While the 80/20 rule — or “law of the vital few” — may be valuable in business and economics, it shouldn’t apply to service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Our lay ministry is truly astonishing in this day and age where everyone — from the bishop to choir director to toilet scrubber — is a volunteer, making each service provider truly vital regardless of their age or skill set.
The key, then, is to ensure every member of the congregation is appreciated and contributing in his or her own small way.
Sure, every LDS ward has a handful of energetic, dependable families who get the job done and do it well from ward Christmas parties to Scout courts of honor. But do they have to be the same people manning the library, counting the tithing and shoveling snow off the sidewalks on Sunday mornings?
Last week, the youths and I tackled the new “Come, Follow Me” lesson topic of “Building the kingdom of God in the latter days.”
We were inspired by quotes from President Thomas S. Monson who said, “The mantle of membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a cloak of comfort but rather a robe of responsibility.”
He also said that all 14-million-plus members of the church across the world have a common denominator that binds us together — callings to serve in the church.
Before the kids were too overwhelmed or indulged an age-appropriate mode of defusing, rather than aspiring to duties that might be hard rather than fun, President Ezra Taft Benson reminded us, “The Lord will not permit us to fail if we do our part. He will magnify us even beyond our own talents and abilities. It is one of the sweetest experiences that can come to a human being.”
I can testify to that and I did in class.
We invited a guest, one of our bishopric counselors, to join us and become the “resident expert” for our end-of-class, four-page quiz.
The week prior, I had been digging around the lists of curriculum options on the lesson topic of “How can I serve more effectively in church” and found a few pages from the church handbook that I had never seen before. It was a chart of stake, ward and branch callings with information on who does the calling and sustaining of certain duties. From that grid, I pulled together a list of all those callings that are filled by members of the church in our area.
The idea was for the youths to list the names of people they knew who held those callings in our ward and stake. I estimated about 170 possible answers and was curious to see how many they would know.
Of course, teenagers don’t keep track of all the high councilors or welfare specialists in a stake. I didn’t pretend to assume they would know who the ward music director is in Relief Society. But I knew they would be able to write down their own responsibilities in their quorum or Young Women class. Plus, they should know their parents’ callings and the names of their youth leaders, teachers and advisors. I knew they would know three of the members of the bishopric and hopefully the name of the librarian who hands out candy to them every Sunday at the end of church.
So, the timed quiz began. While the bishop’s counselor scribbled away furiously, the kids were much more slow.
“What’s her name, the one who plays the organ? What’s his name, the one who counts attendance in sacrament meeting? Do we even have a second counselor in Young Women?”
“No, no you don’t,” the bishop’s counselor confirmed.
The kids paused to ask him about callings they had never heard of before told them, for instance, all the service provided by our current ward missionaries.
Before the quiz became a group effort, I had each count how many names and faces they successfully matched with ward callings. The results were, admittedly, pitiful. Our grand champion tallied only 15.
I asked if they could imagine themselves in any of the callings on the list. “Will you work in the family history library someday or teach Primary? Will you be a music director or clerk?”
At the end, our guest bore testimony of the importance of every calling and every person who participates in church service. He confessed to the difficulties of filling those calling rosters with people who are committed and ready for the spirit to guide their efforts on a regular basis. He encouraged class members to be valiant in their responsibilities now and prepare for more to come, as well as the blessings that are rewarded. He testified that even with his young family and demanding career, that he never feels balanced unless he makes his church service a high priority — not just on Sundays, but every day.
I concurred wholeheartedly and we all joined together in being more grateful for all the vital people who serve and do the charitable work that Jesus would do if he were here.
This column is dedicated to the Revelli family — the most energetic, creative and committed family our Montana ward has ever been blessed to witness. Watch out Albuquerque, here they come. Hope you like cotton candy.