I live in a very transient ward. Some month we get up to 30 new members moving in and roughly the same amount moving out; most of these we never see in church. It’s the nature of our ward and it has its pros and cons. This results in the fact that we have a significant number of members on our rolls that we don’t know. They are just a name with few facts.
About a year ago I went through the ward roster and marked each name that I didn’t know. With roughly 500 members on the roles, 190 names were unfamiliar to me. This was concerning. I stewed over this problem for weeks and knew I needed to find a solution. Reactivating these 190 names was a long shot; however, I felt it was our duty to at least know who these people were and understand their basic life situation even if they didn’t want to attend church with us.
To solve this problem I did what most leaders do; I created a program. I called it the Hour a Week program. If I, as bishop, could find extra time in my week to do interviews and fulfill other responsibilities of my calling than I am sure each active member of the ward could find one hour to knock on doors in the ward and say, “Hi! Who are you? We are here to serve.” So that is the program I created. I challenged each member of my ward to find one hour they could take a few names and go find out who these people were. They could choose any day Tuesday through Friday at 7pm; we would meet at a center point in the ward, and then start visiting. To be honest, it worked. We got the number of unknowns down to about 25. It was a great experience!
After a few months of doing the Hour a Week program, I realize it took a lot of motivation from me as the leader to keep encouraging members to participate. Once I stopped nagging about the program in church and to my auxiliary leaders it faded away.
What happened? Why did I have to create a program in order to get people to seek out the lost sheep? Why did I have to “command them in all things? (D&C 58:26) Why were they not “anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will?” (D&C 58:27)
I realized I had a leadership deficit. I had to “compel in all things” rather than building a culture that naturally influenced other to serve.
Why Do We Compel Others to Serve?
What if all the “programs” that compelled service were abolished? No more home or visiting teaching. No more callings focused on simple tasks (i.e. door greeter, church cleaning, stacking chairs, etc.).
No more activities committee.
I realize there needs to be some level or organization of those called to serve. If we opened up all positions (including leadership positions) to anybody that “felt like serving”, we may suddenly have a circus on our hands. However, the service culture of our organizations skews towards those in leadership positions to pick up the slack. The list of what only a bishop can do is really quite short. The fact he is greeting people at the beginning/end of church, or that he is visiting more families during the week isn’t because he is the only one that has authority to do so.
So why don’t more member just DO without being compelled? That’s the million dollar question and has been analyzed in many forms at Leading Saints.
Doing proactive service is much more difficult than doing reactive service. Leaders realize this and create a “program” that changes the proactive act to a reactive act. Instead of just visiting and fellowshipping members naturally, we make lists of families and then follow up at the end of the month to see if they have visited them.
Is it good leadership to make everything reactive? I don’t know, but every leader would love these acts of service to happen organically.
“Do Many Things of Their Own Free Will”
As I have contemplated this topic of whether creating “programs” to get other to act is really effective, I don’t know the answer. In a perfect world I see people coming to church and bathing in the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ and then leaving with no other desire than to serve.
I need to remind myself that many times the “program” doesn’t just serve as a motivational factor but also as an ability factor. Many want to serve but don’t know how to serve until their leader makes them aware of the problem and how to solve it. Rather than create a program, as I did for the Hour a Week program, could I have easily hung a list of names that need help outside my office door and encourage others to do take action?
The answer to that question is found in verse 28 of Doctrine & Covenants 28
For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
The power is in them. It is up to the leaders to keep them aware of the problems that face the group and then encourage them to be proactive in solving it.
What are your thoughts? Do programs help promote service in the ward or do they enable people to be compelled in all things?