How do you like your calling? We all have favorites, and they vary from person to person. Some people enjoy teaching, others administrating, still others camping with the Scouts. I really love my current one as Relief Society President in my ward, and I expect I will love other callings that lie ahead.

But whether you feel you’re in the favorite calling of your life, or you’re being stretched a bit more than you would wish, you can enrich your life with a little secret I employed a few years ago.

I decided to give myself a pretend calling. I plan to take it with me if we should ever move, or get put in another ward. It doesn’t really have a name and I certainly wasn’t set apart to do it. Here’s what I do: I go to church early so I can meander around the chapel before Sacrament meeting, and welcome anyone who looks unfamiliar. Every week my goal is to give a warm handshake to every newcomer before the meeting starts. I guess you could call my job “Ward Welcomer.”

Any number of people could do this at the same time I’m doing it. In fact, that would enhance the overall goal, which is to be the friendliest ward on Planet Earth. I realize I’m competing with some pretty friendly folks in other cultures, where everybody hugs everybody and kisses both their cheeks, but I’m undaunted. I feel driven to do this as if it’s in my DNA. And yes, I realize cattle dogs and other creatures have similar instincts they cannot set aside, but even that comparison will not slow me down.

To be honest, I must confess that I got this idea from my husband, Bob, who is known for doing the same thing. I decided to join in when a sister stood up in Fast and Testimony Meeting years ago, and said the reason she got active in the church again was because Brother Hilton saw her across the cultural hall at a ward dinner, and crossed the entire length of the room just to welcome her. If all you save is one person, that’s worth it right there.

How many people are checking out “this Mormon thing,” or trying to test the waters again after years of inactivity? How can we allow even one brave soul to visit without greeting them? Often, especially when you’re alone and have no “wing man” to sit with, it takes tremendous courage to walk into a congregation of strangers. I want those people to get a huge ROI, or return on investment. Besides feeling the Spirit and hearing truth that resonates, I want them to know they’ve found a long lost family, and that we’re here for them as brothers and sisters.

It’s not always easy to do this— for one thing, lots of people squeak in under the wire just as the meeting begins, and leave before the closing prayer (and if these same people complain that no one even greeted them, I’m not going to hold myself responsible).

It’s also hard to do this if you have a ton of business to take care of or you need to coordinate plans with people. But, like video gamers navigating an obstacle course, I see this as just one more challenge in my quest, to get it all done before time runs out.

And, of course, parents of young children might have to come up with a different pretend calling altogether, since their little ones need watching over at that time.

But, just as there are endless ways to reach out, rescue, and serve others, there are endless ideas for pretend callings that might fit your schedule, or your personality, better than this one. Here are a dozen ideas that I’ve seen enterprising Saints do, and might be fun for you or your kids to try:  

  • “Ward Postmaster General.” Once a month, write to every missionary serving in your ward
  • “Birthday Booster.” Call everyone in the ward on their birthday, including totally inactive members
  • “Rent a Grandma or Grandpa.” Let moms of active babies and toddlers know that you’re on call to help them by watching their kids if they have to step out with an infant
  • “Multi-Media Missionary.” Post a missionary-minded quote or picture on social media every day
  • “Clean Machine.” If your ward meets after another one, sweep quickly down the aisles and gather up stray Cheerios, papers, etc. 
  • “Rising Generation Greeter.” Learn the names of the youth and greet a different one each week, by name
  • “Greatest Generation Spotter.” Stop and chat with one elderly member each week
  • “Note Taker.” Record lessons for shut-ins, then share them
  • “Newsie.” If there’s a newsletter, send it to those who missed the class
  • “Commender.” If you particularly enjoyed a talk or lesson, call the speaker later and say so
  • “Singles Single-Outer.” Include singles in your social plans
  • “Super Sub.” Let the Primary President know you’re willing to sub if a teacher doesn’t show up.

In short, say to yourself, “How can I help others to feel loved, welcome, and missed if they weren’t here? How can I build unity in my ward?”

A wonderful by-product of this focus on others is that you’ll be less likely to feel overlooked, yourself. And if you feel you’re in an unfriendly ward, be the one to grab the wheel and make a difference, rather than waiting for someone to befriend you.

It doesn’t take a huge amount of time, but the rewards are gigantic. And it has that tingly feeling of anonymous joy you get when you take a Sub for Santa delivery to a house and then hide. It’s as if you’re secretly playing a game no one else knows about, yet everybody wins. Nothing would thrill me more than to see my idea of pretend callings become contagious—and may the whole world catch it.

Hilton’s LDS Nursery Rhymes is hot off the presses and can be purchased at the BYU Store, or at this link.

You can find her other books here.

She is also “Your YouTube Mom” and shares short videos about easy household tips and life skills at this channel.

And be sure to read her blog.

Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.