Calling Silos

May 20, 2010 | 25 comments
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Julie’s post on scouts has me thinking about how we do callings in the church. Several people pointed out that since scout leaders are called rather than volunteering, you end up with people who aren’t enthusiastic or engaged in the program.

I understand that you can’t just let everyone pick their own callings in church, since you’d have twenty people teaching gospel doctrine and nobody teaching the nine-year-olds. However, perhaps we could allow people to pick the general areas they’re interested in. For example, you could divide ward and stake callings into:

  • Teaching
  • Leadership
  • Clerk
  • Provident Living (things like employment, emergency preparedness, education, etc.)
  • Activities
  • Music

Then ward leaders could call people in areas they feel enthusiastic about.

Another thought as I’m writing this — how about moving some of these more to the stake level? When it comes to certain specific activites — choir, book club, game nights — a lot of wards have one or two interested people, but not enough to sustain the activity. By moving, say, music to a stake level, you end up with enough resources to do really cool things you can’t do at the ward level. Yeah, there’s be some coordination issues, and it wouldn’t work well in geographically widespread areas, but I think people are willing to make sacrifices to be engaged in things they enjoy.

25 Responses to Calling Silos

  1. JamesM on May 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Some of my best church musical experiences have been at the stake level, doing really cool things that could have never been pulled off in a single ward.

  2. AndrewJDavis on May 20, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    I totally agree with JamesM about music at the Stake level. I’m now the Stake choir director, and love it. I’ve been the ward choir director, but in the Stake, I can actually do music. I know I’ll have 30+ people at every rehearsal, with at least 4 on each part. We can plan, prepare, and perform much better. I totally agree that music is done better with more people to draw from. I wonder, however, how that would go in some of your other categories. Stake choir meets just for Easter and Christmas. Some of the other topics would meet more often, and in our Connecticut stake, that’s harder to pull off.

  3. Rameumptom on May 20, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    A smart bishop/leader will know what his members strengths and weaknesses are, and exploit them under the guidance of the Spirit.

    If I had to call a gospel doctrine teacher or a Scout leader, I would first make a list of potentials that I knew would do an excellent job, and then pray over that list first. Of course, occasionally the Lord wants someone to grow in a calling, or there may not be a talented person available (do you call someone as EQP or Scout leader?). In the case of the person growing into a calling, it is up to the leader to ensure the person understands the calling and is provided the training.

    A ward must have at least one person trained at Wood Badge for the scouting program. I would probably look at paying for the class out of the ward budget if necessary.

    How does a leader know what talents his group has? Do a ward/quorum survey. Include in it their talents, interests, education, hobbies, etc. Often we find great treasures hidden in our members we know nothing about.

  4. Raymond Takashi Swenson on May 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Having lived in a couple dozen different wards and branches across the US and in Japan, one of the phenomena I have noted is that in many wards with relatively low turnover, leaders tend to assume they know everything there is to know about ward members, and don’t really make an effort to catch up on talents that newer members of the ward bring with them. In those units with higher turnover (say, 33% per year, as in my military base branch in Japan, where we were all on staggered three-year assignments) we needed a more systematic method of keeping track of members and their talents–but didn’t have one.

    I would suggest that a systematic method of matching members’ talents with available callings is in the category of doing many things of our own free will and bringing to pass much righteousness. I noted that in a talk during April Conference, Elder Rasband spoke about how the calling of missionaries to one of the hundred-plus missions was a combination of weighing information and inspiration.

    I would also suggest that a “callings strategy” would include an assessment of members’ status of experience in Church callings, and a deliberate seeking to extend callings that would cause the “callees” to stretch when they “magnify their callings” but not be so difficult that it would be a faith-destroying experience. Such a strategy would include deliberately rotating people in and out of callings in order to prevent “burnout” and boredom and to build up the depth of expertise among the ward membership.

