This is an article co-authored by Adam Ellsworth, a full-time attorney and former elders quorum president; and Ryan Gottfredson, Ph.D., a leadership professor.
Did you feel that?
That was the heavy weight of responsibility being placed on your shoulders.
As a new elders quorum or Relief Society president, you may feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information you need to know, the things you need to do, and the tasks you need to juggle. We want you to know, speaking from experience, that magnifying your calling will be both exhausting and exhilarating. But getting started doesn’t have to be hard.
This guide is intended to help you get set up and operating right away, so you can focus on what is most important to those you serve.
We’ve divided the guide into two parts. Take five steps—just five—and your quorum or organization can begin functioning. And with three more longer strides, you can not only function, but excel and grow.
The first steps you should take to get your quorum or organization up and running are:
(1) Meet with the Former President
One of the first things you should do, if you are able, is to meet with the former president. The purpose is not to try to emulate what they have done, but to pass on vital knowledge that only they have! This knowledge includes:
- Are there any families for which special consideration should be made when making ministering assignments?
- Who are the teachers, what is their teaching schedule, and are lessons scheduled for the coming months?
- Are there activities that are already scheduled?
- What are the organization’s goals that you should follow-up on from first Sunday committee meetings or from interviews?
Keep things that are working going to give a feeling of continuity, and adjust other things as you are inspired. Don’t give yourself more work than you need to.
(2) Meet with your presidency
Come prepared with an agenda to your first presidency meeting, preferably including steps (3) and (4) below. During your first few meetings, decide how you and your presidency will divide up responsibilities. Stick to your agenda to show you value everyone’s time. An example agenda is provided here.
(3) Arrange Sunday lessons
Decide what will be taught in Sunday quorum or meetings for the next four weeks. Be flexible and purposeful. Do not just seek to do what is easy. Seek to do what is best for the organization. For presidents just now called as of the publishing of this guide, take a Sunday to discuss changes to the organization and its ministry. If the previous presidency had lessons in place, feel free to change them if you are inspired to do so. If you are not inspired to change the lessons, keep them in place and work with your presidency to plan ahead for the next six months.
Research on leaders has found that the followers’ impressions of their leaders after two weeks are strongly related to their perceptions of their leaders at six months. Stated differently, establishing a positive first impression is really important. So, make sure you intentionally set the tone you want to set early. For example, if you want lessons in your group to have a lot of discussion, you must model discussion-filled lessons for your instructors.
(4) Begin Your Ministry Interviews
One of the biggest changes in the switch from home/visiting teaching to ministering is the addition of ministering interviews (conducted at least once per quarter), which Elder Holland has described as being “absolutely crucial.” One of the primary purposes of these interviews is for elders quorum and Relief Society leaders to understand the “spiritual and temporal condition of the people.” For a greater introduction to ministry interviews, see videos here and here.
Interviews should not be rote, mechanical, methodical conversations conducted to check off a box. They are opportunities to get to know your organization members and to, together, learn how the Lord wants us to serve one another. The Church has produced some excellent training videos showing how ministering interviews may be conducted (see links above), and Leading Saints provides great resources for conducting effective interviews. Two links to Leading Saints interviews are provided at the bottom of the article. But even before you conduct effective interviews, you have to figure out how you and your presidency will schedule them.
Scheduling interviews and conducting interviews can seem daunting – there are so many people involved with so many different schedules, how can you talk with them all at least quarterly? The answer is to have a structure in place, and then working with that structure, be flexible. Be flexible in the manner of the interviews – whether in person, by phone, or by video chat – and be flexible in the content and duration of interviews. For example, if a companionship is assigned to a family with more urgent needs, you may meet with a companionship once per quarter, but you may touch base with one member of the companionship weekly in a brief, less formal interview to ensure that the needs of your members are being met.
To ensure you are able to conduct interviews with all your quorum or class members, first, set up a fixed time to conduct as many interviews as you can. Your time is precious as is the time of your members – save time in travel and scheduling, and reduce your time chasing down members one-by-one, by setting up a block of time in which you can conduct interviews back-to-back. Set a schedule according to whatever works for you. One way that worked for us in the past was simply to pick one Sunday of the month, and schedule interviews back-to-back in 15 minute intervals. See the example, below:
|President||1st Counselor||2nd Counselor|
|1:00pm||Companionship 1||Companionship 2||Companionship 3|
|1:15pm||Companionship 4||Companionship 5||Companionship 6|
|1:30pm||Companionship 7||Companionship 8||Companionship 9|
|1:45pm||Companionship 10||Companionship 11||
Using this schedule, a presidency could conduct up two twelve companionship interviews in one day. We have done it, and it works! We were able to conduct many of our interviews in one day – in one hour – and the effect on our quorum was noticeable. We felt a closer bond with our quorum members, and our quorum members were more diligent in ministering to the families they were assigned.
