Cover image via ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
I’m sure my eyes looked like Frisbees. I had just been called to Young Women’s and was gulping and blinking, staring at the teenagers in the room. They were darting around, laughing, eating candy, sitting on the tables, talking about boys and cheerleading.
“This isn’t what you expected, is it?” one of the other leaders whispered to me.
I shook my head. “I feel like Anne of Green Gables on the set of Grease.” I felt distinctly out of step with these young girls who were now planning a party and shouting about which guys to invite.
Thankfully the YW President (we were all new) stepped in and restored order so we could teach a lesson. I know sisters whose favorite calling was in Young Women, but this was a challenge for me. I had to find common ground, learn classroom management, and invite the Spirit all at once.
For some, the most intimidating part of their calling is conducting meetings. For others it’s studying the gospel more deeply. Or being organized. Or praying for inspiration. Or handling criticism. Or working with a difficult person. We could go on forever, listing the individual challenges we’ve each felt.
And, right now, as churches are slowly opening back up during this pandemic, we aren’t all serving in the traditional manner. This presents yet another challenge as we seek creative ideas to help us minister and serve those in our stewardship. This is a chance to connect in brand new ways, and even build bonds of friendship as we focus upon individuals. I love to hear of Primary teachers delivering songs, poems, or care packages to their students’ homes. Zoom calls and FaceTime are being used. Many have refused to let Covid-19 create permanent distance.
But the first step is to remember that you were called by inspiration. You may feel unfit or unqualified, but the Lord knew where to put you so you could learn and grow. It may be your struggles are the very reason you’re there. Or there may be someone whose life you will touch and you simply don’t know it yet. We have to take a breath and remember God does not set us up to fail.
At some point we’ll be back in our buildings serving as before. And we need to exercise faith as we do this. Twice I’ve served as a Relief Society President, and one of my counselors once expressed anxiety over a big event we were planning. She was sure everything would go wrong. I put my arms around her and reminded her whose church this is. “Christ will help us succeed,” I said. We often forget that when we are sincerely trying to serve, God is there to help us.
President George Albert Smith said, “If you have something that the Lord asks or expects you to do and you don’t know just how to proceed, do your best. Move in the direction that you ought to go; trust the Lord, give him a chance, and he will never fail you.”
Recently President Henry B. Eyring spoke at the 2020 Mission Leadership Seminar and said, “The certain assurance that one is qualified for a sacred calling comes from the Lord. It is not what we have done that matters. It is how our hearts have been changed through our faithful obedience. And only God knows that.”
Probably my favorite quote about overcoming self-doubt is this gem from Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “God does not begin by asking our ability, only our availability, and if we prove our dependability, He will increase our capability.”
I’ve watched some amazing people employ this very formula. An elderly woman learned to play the piano so she could fulfill a music calling. A young mother agreed to conduct the choir, even though she couldn’t read music. But she persevered, prayed for help, and did a magnificent job.
Sometimes we feel we don’t measure up to the person who had this assignment previously. We dread being compared with someone who truly went the extra mile. Consider this: Maybe this is exactly why you were called to this position, because it’s time to rein in the excess and get back to basics. You bring your own signature to this job, and it’s refreshing to see things being run a new way. Have confidence that your style is exactly right. Have faith that the Lord knows what he’s doing.
A friend of mine was called to be Relief Society President in her ward and worried that she wasn’t the perfect Molly Mormon everyone expected. She listed all the ways her family didn’t fit the picture. “But just watch,” I said. “There will be women who will come back because you’re the president. You’ll make them feel they’re welcome in all their imperfection.” And, of course, that’s exactly what happened. Sometimes the ideal image we project makes members feel they don’t belong. Seeing someone they can relate to comes as a huge relief (and this is the Relief Society, after all).
As you analyze the difficult aspects of your calling, take them one at a time. Make a plan for how you plan to tackle each issue. Pray to Heavenly Father for help. You will not be alone in this task; your teammate actually does have all the answers.
Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve always been a one-man-team who didn’t work well with others, this could be your chance to finally grow in that arena. Give it a chance. If you’ve been disorganized, this is your opportunity to finally conquer that. If you’ve been afraid of public speaking, this could be the calling that helps you scale that mountain—and even advance at work with your new skills.
Few people are natural delegators. We want to keep control over every aspect of the program so we’ll know it will get done right. But delegating is essential. Not only will it keep you from burning out, but it’s the very training others need so they can succeed you. And delegating doesn’t mean just handing tasks off. You need to follow up, mentor, offer support, and guide. To do it right, it’s actually a bit more work than not delegating. But the rewards are awesome. And, when someone drops the ball, we all discover that the church still rolls along, the earth did not stop spinning, and our testimonies can still shine brightly.
Difficult callings also give us great compassion for others who stumble and fall. We sympathize as they experience growing pains of their own. We stop judging. We roll up our sleeves and help them. We find that our ward or branch is really like a large family and we need to cheer one another on. That’s what it means to truly sustain someone.
I learned to love the Young Women I worked with all those years ago. I found there will always be more we have in common with others, than differences. And loving those we serve is the key that brings us clarity and calmness. Every person you serve is a child of God. And actually, knowing that is enough.
Hilton’s books, humor blog, and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Inter-Faith Specialist for Church Communications.