Coaching Those Who Struggle in Callings

The Church is a volunteer organization, so the quality and quantity of work done at any level by volunteers in their callings will vary and can often disappoint. How we deal with those who disappoint is one of the most important challenges for strengthening others in the Church and maintaining the health of our organization.

When I was a young married student at BYU, we attended a local Provo ward with some young student families and a lot of other people, many close to or past retirement. I was called to serve as executive secretary in a bishopric with a very experienced bishop. With his experience, he understood well what the role of executive secretary was and how important that calling was. Unfortunately, I did not share that understanding and didn’t know what was expected. I thought I was serving faithfully and didn’t realize that there were a host of things he was expecting beyond attending meetings with him and carrying out specific assignments. After a couple of months, I was surprised in a sacrament meeting to hear the announcement that I had been released and a new executive executive secretary had been called. Ouch. Releases are supposed to follow interviews of some kind so that the person to be released understands that the release is coming. It’s a mistake that is rare but can happen (a release interview may be delegated to a counselor and then a touch of confused communication can lead the bishop to think it’s been handled when it hasn’t been)–I made that mistake at least once myself. But it’s also the kind of mistake that can drive wounded members out of the church. I chose to act thick-skinned and not be bothered, but I was. I remember wondering why I had not been coached and guided. I think I would have accepted the challenge and tried harder if I had know what was needed.

We all struggle in our callings, even some of us who have been around for decades with lots of Church experience. I think it’s safe to assume that all of us could use some coaching and guidance when we aren’t living up to expectations. But those expectations should be made clear early on and then reiterated in follow-up interviews and contact to help those in callings understand and succeed, when possible, in their callings. New and experienced members need gentle treatment and guidance to find success.

For those of us who have been wounded when our calling or release is handled in a way that causes pain or embarrassment, we must also remember that we are dealing with fallible mortals in a volunteer organization where also sorts of human problems can occur. Talk with your leader or leaders about the problem, but be patient and quick to forgive. Recognize that we need to put up with a lot in this mortal journey, but keep holding on in faith and remember that it is Christ we seek to follow and serve in His Church, no matter what gaps the mortals around us may have.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

6 thoughts on “Coaching Those Who Struggle in Callings

  1. Jeff,

    I enjoyed what you had to say. I lead volunteers to help those in need at a rescue mission. A big piece has to do with proper training and agreeing on expectations with regard to time commitment and service goals. Leaders need to understand that people are looking for guidance because they want to do a good job. They want to meet expectations. Leaders also need to understand that people are flawed, and that not all people are gifted the same way. It's important for the leader to see the strengths of those he/she leads and encourage them. In a leadership class that featured the textbook by Kouzes and Posner, I learned five leadership qualities that guide me in my work today. They are:

    1. Model the way.
    2. Inspire a shared vision.
    3. Challenge the process.
    4. Enable others to act.
    5. Encourage the heart.

    I have found that living out these five principles has helped me in working with people. Grace, patience, and respect go a long way in the process, as well.


  2. On one hand, I have never heard of nor experienced the notion of an interview preceding a release from a calling. Perhaps this is because all of my releases have been due to me moving or due to a new calling being extended.

    On the other hand, I'm shocked that no training was provided to you as a new executive secretary.

  3. Generally, I have two things that I expect from people in callings:
    1) Show up.
    2) Be kind once you're there.
    Anything else is just frosting on the cake of their gift of service. And failure to do either of the above makes me wish a person hadn't said "yes" to the calling.

  4. CT, that's so true. 90% of the key to success is just showing up and being nice. Of course, that's not quite all. The other 90% has something to do with planning, I've heard, and execution and delegation and studying and seeking inspiration and working your tail off and being able to do the math.

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