But if we’re being honest, in any given month, sometimes only two of the slots would get filled for a particular presidency member. Some people are in other organizations on Sunday, some do not attend, and some do not sign up. Be flexible and be diligent. Having a set schedule will only get you part-way to where you need to be by allowing you to interview the brothers and sisters who are present and sign up. For the rest, be diligent and conduct the interviews how and when you can.
If you have a larger quorum or organization, it is more important than ever that you are able to maximize your time by having a block of interviews scheduled close together. You may not be able to conduct interviews with every companionship in one month. You may have to divide the interviews among multiple months. Here, a diligent secretary will be vital to help you ensure you are able to meet with everyone in one quarter, and you are able to meet more often with those members or companionships needing additional attention. Also, you can save a lot of time by asking your members if they can meet at the same time slot every two to three months. Then, instead of relying on everyone to sign up month after month, your secretary can instead send a reminder email or give a reminder call.
Additionally, sometimes you will only interview one member of a companionship. This may be by design to allow for a private conversation, but more often it is due to scheduling conflicts. Again, by being flexible, conduct the interviews by following the Spirit, but ensure that you do not repeatedly exclude one member of the companionship from the interviews. Two special cases to consider include cases in which one member of the companionship is a youth or a spouse. Conducting an interview with both a youth and adult is a great way to train youth in how we effectively minister to each other. And when the companionship is a married couple, consider meeting with both the Relief Society president and the elders quorum president if it would be helpful for the families involved.
Conducting ministry interviews has the potential to take up a lot of your time and energy as a presidency. Increase the effectiveness of your organization and avoid burnout by learning to manage your time effectively. Set up a schedule to conduct a core group of interviews, and be flexible about how and when your interviews are conducted. These are not intended to be boxes that are checked off, but conversations in which we all come closer to the Lord’s vision of our ministry.
(5) Communicate With Your Organization
A crucial part of effective leadership is effective and clear communication with all members of your quorum or Relief Society. Often, only those that attend elders quorum or Relief Society are “in the loop.” As a result, those who do not attend the Sunday meetings may feel isolated and disconnected. But in many wards, those who attend elders quorum or Relief Society in person represent a minority of the people within the quorum or organization. Many members serve in callings that prevent them from attending Sunday meetings (e.g., stake callings, primary, Young Men, Young Women, missions), cannot attend due to poor health, have work, or have family obligations. Thus, it is essential that your presidency develop a communication strategy to reach all of the members of your quorum or organization to ensure that they are receiving the instruction, announcements, and information about important initiatives that generally occur during third-hour meetings. Additionally, establishing an effective communication strategy will only help you organize and facilitate your ministry interviews. Your communication strategy can revolve around emails, texts, social media (Facebook group), or others.
Congratulations! Your Quorum or Class is Up and Running
With these five steps in place, you have begun! By merely setting up your Sunday teaching and ministry interviews, meeting together as a presidency, and communicating with your organization, you have all you need to create a quorum or organization that is functioning at a very basic level. You’ve taken your first steps. To truly excel, you’ll need to take longer strides.
The Next Three Strides
While the first five actions were initial steps in the right direction that you can take within the first few weeks of being called, the next three actions are not just steps – they are strides. They take more time to implement and take you further along in your goal to help your organization grow and excel.
(6) Obtain a Vision
God called you to lead a quorum or organization for a reason. It’s up to you to discover the Lord’s will for your members, and it’s up to you to motivate the members of your organization to work together toward the Lord’s vision for your organization. Go to the Lord in sincere prayer for guidance, and find out what He wants for your presidency and your organization. As you do, counsel with your counselors, and counsel with your organization members. Once you have obtained the Lord’s vision for those you serve, let that vision guide every decision you make.
