In General Conference, October 2007, Elder Dallin H. Oaks cautioned us to simplify our callings. He quoted M. Russell Ballard, who, last year, said, “The instruction to magnify our callings is not a command to embellish and complicate them. To innovate does not necessarily mean to expand; very often it means to simplify.”
How can we simplify our callings? The first step is to understand the purpose of a calling. Once you know the true purpose of the calling, you can weed out all that isn’t essential to doing the calling well.
For instance, a teacher is called to teach the gospel. For many teachers, this feels overwhelming because they lose site of the goal: Teach. When I was first called to teach Relief Society after many years in Primary, I had a moment of panic because my hazy remembrances of Relief Society included elegantly decorated tables, handouts that appeared to have taken months to make, and lovely homemade visual aids. A wise leader told me to forget about all that and just teach. I did, and the sisters learned just as well from my simple lessons as they did from a well-decorated room. The decorated table was not essential to get the message across.
When planning to serve, weed out every unnecessary step first. Start with only those things that must happen in order to complete the purpose. Then, if you have time and energy, begin putting one thing at a time back in.
Second, use official church resources. This will keep you from trying to create something elegant, expensive, and time-consuming. Instead of painting a picture to display, set out a picture from the church library. Use a musical recording from LDS.org. Your “decorations” should be your teaching aids from the ward library.
Third, streamline meetings. Don’t hold a meeting if an email or telephone call with do. Often we have a meeting and simply calendar or tell people what’s going on. This can be done with a calendar. Meetings should be reserved for times when leaders need to plan and organize. Make an agenda, stay on it, and set time limits.
Fourth, take out everything that isn’t essential in an organization. A youth group could have an activity every single weekend, but doing so takes children away from their families. A Relief Society or an activities group could have an activity every week, but again, we’re taking people from their homes. It’s better to core the activity list to those things that bring the greatest benefit. When possible, include entire families.
Callings are meant to help strengthen testimonies and skills, not to show off how creative or hard working we are. Keep your callings simple and let your members focus on the gospel, not your extraordinary talents.