There is a constant passive aggressive struggle between auxiliary leaders and those that hold the keys to extend church callings to members. This struggle is also apparent between bishoprics, and stake presidencies when stake callings are needed in the ward (i.e. clerks, elder’s quorum leaders, high priest group leaders, etc.). A Relief Society president, for example, needs an instructor called for an upcoming lesson. She knows that if the person isn’t called with enough time to prepare the lesson then the responsibility will fall on her. She doesn’t have time to pick up the slack but is willing. This extra task keeps her away from tasks tied directly to leadership, and she will therefore have less of an influence over her stewardship. On the other hand, the bishop has seen the last three email requests from said Relief Society president. He sincerely intends to get to it, but the Lake family is in the middle of a crisis, and is taking most of bishop’s attention.
Regardless of why the follow through of a calling is or isn’t happening is beside the point. The reality is, trust and confidence between the leader and their auxiliary leaders can be damaged if intentional action and communication, is left undone.
There are a few adjustments both bishoprics and stake presidencies can make to simplify this administrative task. There are also a few things for auxiliary leaders to consider that will get their group staffed much more quickly.
Is the bishopric making all the calls?
A few years back I talked with a discouraged primary president. Her discouragement stemmed from the fact that she would be sitting in sacrament meeting and find out with the rest of the ward when a primary worker was called or released. It naturally caused her to feel out of control of her auxiliary and therefore discouraged her to take charge and make a difference. Why should she strive to magnify her calling when what she considered inspiration could be vetoed at any moment?
In defense of that bishopric, I don’t think they were trying to lead with an iron fist, but they probably misunderstood their role and figured the bishopric is supposed to make all the calling changes. Using a Liz Wiseman-ism, they had become accidental diminishers—which happens to all leaders to some degree.
Again referencing Liz Wiseman’s book Multipliers, she discusses the power of offering 51% of the vote. When a leader allows an auxiliary leader to own 51% of decisions made in their respective auxiliary, it validates their leadership and they feel like they can make a difference. Having 51% of the vote gives them 100% of the accountability. There is much less of the this-is-what-you-gave-me-to-work-with attitude. They will feel empowered and, most importantly, happier in their calling.
Naturally, every auxiliary leader can’t have any near-perfect saint that happens to be in their ward. It should be expected that there is going to be competition to snag certain members. In these moments it is the responsibility of the bishopric to facilitate the discussion between auxiliary leaders, and to make the best decision for the individual and the ward. These debates are catalysts for revelation from above.
“Bishop Bottleneck, when are you going to make the call?”
It doesn’t take a Nibley to tell you where the bottleneck is in the callings process. The Sunday school president submits a potential name for a Gospel Doctrine Instructor to the bishopric and then he waits. He gives it a week, maybe another week or two will pass, and he is wondering if the bishopric forgot. He is now tired of teaching the gospel doctrine lesson himself and finally asks the bishop, in such kind words, “WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG!?!?!” Many ward leaders play this waiting game after submitting stake callings to the stake presidency.
The reality is, there is a process to calling a ward member to a new church responsiblity. Some of that process is out of the control of the bishopric. Getting people to come in, and be invited to serve in a calling, can be a circus in and of itself. Also, some stake callings require members of the high counsel to approve before a calling can be extended. It should also be noted that there is a purpose to this process taking time. Often unknown information comes to the surface during this waiting period (i.e. a family is moving soon, a better fit calling opens up) and it allows the Lord’s will to organically be known.
With all that said, there is nothing wrong with the process taking some time, but much of the bottleneck can be caused by disorganization. There are two items a bishopric and stake president need to put in place to keep auxiliary leaders from becoming discouraged (again, a discouraged leader hurts the bishop’s ability to be a great leader). The first item is GOOD COMMUNICATION, and the second item is A NEAR-FLAWLESS SYSTEM.
Let’s talk about the latter first since a good system will usually produce good communication.
A Near-Flawless System
I highly recommend the book The Checklist Manifesto. It offers a solution so obvious that you feel silly for not using it more in your day-to-day life. That solution is a checklist. With tasks that are important, mundane, or involve a lot of people, there is nothing better than a solid checklist. Getting callings filled has several simple steps that cannot be missed. Those steps include:
- Schedule newly called person to meet with member of the bishopric
- Schedule newly released person to meet with member of the bishopric
- Communicate to the rest of the bishopric that these individuals have been met with
- Sustain the member in sacrament meeting
- Set apart member to new calling
- Update calling information on Church records
Doing all these steps without adequate communication can turn into a spectacle. When does the executive secretary know when to call in the person? Has the bishop confirmed the worthiness of the individual? Have all auxiliary leaders being impacted by this calling change been consulted? Have you ever sustained someone to a calling in sacrament meeting and failed to release the outgoing member? I don’t recommend it. 🙂 So, communication during this process is important but can’t always wait until a weekly presidency/bishopric meeting. If it does, these basic administrative steps will take the majority of the time (remember, you only get 60 minutes).
