Why I am excited about counseling together in priesthood/Relief Society

In 2018, priesthood quorums and Relief Societies within the Church are going to begin counseling together about how to effect change within their own areas of influence. And I couldn’t be more excited. Theoretically, we know that our priesthood quorum or our Relief Society is more than a class, that it is an organization and a brotherhood or sisterhood. But in practice, they often do become merely another lesson after Sunday School. I believe these counsels will give us as members of the Church more incentive to take ownership of our organizations. In a question and answer section of a letter to the Church, the First Presidency explained:

A council meeting is not a lesson. Rather, it is a chance for each quorum, group, or Relief Society to seek revelation about the responsibilities, opportunities, and challenges they face in doing the work of the Lord. During council meetings, all are invited to contribute to the discussion led by a presidency member or group leader. These meetings should lead to action, as guided by the Spirit, including individual and group plans to do something outside of the meeting to accomplish the Lord’s work.

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This perhaps will cause some growing pains, but I think that when implemented and taken seriously, we will see more faithful action taken in our wards, we will feel more connection with the brothers and sisters, and we will feel that we can make a difference. Here’s a few ideas my wife and I discussed in anticipation of the changes:

Top-down approaches don’t work.

Oftentimes in wards, when a goal is made or a program implemented, there is little to no input from ward members. Ward goals are made by local church leaders, and either never actually shared with ward members at all, or are announced and implemented without feeback or input from the very people who will be relied upon to carry out the goal. It reminded me of a quote from Steven Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

One of the fundamental problems in organizations, including families, is that people are not committed to the determinations of other people for their lives. They simply don’t buy into them… When I begin work with companies that have already developed some kind of mission statement, I ask them, “How many of the people here know that you have a mission statement? How many of you know what it contains? How many were involved in creating it? How many really buy into it and use it as your frame of reference in making decisions?” Without involvement, there is no commitment. Mark it down, asterisk it, circle it, underline it. No involvement, no commitment.

Counsels will give us the opportunity to get that involvement from ward members in determining what we want to accomplish, what we want to change, and get ideas about how to get there.

It isn’t a lack of faith

Oftentimes when a certain goal isn’t achieved, it is attributed to a lack of faith. Because we as members of the Church believe that faith is a principle of action, we sometimes reason backward that because we didn’t reach the goal, it must be because we didn’t have enough faith. I think this is missing the point, at least in most cases.

Can there be faith in something that your members feel isn’t worth having faith in? To me, a goal such as achieving 100% home teaching isn’t motivating in the least bit. It creates a checkbox mentality to home teaching. What if instead of talking about logistics, we leave that for the members to figure out themselves, and instead discuss, how can we better come to love and serve our home teaching families? How can we turn home teaching from a perfunctory duty to a joy? I think this is what Jeffrey R. Holland was getting at in his talk on home teaching:

Brethren, the appeal I am making tonight is for you to lift your vision of home teaching. Please, in newer, better ways see yourselves as emissaries of the Lord to His children. That means leaving behind the tradition of a frantic, law of Moses–like, end-of-the-month calendar in which you rush to give a scripted message from the Church magazines that the family has already read. We would hope, rather, that you will establish an era of genuine, gospel-oriented concern for the members, watching over and caring for each other, addressing spiritual and temporal needs in any way that helps.

When the discussion turns in this direction, you will find the faith in your ward members. It was always there.

Take advantage of the enthusiasm of members that is already there.

Finally, by putting our organizations back in the hands of the members, we can give them opportunities to share their passions, the things that drive them and get them excited. Perhaps one member is a trained dance instructor. Give her the task of organizing a dance class for a ward activity, and it will turn out great, because she is invested in that activity. Perhaps a young man in the ward wants to summit Mount Ranier. If properly implemented, the young men could put together a one-year plan to make it happen! Young men driven by young men! Shouldn’t our wards by “of the people, by the people, for the people”?  When we counsel together, these ideas are more likekly to be generated and implemented.

There can be a hundred iterations, and you could stoke a wildfire of enthusiasm and passion. Members that perhaps haven’t gotten to really know each other can become fast friends as they share their interests with each other. Delegating tasks won’t be like pulling teeth when members have input into the activities being planned.

I don’t mean to totally do away with a sense of duty, of doing a task because somebody has got to do it. These will always exist. For instance, I don’t see anyone getting super stoked about getting up early on Saturday morning to clean the church building. But even with these tasks, if we open up room for discussion, ward members can help come up with solutions, and be dedicated to implementing them. Let’s get to work!

 

Image credit: lds.org

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