Several years ago, I was called to serve as the Relief Society President in our ward–a very green, inexperienced, quite overwhelmed and over-her-head Relief Society president, to be more specific.
The bishop of the ward was a wise and patient man. In our first meeting together, he didn’t unload all the juicy details of the ward’s problems. He didn’t pull out the handbook and point to each crucial guideline. He didn’t even give me advice. He simply expressed confidence and asked me to enlighten him about how best to help me in my calling. In essence, he asked for the unwritten handbook to the care and feeding of Annie.
He didn’t use those words. I think he asked about what kind of feedback I would like from him and how often. And he asked for clarity about my threshold for stress and my ability to draw boundaries.
I was honest: I was quite sure I needed lots of feedback (generous with the positive, please!) and some help keeping from boiling over with stress but I was confident in my ability to maintain boundaries around our family’s priorities and sure that I could be vocal about asking for more help if I needed it. And that’s pretty much how it played out, with the bishop’s support.
Honestly, one of the biggest challenges of holding a calling in the church is, well, learning to work with other people who think differently and react differently that we do. I think this bishop was on to something. Imagine! If we could just be honest with each other from the start with specifics about what feeds us and what drains us and how to read the signs in each other.
I’m picturing conversations with questions like these:
Is there anything I can do to help make this experience a good one? A growing one? What would you like to learn? What scares you? What do you do when you’re overwhelmed? What person has inspired you by the way he/she does his/her calling?
I’m dreaming of surveys of visiting teachers and visiting teachees that concretely help the relationship and create understanding:
When I’m upset you can tell by the way I ______. The love of/idea of___________ really keeps me going. On a scale of 1-10 how likely am I to ask for help when I need it? If I had to name one weakness, it is that I_______________ (forget to delegate, love to start things but hate to finish, am late a lot, worry and stew without letting others know, etc.) From afar, some people might assume that I __________ but I really ___________.
. . .
What about you? What questions would you add to the list?
What are some of your essential care-and-feeding tips for those who know you (in callings or otherwise)?
What could you ask to better understand the people you serve and serve with?