At the beginning of ward council most auxiliaries leaders are focused on the bishop. What’s he going to say? Any new direction? How long will this go? The meeting hinges on the bishop. This focus doesn’t mean it will be an awful meeting, but will it lead to a closer interaction with the Spirit?
Elder David A. Bednar said the following:
If I had the wish of my heart, I would remove from the vocabulary of the Latter-day Saints the word meeting. We have not been talking about a ward council meeting. We’ve been talking about a revelatory experience with the members of the ward council. And if members of councils, if members of families, as they come together, would think in terms of “I’m preparing to participate in a revelatory experience with my family” instead of going to a meeting—a revelatory experience with the members of the ward council—I think we would prepare and act much differently. In these latter days, given the forces of the adversary and the darkness, no one person in the family and no one person in a ward is going to be the conduit through which all of the answers come.
So all of that speaks to the spiritual nature of this work and seeking for the inspiration to do what the Lord wants us to do. (2010 World Wide Leadership Training)
I was recently reminded of a model Elder David A. Bednar has referenced throughout his ministry (Here, here, and many other places). By following this model the meeting can have a shift of focus and a higher level of revelation. It moves the focus from What is the bishop telling me? to What is the Spirit telling me? It’s a three part model:
- Prepare to learn
- Interact to edify
- Invite to act
It’s a simple model and that’s what makes it so easy to follow. Let’s break each one down and see how it can apply to your next meeting.
Prepare to Learn
Obviously this model won’t work if you skip any of the three—especially the first one. A great meeting is found in the preparation of the meeting. I remember when I served as a bishop, struggling with the fact that my ward councils felt flat and uninspiring. Everyone seemed to be going through the motions without offering any input around the topics we discussed. One day in a one-on-one interview with my elder’s quorum president I shared my concern about these empty meetings. His advice was simple: Tell the ward council what you are going to talk about so they have time to process before the meeting. The answer was so obvious I was embarrassed that I hadn’t realized it myself. By giving the group time to prepare, they would be ready to participate in the discussion.
Now, if we want the Holy Spirit to truly be involved in the meeting I don’t think preparation means telling the ward council we are going to discuss the summer barbecue and that you want everyone to bring an idea for food options and possible games to be played. It means inviting them to have a session of preparation, with the Spirit, in order to share the revelation they received personally with the council. Basing the preparation on interaction with the scriptures, a conference talk, or even the handbook will help them approach the discussion better prepared. The bishop might even suggest some questions to ponder over or individuals that are on his mind. During their personal preparation they can ponder over these items and be open to further inspiration.
Interact to Edify
Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege. (Doctrine & Covenants 88:122)
Now that preparation is complete and the meeting is started, the bishop’s only task is to invite the class to interact. Bring up the questions or people you mentioned in your preparation and ask them what impressions the Spirit gave them. Just because everyone took time to spiritually prepare doesn’t mean everyone will have the same thoughts, ideas, or opinions. Without dissenting thoughts or opposing opinions the council won’t work effectively. Invite individuals to debate and discuss. You must work for the revelation and help everyone gain a new perspective.
As the meeting progresses and spiritual thoughts and quotes are shared, the Spirit will begin to touch the hearts of those present and uncover revelation. Much of this revelation won’t be for the group discussion. Rather, it will be for the primary president specifically as she thinks of a child she wasn’t thinking of previously, and how she needs to pay closer attention to a specific need the child has. Or revelation will come to the mind of the high priest group leader encouraging him to organize a better way for members to be involved in family history. The revelation received in the meeting doesn’t always have to be for the group as a whole. Revelatory experiences are all-encompassing.
Invite to Act
As has been discussed in other articles***, many ward leaders see ward council as a place to solve problems—to organize a plan that will resolve a particular concern before the next meeting. This might be the case, but it can also lead to long meetings trying to solve even longer problems. The bishop and his counselors must see ward council as an opportunity to help auxiliary leaders have a revelatory experience and then have the trust in them to follow the inspiration and discover the solutions to problems outside of the meeting or in the action of following those promptings. Trust the auxiliary leaders with the autonomy to figure it out and then invite them to act.
Ward council is not for marching orders. These council meetings are sources of some of the wonderful revelations that will come into your ward. As Elder Bendar mentioned above, revelation should not only come through the bishop, it must come through all members of the ward council as they leverage the priesthood keys the bishop holds.
I’ve discussed this three-part model in the context of ward council, but it should be highlighted in any meeting held in the Church. How can you establish this model for sacrament meeting? For Sunday school? For your quorum meeting? For your family council? When we put the burden of teaching on the Holy Ghost we discover a better way and all involved are edified.
How do you go about preparing others for a meeting? How do you interact more effectively after the preparation? Also, how do you invite the group to act once the revelation has been received? Consider trying this model before the next meeting you organize.