    A final question would be whether we have enough callings to give every adult at least one meaningful duty, so they have a sense of ownership in the Church program that will motivate them to participate even when they don’t feel like it.

  5. Bob on May 20, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Having been called to be a scoutmaster, I would say (depending on the # of scouts in the troop), you need to call 3-5 men to lead the troop. It’s not a job for one man. 1 or 2 maybe only for outings or training. I am sure there are men with great skills, but not the time or wish to be the full scoutmaster.

  6. Ellis on May 20, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Why not have them post the openings on the bulletin board. Then the people who are interested and enthusiastic can submit their names and qualifications in to the Bishop. He can then through inspiration decide who to call.

  7. Stephanie on May 20, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    I think this would defeat the idea of humility.

  8. brian larsen on May 21, 2010 at 12:57 am

    We seem to have this notion in the church that the less information that we have before we receive a revelation, the more ‘accurate’ or ‘inspired’ it is, or something like that.

    What about the ‘study it out in your mind’ injunction. I think Dane is only suggesting a very practical manner for that to happen. I would love to have access to the interests, talents, etc. of members as I tried get inspiration for a calling I was trying to fill. Such information shouldn’t make the calling any less ‘inspired,’ perhaps only more so.

  9. Aaron R. on May 21, 2010 at 7:33 am

    I like Raymond’s idea. I have recently finished reading a book called ‘Growing an Engaged Church’ in which the author argues that one of the keys to building spirituality is finding a way to discover and nuture people’s talents adn strengths. He argues that creative leaders will find ways for people to use these talents even if it is not in the ward itself but in the wider community. I like the approach of starting with the person and a consideration of their talents and then developing a calling which fits them. Moreover, it then takes regular discussion of whether than responsibility is currently benefitting the individual concerned.

    I disgaree that this will result with 20 Teachers. I think there are ways to channel those strengths into certain areas that the Church structure require. This in part where the creativity comes in.

  10. ESO on May 21, 2010 at 8:43 am

    In my experience, the music people are pretty clearly sussed out when entering a new ward.

    I wonder about asking people to sort themselves in a different way. What about asking what auxiliary a person is interested in working in? Those who say, for example, Primary, might then acquire new skills by teaching there, or leading music, or being in the presidency.

    Also, am I the only one for whom my preference would change? Since I have been in a leadership position for quite a while, I may want a music calling next. Or to teach. But I certainly don’t want to be a teacher for the next 7 decades.

  11. Geoff-Australia on May 21, 2010 at 10:01 am

    This sounds like a wonderful idea, to have lists of people with enthusism and skills to choose form by inspiration.

    The ward I live in is struggling and calls are made in desperation. Quit often at least one of the bishops councilors don’t turn up on Sunday. Recently when it came time for Priesthood to start the bishop couldn,t be found, neither of his councilors had come that Sunday, none of the high priest leadership had come and none of the Elders quorum presidency. The 4 high priests discussed which was senior and the senior one took over. We have been like this for nearly 3 years now and no one seems to care.
    The next ward in the Stake has 60 active high priests.

    Many of us are struggling to believe inspiration has anything to do with our ward, or how it’s handled by stake.

    I hope you are all very thankfull to be in wards where there are willing workers, and yes it would be good to serve in callings where you could be enthusiastic about it.

  12. Dane Laverty on May 21, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Regarding burnout, I think what I see most often are the two extremes of situational engagement — (1) the sister who has been in Primary for ten years and really wants to be back in Relief Society, or (2) the brother who has had calling in four different ward/stake organizations in the past two years. To me, the value of letting people sign up for silos is that it means their experience in one calling will likely carry over to their next calling. It also lets them signal when they’re ready to try something new.

  13. bdub on May 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Dane, you’ve fallen into the trap of assuming everyone is like you. I would much rather teach the 9 yr olds than gospel doctrine. I’ve been in the bishopric for a few years now and would welcome the challenge of an energetic group of children.

