Monday, February 21, 2011

Serving in the Church: reflections on my last calling

For those of you unfamiliar, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints, no one is a "professional". The members work in all of the positions needed to run the local congregation, no one gets paid. We are expected to donate our time, and talents to the church, and serve in a position, that we believe the Lord would have us work in.

I've been in the Young Women's presidency for the last 8 months. It has been a very interesting experience for me. My own Young Womenhood was not something I look back on fondly. Girls, especially mean girls, can be really awful. And to be honest, I have spent the last ten years trying to forget most of what happened in those years. Luckily, the group of girls I've been working with don't have that problem. They are small in numbers, but really genuinely trying, and no one seems to be excluded (on purpose).

Teaching lessons was challenging because I had a wide range of understanding to teach to. The girls were timid about answering questions, either not wanting to be wrong, or not wanting to answer every question. Trying to get them to plan their activities was tedious. Mutual activities are a lot of work, and especially for those months were Justin was gone and I had to rely on the kindness of my parents to watch the boys for me, a challenge to young children missing mommy at bedtime.

So, while I am relieved that I am moving and will be released from this calling, I have learned a lot.

I've learned that I like being in charge rather than trying to get other people to be in charge. For example, in the primary presidency if there was an activity to plan we could just plan it. But with the young women, our mission was to teach them how to be leaders, and we were supposed to push them to plan their own activities.

I've learned that even though adults will tell you they remember what it is like to be young, most of them really don't. Or, they aren't good at converting their own experiences into what the youth of today are doing. Now, I'm not that much older than these girls. I remember when most of them were born, and I babysat some of them, and I even had challenges relating to them. These girls really do need people to actually remember what it is like to be their age, and to see what they see, and have to deal with what they deal with. Because while it's all well and good to talk about keeping your house clean and learning how to cook, they are facing some real spiritually threatening situations, that I think we faced when we were young as well. (I didn't find this a problem with our leaders, but more with the manual.)

I've learned that Personal Progress is hard. When I did mine it was pretty easy. Maybe that is because I expect more out of myself these days, but what these girls need to do requires a lot of self discipline, thought, and just plan work.

I've learned that it is just better to tell it like it is, then try and gloss over stuff, or use old-people euphemisms instead of words they understand. For example, "necking and petting" no one knows what that is.

I've learned that I really don't like being called Sis. Cook. Maybe it's a generational thing, but I really don't find "sister last-name-that-I've-only-had-for-the-last-seven-years" to be more respectful than "Brecken."

I've learned that the Lord loves these girls. He is constantly worried about them. He wants them to be courageous. He wants them to be confident. I think too often, in the church, we focus on what we can control and see. For example, flip flops on Sunday. I learned that if we focus on self respect, and understanding self worth those issues would either be minuscule or resolve themselves. He wants them to love Him. He wants them to understand His love for them. He wants them to not be afraid of the atonement, and the blessings that come when you do what you can and repent when you mess up.

My mom always wants me to record my callings, so for personal history sake:

  • Young Women's 1st Councilor (GR)
  • Marriage and Family Relations Sunday School Teacher (with Justin) (MSH)
  • Primary 2nd Councilor (under two different presidents) (MSH)
  • Nursery Worker (Morningside Heights)
  • Relief Society Teacher (Provo 1)
  • Primary Pianist (W)
  • Ward Choir Director (Wymount)
  • Relief Society Music Director (B1)
  • Ward Chorister (Bonneville 1)
  • Relief Society President (BYU 55)
  • Relief Society Room Decorator (BYU 55)
  • Compassionate Service Leader (BYU 55)
  • I don't remember anything but visiting teacher for my first BYU ward.
  • Laurel President, Stake Seminary President, Stake Youth Co-Chair, Miamaid councilor, Branch Chorister, and Choir Director Beehive President,  (Grand Rapids)


Lark said...

(2010-2011)Young Women's 1st Councilor-Pres. L. Marshal President2nd Coucilor A. Klous. (GR).

[Dates]Primary 2nd Councilor-Pres./1st councilor[add names](MSH).

[Dates]Primary 2nd Councilor-Pres./1st councilor[add names](MSH).

[Dates]Relief Society President -[add names of coucilors][add Dates](BYU 55)

You will never remember names and dates if you don't write them down.

Kay Jones said...

Sounds like you are keeping busy with your many talents. The married daughter who lives with me is YW President, and is loving it. I've seen YW groups who were thoughtless, and others who were very caring and king. Love the latter kind. I was in YW presidencies, ward and stake, in several different wards or stakes. It can be a lot of fun. How is Justine doing. Hope his job is doing well, and his health also.

Becki said...

Brecken I LOVED reading this...and I could a way. I've never had to serve in YW...and in a way am kind of happy about that. you...don't enjoy much about my YW experiences. I didn't have the best adventures or times...but I did have YOU. And I want you to know that I appreciate YOU and YOUR example and YOUR honesty!!! Life wasn't easy in the GR branch back then...and I hope that I'm not part of your past that you're trying to forget or anything!?!?!? I'm sure you have been an amazing asset to those girls...and they're losing a GREAT person when you move. I just want you to know that I love and adore you!!! Thanks for helping me reflect a bit and learn some of what you've learned!!!
Love you!!

Sandy M. said...

I don't think that closeness in age to the YW is what is most important. I do think that having someone who genuinely cares about you and really 'sees' you, is what they need. Love and devotion to the needs of every girl is the key, I think.
And someone who has a bright light that the YW can follow to a place of safety - no matter where they are, in terms of social, spiritual, emotional or moral turmoil - it's just important for that light to reach to them and help them to find their way forward.
I'm sure the girls would have liked having you Brecken :)