I don’t mean to upset all the gray-haired leaders out there that barely learned how to text, but technology is pivotal in this process. You cannot, I repeat, you cannot wait around for a meeting every time a calling needs to be discussed.
I recommend implementing an online project management system. Not only will this help you with creating a fast, get-to-the-sustaining-vote calling system, but it will help with many administrative aspects of running a ward (which I have talked about HERE and which I should write about more). The system I highly recommend is Asana. It’s a free online application and with a little training (which I am happy to provide) will make life as a leader worth living.
To give you a demo of how I use it, watch this video:
I mentioned that good communication is important. The reality is, if a good system is put in place, callings will move through more quickly, and less communication will be needed because less people are waiting on the bishopric to make the call. If a good system still leaves some auxiliary leaders anxious, a weekly update via email or texts goes a long way.
Good communication starts with establishing expectations. Many new auxiliary leaders might not understand the process of approving callings and become frustrated rather quickly when people aren’t called and set-apart by the next Sunday. When a name is submitted, a member of the bishopric can quickly explain the process they will go through, so that nobody becomes quickly frustrated.
Again, callings that take time to extend to members will happen on occasion, but for the majority of names submitted to bishoprics or stake presidencies there is no reason the newly called can’t be in place ready to serve withing 2 Sundays—1 Sunday to talk about and confirm the calling, and 1 Sunday to schedule a time with the member to extend the calling. If your process takes longer on average, something needs to be fixed. I have been able to move callings through the system in 1 Sunday but the 2 Sunday rule is a good target.
Remember! Meetings aren’t for brainstorming names!
I want to highlight a point I made above. Presidency/Bishopric meetings are for making decisions about names, and are not for brainstorming about names. We’ve all been in meetings where a vacant calling is being discussed and out comes the ward list (even easier today since most ward lists are accessible on any smartphone). We then flick through the list and casually call out names that could be an option. If this is the model you follow I’m willing to bet your meetings last much longer than 60 minutes. 🙂
There is something about meeting in person that stimulates revelation. Technology and text messages seems to filter out the spirit of revelation. Because of this many fail to do any preparation beforehand because we expect the name of our next elder’s quorum president to float off the ward roster during our “meeting”. This type of inspiration happened with my first leadership calling. The elder’s quorum president hadn’t even met me yet, but he couldn’t get past my name without further investigation. However, this inspiration came to him as he was looking through the ward list OUTSIDE the meeting on his own preparation time.
If names need to be discussed it should be done as a preparation activity to the meeting. Asana, and other project management systems, are an easy way to get this done.
Is this where he or she needs to be serving?
When I interviewed Brad Wilcox, I loved the analogy he gave about callings being more like train tracks than ladders. It’s easy to apply the corporate ladder model to callings and rank their value. The beauty of church callings is the fact the stake president can be released and then serve in the nursery. We are not going up and down hierarchy ladders but simply being moved around on train tracks to different responsibilities of service.
While serving as bishop I have noticed many auxiliary leaders defaulting to the “Members Without Callings” list when seeking to fill callings. They don’t want to make any waves in ward council by “stealing” a member away from one auxiliary to their own. This approach to callings dulls the inspiration which results in a negative impact to the ward culture because people aren’t serving where they are needed.
It’s important for a ward or stake leader to coach and encourage auxiliary leaders to consider calling people to their auxiliary that are serving elsewhere in the ward. As I mentioned above, the bishopric then facilitates the debate with both those auxiliary leaders to determine, not who wants them more, but where does the Lord want them to serve now.
I’ve witnesses bishopric counselors being moved to young men’s programs and executive secretaries moved to the elder’s quorum because of specific inspiration. That inspiration would have never come unless the question was asked.
Can you give me a list of names?
Serving as bishop, I have had many auxiliary leaders come to me seeking a new counselors, or class instructors, and they don’t know where to start, so they ask me for a list of people I think should be considered. I softly ask them, “What makes you think I have a list of people?” They will then respond, “Well, you’re the bishop and tend to know more people and visit more people”? I then remind them that the bishopric has no monopoly on getting to know people in the ward. The bishopric may have a higher desire to get to know people because they are more effective leaders but everyone is welcome to make visits to anyone on the ward roster, especially those seeking to call the right people.
There are times when a newly called young women’s president literally moved into the ward 2 weeks prior and simply needs help with where to start and a list of names from the bishop would be helpful. Or the last 3 names the auxiliary leader has submitted has been turned down by the bishopric for practical or worthiness reasons and they are running out of ideas. However, never underestimate the power of inspiration that comes when someone acts in their calling and seeks to meet people that would be a good fit. It’s a faith building experience, so don’t take that away from them by giving them a “list”.
What has worked for you?
The overarching principle here is giving those you lead autonomy over their stewardship. Don’t make decisions for them but rather act as a mentor and coach as they discover how to receive inspiration that is their right to receive. Their faith is built through this process and they become more qualified leaders.
What are some items I failed to include about this calling process? Please comment below and share what has worked for you.
Also, if anyone is interested in me doing a free webinar about Asana and training you on how to effectively use a project management system in your calling please comment below or email me. I’m happy to do it as long as there is interest.