOT just pick your favorite conference talks to teach and set up interviews
Having a structure in place for a functioning quorum is important, but it is not enough to lift your quorum.
DO establish a focus, destination, or purpose
It is going to be important for you to ensure that your quorum doesn’t feel like high priests are now going to elders quorum, or vice versa. One of the best ways to go from a collection of individuals to a collective group is to have a focus/destination/purpose that everyone can align themselves with. This is an essential component of ‘being of one mind.’
A critical factor in developing a focus/destination/purpose is to allow your quorum to participate in determining your focus/destination/purpose. Absolutely spend time in prayer to determine what Heavenly Father wants for your quorum. But before you do, and while you are in the process, talk with your quorum. What is most important to them? Who do they want to be? Allow your focus/destination/purpose to come from the bottom-up instead of the top-down. When a focus/destination/purpose comes from the top-down, even if it is inspired, it is challenging to get “buy-in” from the group. But, if the focus/destination/purpose comes from the bottom-up, there is significantly more “buy-in.” This process alone will bring greater unity to your quorum.
Effective leadership is impossible without a focus/destination/purpose. If leaders do not have a focus/destination/purpose, they are no better than a life raft adrift at sea, being blown wherever the wind and current takes them. With a focus/destination/purpose, leaders are able to chart a course that brings unity in purpose and allows the quorum to set a specific and intentional destination.
So, have another small win by discussing with your quorum and presidency what your focus, destination, or purpose should be for the next 3-6 months. Who do they want to become? What do they want to accomplish?
DO NOT just issue new ministering assignments or keep old home teaching assignments in place
Do not assume everyone knows what is going on, has a clear idea of the changes that have taken place, or is on board with the recent changes. Confusion and miscommunication abound and will inhibit your quorum’s ability to be unified and to minister effectively.
DO help your quorum understand how ministering is going to work
For some, this change is not a big deal. But, for others, this is a big change that will require a significant shift of mindset. Some of them have prided themselves on being a 100% home teacher because it was a way for them to serve diligently, and maybe it was a way for them to clearly demonstrate their discipleship. For them, they are moving from what was a sure thing, a box to check off, to something that is ambiguous and amorphous, and they will likely want to know what they need to do to “measure up” and feel like the disciple that they want to be.
Carefully review the appendix to the First Presidency letter, have you and your presidency watch the recently-released training videos, review the church’s new website of ministering resources, and take a look at the Quick-Start Guide for the new ministry focus provided by Leading Saints.
Of course, it is going to be OK to not have all the answers, especially as the Church will be continually releasing additional information and guidance. But, you can have a small but significant win early by demonstrating that you have tried to master whatever material the church has released on ministering, and you should attempt to clarify what exactly the changes are. Transparency and effective communication is crucial to effective leadership. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that effective leadership.
With the new unprecedented calling that you now hold, you have a unique opportunity and challenge to blend two priesthood bodies into a super-force of discipleship. But, creating a super-force of discipleship will not come naturally. As a leader, you will need take action to help your quorum members come together and become one body. If you implement a few actions early to create a few small wins, it will go a long way toward accelerating your long-term success and growth as a quorum.
This article is designed to help you get pointed in the right direction by encouraging you to:
- Listen to your quorum
- Allow the quorum members to connect socially
- Establish a focus, a destination, or a purpose
- Help your quorum understand how ministering is going to work
We wish God’s hands to be upon you at this time, and thank you for your willingness to lead, serve, guide, and minister.
Ryan Gottfredson, Ph.D. is a leadership professor at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University-Fullerton. He is an elder’s quorum instructor in his ward (he thinks!). He is also a leadership consultant, trainer, speaker, and coach. He helps leaders improve their mindset to improve their life, work, and leadership. He has a website and blog at: https://www.ryangottfredson.com/.
Adam Ellsworth was, until President Nelson (and his Stake President) told him otherwise, an Elders Quorum president living in Gaithersburg, Maryland who loved the job. He is also a patent attorney helping inventors patent their inventions.