Sunday, August 12, 2012

Church Callings vs. Family Responsibilities

Question: Have you ever turned down / asked for release from a church calling because you felt it interfered with your responsibilities as a spouse or a parent? What is your opinion of that?


Kenneth (and Catherine)
As a priesthood leader I have issued many callings in the Church.  I quickly learned to discuss the call with the member (and their spouse) to determine if the calling would be appropriate at that time.  Once the Spirit indicated the call was right based on current circumstances in the members life, I issued the calling in the name of the Savior and asked the member if they would accept the calling.  If they felt they needed to think and pray about it, I encouraged them to do so and get back to me.  If the Spirit did not confirm the advisability of the calling, it was not issued.  I have personally never turned down a calling but I have fasted and prayed about some callings before accepting them as I was encouraged to do such as when I was called to be a mission president.  These are times of special personal revelation for the one being called and the one issuing the call.

Samantha and Thomas
Neither of us have ever turned down a calling, but we would never hesitate to share with the Bishop concerns about keeping our family as first priority.  If after sharing those concerns, he still felt inspired to extend the call, we would accept the challenge.

The Lord has often asked his people to do hard things.  We believe with His help we can do whatever He asks, even if it requires sacrifice of lesser priorities.  And many times what we think a calling requires is based on tradition or cultural expectations that the Lord and the Bishop are not expecting.  How one person handles a calling may not be what the Lord needs at a different time.

The real test is keeping first things first.  You cannot allow church service to  jeopardize your mental health, your children, your marriage or your ability to be in tune with the Spirit.  Sometimes we think a particular calling demands things that threaten those, when with some creativity, prior preparation,  simplification, self discipline, etc. there are ways to get it done without harming our top priorities.

For us, a challenging calling usually means the opportunity to learn that some of the things we thought "had to be done" didn't really.  By deepening our relationship with the Spirit, we can know where to simplify, how to organize better and when to alter the expectation of doing a calling the way someone else did.  Proverbs 3:5-6 is a good guide.  He will help us know how to accomplish His work.

Rachel (and Bennett)
When I had young children, I particularly expressed a desire not to be called to Young Women.  I was not actually "called" to a position in YW until my children daughters were in YW.  I believe that if we are called to a position that we feel might interfere with our ability to parent, we should express that concern to the bishopric member, with the commitment that if they still wanted you to serve in that position, you would do it.  The Lord is able to magnify our abilities, and even our available time, if it is needed.  If after trying to make it work, serving in a demanding position, you still feel it is a problem, consultation with the bishop would be in order.  We should not underestimate the inspiration that might be involved in a particular call, and the personal growth that would come by accepting a difficult assignment.  But we also should not be afraid to express our concerns.

Brianne (and Spencer)
We have never turned down demanding callings that required alot of time, effort and especially support from our family.  What better way to show the joys of service and hard work, and what one does when life is demanding and stressful.  What better way to give children an opportunity to support a parent and know that they are trusted, needed, and truly are important contributors to the family.

It is hard in this world to find ways to replace what kids used to get from helping on the family farm.  They need serious service that is real.  I remember saying to my kids - "I really need your help, I will be there when you need me.  This is what we do as a family, we help each other."

That said - we never had the very most demanding callings, never both of us, and Mom wasn't working full time till the kids were in school. We would never judge someone who prayerfully made different decisions.  Then again the Lord truly is amazing at supporting those who serve him.

Mary (and Robert)
I have never turned down nor asked to be released from a calling because it interfered with parenting.  I did have a doctor tell me once that "it is not tantamount to losing your testimony to ask to be released."  Heavenly Father expects us to be good parents first and good servants next.  But if we are having a hard time doing all that is expected of us we need to look closely at what we think is expected. 

Many times we are "Martha-ing" instead of "choosing that good part" (Mary-ing)  We too often get caught up in the details of our calling.  The gospel may still be taught without flowers on the table and homemade cookies on a plate.  If we visit with our sisters sincerely and consistently, a treat for every single holiday will not be missed.  All of these things are lovely additions to our callings but they are not our calling.  Honest evaluation of our calling and responsibilities will tell us if we truly need to be released.  Willingness to be the "only woman in the ward who doesn't _____________________(fill in the blank)" must be a skill that we learn.  I say that sarcastically because if we could look into everyone else's heart, we would probably find that there is something we do that is envied by many others. 

I believe this is uniquely a woman's problem.  The men just cut back a little if they can't get it all done.  The Lord doesn't expect us to run faster than we have strength; we shouldn't either.

Marsha (and Richard)
Good question.  I have only had this challenge once and that was with that very issue.  When I had all my children and a possibly even a foster Indian Placement Student a counselor in our ward called me to work with the young women in our ward.  The program was new and I was aware that it was very involved.  Though I accepted the calling, I just couldn’t feel good about it.  When I shared my feelings with my husband he encouraged me to fast and pray about it to know for sure for myself if it was right.  The next day after fasting I visited a neighbor who was working in the program to learn more about the requirements.  Though I had only been gone a short time, when I returned, it seemed that all “heck” had broken out at home.  Thing were in total chaos.  I knew in an instant that I did not need to be serving in a demanding program at that time in my life.  I called the counselor and could hear his reservations about my decision.  I had never turned down a calling and never intended to do so, but knew in my heart this was the right thing to do.
I was hoping that he would understand and have the same feelings about the call that I had, but knew I had to do what I thought was right regardless.

The next day I needed to talk to the Bishop about our auto insurance, since he was our agent.  When we concluded the business he said to me.  “I have rethought this calling and realize this truly is not the time for you to serve in this position.”  How grateful I was for his sensitivity to the spirit and the Lord’s “tender mercy” in supporting me at that time.

Cynthia (and Brad)
We have never turned down a calling. However, when the calling was extended and we had some concerns we expressed them and a few times the calling was withdrawn. I don't think there is anything wrong with informing the leadership of problems you are having or conflicts in family scheduling so that they can make an informed decision.

Karen and Lance
Lance was in the Bishopric when the children were young. Since Karen was home this did not affect the children that much. He was also the Principal at the elementary school, but was home by 6:00 PM. In those days we could all eat together, which was nice. He did have meetings but they did not conflict with the family that much. Karen had had some other callings in the ward but Lance was home and then the older children could handle things if we were gone. We never thought that we were overwhelmed because the Lord was backing us in everything. We think that asking to be released is the person's own choice as to whether that person can take it or not. Just don't be a whiner. Make sure that you are doing your job to the best of your ability but don't go out of the way to make it your "only thing". Sometimes people get too caught up in the calling and doing things that are unnecessary. Thus taking away time from the family. There are counselors to relieve, if you are heading the organization, or you can get a substitute for "hard times". If you "can't take it anymore" then ask, the Lord says he will not make anything you are challenged with to be too much. Pray about it and do what you think is right in the Lord's eyes.

Next week's question:
What did you as a couple seem to fight about the most and how did you resolve those things?

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