Too often presidents do not gather information from their members as part of the process of obtaining a vision and deciding on initiatives to work towards that vision. In our experience, if a president introduces initiatives by directive, without getting the input of their organization, a small number of members will jump on board, a small number will resist, and the rest will ignore the initiative. If you feel like you have to drag members along with you, you probably have not obtained buy-in from your members. The most effective way to get buy-in is to make your organization members a part of the process for any initiatives you decide to undertake. First-Sunday councils are a great opportunity to get information from your members about what is important to them, but don’t forget all the members serving in other organizations who cannot attend Sunday quorum and class meetings. Your ministry interviews will also be great opportunities to find out what is important to your quorum and organization members, which will help you develop a vision for the organization. In your interviews, don’t just talk about the families your members are ministering to. Make sure your members know you care about them and what is important to them. These conversations with your members will help you develop a vision and plan of action with buy-in from your organization members, and you will be far more likely to see success.
Some leaders will feel a strong drive to bring in less-active and inactive members. Some will feel a strong drive to share the gospel with others or minister in some other way. Find out what the Lord wants for your organization and let that vision guide all your decisions as an organization.
(7) Make Adjustments to Assignments
With your quorum or organization functioning and on its way, observe where needs exist for changes to home and personal ministering assignments or Sunday teaching assignments. Do you need a new teacher or an assistant secretary? Have you noticed that a family is not being ministered to by your members? As you conduct interviews, you will be inspired to make changes. You will learn about the lives of your organization members, and you will receive inspiration regarding how to bless them.
As you are considering recommending members of your organization to serve or making other assignments, make sure you are crystal clear about what will be expected, and give them opportunities to grow as they serve. Gallup statistics show that in a corporate environment, only about 50% of employees can “strongly agree” that they know what is expected of them at work. If we are clear about what we expect from those serving with us, we are more likely to obtain the results we seek – our leaders will be more reliable, our teachers will teach more effectively, and our ministering brothers and sisters will be more diligent, because they all will have a clear idea of what is expected of them.
Sometimes we make changes because we have not done a good enough job as a leader to make our expectations clear and to give our members opportunities to meet those expectations. Have you provided clear expectations of what you want, have you provided feedback based on the clear expectations, and have you given your members a chance to act on the feedback? Providing clear expectations may include providing an actual, physical document with a description of what you want. This ensures that you have clearly articulated what is expected, and your members have the opportunity to grow to meet the expectations. For example, if you feel the teaching in your quorum or organization needs improving, have you explained to your teachers what you expect from them as they prepare lessons, have you given them constructive, focused feedback, and have you given them opportunities to change based on your feedback? Allow your members a chance to grow. This includes giving them opportunities to fail and try again. Be patient, and allow your teaching and training time to take root, but also be flexible and willing to make changes as needed.
(8) Continue Learning and Continue Training
In the first few weeks, even before you are called, you will naturally try to learn everything you can about your duties and responsibilities. There’s too much information out there to take in all at once. So as you serve, continue learning how to be a more effective leader. Learn your duty in the church’s Handbook of Instructions, talks by leaders, and training materials on LDS.org. Learn how to be a more effective leader by reading and listening to articles and podcasts on Leading Saints.
As you learn to be a more effective and inspiring leader, train everyone in your organization to do the same, beginning with your counselors, coordinators, and teachers, and then modeling effective leadership to your quorum and class. Discuss with your presidency articles and principles that have inspired you to be a better leader. Discuss leadership principles with ministering companionships in your ministry interviews. The recent changes to how we minister to families in our ward has shifted the focus of inspiration and leadership from our shoulders to those of the ministering brothers and sisters. They are to follow the Spirit and be flexible in determining how and with what frequency they minister. They are to take the lead. It is your job as a presidency to support them, encourage them, and empower them with the tools they need to succeed.
By following the steps in this guide, you can have a fully functioning quorum or class quickly without any interruption to the ministry of those you serve. With only four initial steps, you can have a quorum or class functioning at a basic level:
- Meet with the former president
- Meet with your presidency
- Arrange lessons
- Set up an interview schedule
- Establish a communication strategy and communicate
With only a few more steps, you can position your quorum or class to excel, or to grow closer to the Lord’s vision for your quorum or class:
- Obtain your vision
- Adjust Assignments
- Continue Learning and Training
God will bless and inspire you as you seek to diligently serve Him. We hope this guide removes a small part of the burden of your new responsibility and helps you focus on what is most important – ministering to those you serve.
Want to Learn More?
Conducting Ministering Interviews:
The Importance of Obtaining Your Vision:
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.
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/.