Working Behind the Scenes
by Clark L and Kathryn H. Kidd

They’re the people who never get much credit for any activity, but they’re part of a vast army working behind the scenes to make sure your activity is a success. They’re the ones who are over at the chapel on Saturday morning while many members are still in bed, and the ones who are running the vacuum over the cultural hall carpet while most of the ward has already gone home and are getting ready for bed. They’re the ones who prepare those cute handouts that get inserted into the Sunday program. They’re the ones who no one notices unless they fail to do their job. It’s only then that you realize how vital it is to have good people assigned to set-up, clean-up and publicize your event.

SET-UP/CLEAN-UP CHAIRMAN

As set-up or clean-up chairman, all you’ll need is a group of volunteers who have strong backs and willing hearts. You have no budget to squander and no appetites to satisfy. You won’t have to get up on stage and sing and dance, either. All you have to do is either set up the area so it can be decorated by the decorations committee, or clean up the area so church meetings can be held in it the following day. Make no mistake about it – if you don’t do your job right, people will be unhappy. People expect the party to be set up, and they also expect to attend church the next Sunday without seeing any evidence of confetti or tripping over out-of-place furniture.

The set-up committee has the responsibility of working with the chairman of the decorations committee to see how to set up tables and chairs, and working with the entertainment committee to coordinate anything they need before the event. The area must be set up before the decorations can be put in place, so it’s important to do your work according to the needs of others. You’re also responsible for the entire physical facility, in that you’ll need to make sure the building is open and lit, the parking lot is clear of snow, the lights are turned on, and the building is properly heated or air-conditioned.

If your job is solely one of clean-up, you won’t need to make any advance preparations except to make sure you know where to get (and how to use) the cleaning supplies that may be needed. Find out ahead of time whether your job also involves cleaning the kitchen area (perhaps even washing the dishes). Somebody has to do it, and the food committee may be expecting that is your job.

In many wards, it seems to be customary for the priesthood to provide cleanup of everything but the kitchen, leaving the women to clean the kitchen after the activity. If this is the way it’s done in your ward, fine. But as clean-up chairman you’ll need to make sure somebody does it, because you shouldn’t leave the building until everything is as clean or cleaner than it was before the activity.

Because of safety concerns, cleaning supplies are often kept in locked closets. It is wise to check into this beforehand, rather than finding out after everyone else has gone home that you’re stuck with a messy cultural hall and no access to cleaning supplies.

In these confusing times, there are some wards where women have determined that doing the cooking for ward activities is somehow demeaning. If this is the case in your ward, it is perfectly acceptable for you to expect men to spend time cooking and serving the food. But equality runs both ways. If women expect the men to cook, the men should expect the women to clean. And this includes heavy work such as setting up (or taking down) tables and chairs.

No matter how you organize the set-up or clean-up, you may think it’s a thankless task. That being the case, we’re thanking you ahead of time. Maybe this ward activity would have been a success without the help of a good cleaning crew, but if the building isn’t properly cleaned after this activity, there may not be another one.

As with many other aspects of an activity, your leaders can help set the tone for the importance of cleaning up after the event. Our stake president can always be found running the vacuum, washing the dishes, stacking the chairs, and locking the doors as we exit the building after the event. He does not assume the role of the honored guest, but realizes that all the attendees have an equal obligation to keep the building clean. If you are fortunate enough to have similar leaders, your ward and stake members will soon get the message that doing the post-activity cleaning is just as important as any other aspect of hosting a successful activity.

PUBLICITY CHAIRMAN

As publicity chairman, it’s your responsibility to make sure that every potential guest of your ward function is aware of exactly when and where the function will be held, what sort of function it is, and what he or she should bring to contribute to the event. This may include publicizing your event to people in the community who are not members of the Church, or to members who only darken the door once or twice a year.

Use your creativity about getting the word out to people. Invitations don’t have to be printed on a flat piece of paper in order to do the job. We’ve seen invitations that were incorporated into necklaces, attached to candy bars, or made into paper airplanes. The sky’s the limit – at least as far as creativity is concerned. But make sure to keep careful note of that looming budget. If you spend the entire activity’s allotment on invitations, there won’t be anything left for entertainment or food.

One of your functions as publicity chairman may or may not be to print programs for the activity itself. Check with the event chairman to see if this is your job. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep in touch with the event chairman anyway, to assure everything that can be done to publicize the event is being done to the chairman’s satisfaction.

Make sure you also take advantage of the free publicity that is probably available to you through other ward publications. Most wards have a Sunday bulletin where they provide the program for Sacrament Meeting and also announce upcoming ward activities. Your ward may also have a ward newspaper that is printed on occasion, or newsletters that are printed and distributed by the various auxiliaries. At least in the United States, the Church now allows wards and stakes to have web sites that include ward and stake event calendars. If your ward is doing this, make sure to contact your ward webmaster to get your event on the ward calendar which can be accessed by your computer-savvy members.

As the event draws closer, you may also ask ward leaders to announce the event during ward meetings and the opening exercises of auxiliaries. This is often done in many wards, although some leaders would prefer to leave such announcements in the bulletins or newsletters. If your leaders approve, it is often effective to have members from one group make the announcement for a different group. For example, have the Young Men take a few moments in Relief Society to announce an upcoming event. This gets the attention of the members more effectively that having just another announcement read by a leader prior to the lesson.

Our ward regularly sponsors an adult prom that is for the adults but is presented by the youth. Under the direction of the Activities Committee and the youth leaders, the Young Men and Young Women do much of the planning and publicizing. As the event draws nearer, the youth attend the first part of the adult meetings (Relief Society and Priesthood Meeting) to announce the event and generate enthusiasm. This is not only a good experience for the youth (although they might not agree), but it gets the attention of the adults more effectively than having just another announcement from the pulpit or just another handout in the ward bulletin – although those tools are not overlooked either. On the night of the prom, the youth help to prepare and serve the good, and work at the disc jockey table to select and play the music. That latter task is definitely one that requires some adult supervision!

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