  14. Dane Laverty on May 21, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    That may be true, bdub. My dream calling is primary pianist, but I think I’d really enjoy teaching gospel doctrine.

  15. JamesM on May 21, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    To brian larsen’s #8, I have one of those bits of anecdotal information lore that we all love/hate to spread around: One of most interesting pieces of instruction from a GA touring my mission was this saying: “Information leads to inspiration which leads to revelation.”

  16. Dane Laverty on May 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    JamesM, I’ve got an experience to share in connection with that principle. Shortly after I returned from my mission, I started dating a girl. We got along well, but I wasn’t really excited about the relationship. One night I was praying for inspiration about whom I should be dating, and her name kept coming back to my mind. I told my roommate about that and his response was, “Well, what do you expect? She’s the only girl you know right now.” Inspiration doesn’t happen in a vacuum — it occurs within the context of our experience, situation, and mental paradigm.

  17. liberty on May 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Rameumptom wrote: “A smart bishop/leader will know what his members strengths and weaknesses are, and exploit them under the guidance of the Spirit.”

    I see some problems with this:

    1. Very few leaders are truly capable of discerning what another’s strengths and weaknesses are.

    2. Your inspired “exploitation” often leads to resentment and enormous burdens. I have MANY friends who keep quiet about their artistic and academic talents and abilities, because they know that this information will interfere with their time with their own families.

  18. Lupita on May 21, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I think anything that would foster real communication between leaders and rank and file members should be encouraged. I was raised with the “never turn down a calling” idea and admit to still leaning that way. Of course there should be exceptions to this but I get frustrated to hear certain positions are difficult to fill because of multiple refusals. I do think the onus is on the individual to inform their leader of any extenuating circumstances that would impact their ability/desire to accept a calling. Inspiration is one thing, omniscience another.

  19. CS Eric on May 22, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Dane, I’ve been both primay pianist and gospel doctrine teacher. I’ve loved them both, for different reasons. My favorite time of service in the church was when I had both callings at once. I’m back to just primary pianist now, though.

    What I think is interesting is that the first calling I ever turned down was primary pianist. That was before my mission. I’ve been the primary pianist off and on now since my mission for nearly 30 years, and nearly continuously since I’ve been married 22 years ago.

  20. queuno on May 23, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I’ve had an eclectic set of callings over the years, and I couldn’t be more thankful for an opportunity to learn so many different things and stretch myself in so many different ways.

    People who only serve in areas that “interest” them become stunted and bitter.

  21. Alison Moore Smith on May 24, 2010 at 3:38 am

    In my experience, the music people are pretty clearly sussed out when entering a new ward.

    Yes. And there is something of an art to hiding your musicality long enough to do something — ANYTHING — else when you move to a new ward. For some, the temporary break is needed.

    I can’t see much of a downside to letting people choose areas of service. I know people who love music callings, Primary callings (even nursery and scouts, which I can’t fathom — but admittedly have never done except as a substitute), youth callings, teaching callings, leadership callings.

    Once I was called as the Primary pianist. I accepted, but mentioned that I don’t play the piano. The inspiration suddenly withdrew. :)

  22. Bob on May 24, 2010 at 9:03 am

    “Let your light so shine..”

  23. liberty on May 24, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    You are never called as primary pianist if you don’t play the piano. That’s the best reason yet for having youth pick other instruments. It may help LDS leaders break from traditional hymns and venture into new terrain musically?

  24. Dane Laverty on May 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    The primary chorister in our previous ward played the guitar. It was fun and different, and the kids really enjoyed it.

  25. Jim Donaldson on May 24, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    At one point in the history of our inner city ward, the best we could do for an organist was an accordian player who played by ear.

    He played the organ, but the harmonic accompaniments were accordian style, not the usual four part vocal harmonies. He had them right every time (he had a very good ear) and knew most of the hymns in the book (even the obscure ones), but we got the full oom-pah effect. Actually it was kind of fun. He still fills in from time to time.

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