3 Paradigm Shifts We Need To Have About Callings In The Church. 

We’ve all had it happen. The phone rings and it is the secretary of either the Bishop or the Stake President is asking if they can meet with you. You know a calling is going to to be extended to serve in the church. We may hope for either a lowly station (my dream calling is in Nursery, Nap time, singing time, and snack time? YES PLEASE!) or we make hope or fear for a calling into leadership. At the end of the day, everyone in the church will have opportunities to serve. But the way we think about and approach callings in many wards needs to have a paradigm shift. Here are three paradigm shifts we need to have about callings in the church.


1st.  Always Accept Callings.


Growing up I was under the impression this was just standard practice in the church, but I have learned it is not. In my sisters’ ward it was so bad that the Bishop stood up and declared: “Brothers and Sisters, we have had 20 people turn down the call to serve in the nursery. If we do not have people to accept this calling, we will simply dissolve the nursery and send the kids to Sunday school with their parents.”
No calling is beneath us, or over us. Every calling should be accepted as if it was extended by the Lord himself, after-all, He has declared “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38). It should also be recognized that we covenanted to serve the Lord and build up His kingdom when we were baptized and when the Bishop extends a call it is not asking “Do you want to do this.” He is asking “Are you going to keep your covenants?” That being said, there is nothing wrong with letting your Bishop/Stake President know of information that might be helpful. IE Past callings/if you are feeling burnned out. At a minimum he will be able to sustain you better in your calling by knowing your concerns.
“No calling is beneath us. Every calling provides an opportunity to serve and to grow.”
Dieter F. Uchtdorf
"No calling is beneath us. Every calling provides an opportunity to serve and to grow." Dieter F. Uchtdorf

2nd. Realize There Are No ‘Ladders’ In The Church.


For many, especially missionaries, callings and leadership become a ladder to climb. They see callings like District Leader, Elders Quorum President or Relief Society President as promotions. And therefore they view being released from a leadership position as a demotion or a punishment. There are no ladders in the church. One does not climb a calling ladder up to being a Bishop, Stake President, or Apostle. One should not covet or seek or aspire to such callings, one should simply magnify our baptismal covenant to serve wherever the Lord wants or needs us to be. This includes serving missions in areas that are “less desirable.” I loved the attitude of Elder Uchtdorf when he was released from the First Presidency, he was 100% ok with it. Because he understood it was not a ladder. It reminds me of when President Thomas S. Monson quoted a poem by Meade MacGuire in general conference on this topic:

“‘Father, where shall I work today?’

And my love flowed warm and free.

Then he pointed out a tiny spot

And said, ‘Tend that for me.’

I answered quickly, ‘Oh no, not that!

Why, no one would ever see,

No matter how well my work was done.

Not that little place for me.’

And the word he spoke, it was not stern;

He answered me tenderly:

‘Ah, little one, search that heart of thine;

Art thou working for them or for me?

‘Nazareth was a little place,

And so was Galilee.’”

I think President Gordon B. Hinckley put it perfectly when he said: “Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence.”

"Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." Gordon B. Hinckley

3rd. Learn To Magnify Every Call.


Now that we have established that the Lord expects us to accept any calling we are given the question is, what do you do when you get a calling that honestly is underwhelming? Simple, magnify it! For the consequences of not magnifying are made clear by John Taylor when he said: If you do not magnify your calling, God will hold you responsible for those you might have saved, had you done your duty.”

One of my favorite stories I heard was on my mission where a sister was given the calling of being the sacrament bread coordinator. One might feel like this is a pathetic excuse for a calling and choose to become apathetic. But this dear sister did not. She approached it as if the Lord Himself had asked her to be in charge of the bread for the sacrament. She decided she would make homemade bread every weekend so that the sacrament bread would always be fresh. And she even experimented with recipes and found one that was amazing, she held this calling for years.

I have met greeters who got a name tag and welcomed everyone by name every Sunday. And I have met Home Teaching District Leaders who would visit every family the companionship under him did not visit each month. What can we learn from these examples? It does not matter what if our as the Bishop or greeter, as the sacrament bread coordinator or the relief society president, each of us can magnify our callings.

President Wilford Woodruff taught: “It does not make any difference whether a man is a priest or an apostle, if he magnifies his calling.”
"It does not make any difference whether a man is a priest or an apostle, if he magnifies his calling." Wilford Woodruff

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Fabulous! This has been on my mind recently as my sister’s husband was recently called as a Bishop, she made some comments that hurt me. As I have reflected on why I was hurt, it became apparent that I was falling for these lies. I enjoyed reading what you have to say.

  2. So many good points in this! We should be willing to serve, even if it mean she getting out of our comfort zone. That’s part of how we grow! Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. May I suggest that you might be overlooking a couple of things? I have never had to turn down a calling, but there are good reasons for doing so. Sometimes Church leaders are not aware of personal struggles that impede church service for a time. For instance, someone who is going through a severe depression may be hiding it and may not mentally or physically be able to serve in a calling for a time. Also, there have been occasions when I’ve been asked about calling possibilities–“feelers,” you might say. I’m always uncomfortable with those, but sometimes I have had total schedule conflicts or other valid reasons and callings have gone to others.

    I try my best to follow my ward and church leaders, but they are mortal men who do not know every situation. It’s ok to tell them the truth about your circumstances if you have a concern about a calling. I think the most important point here is to consider what’s in your heart. If you have a willing heart to serve when you’re able, that’s what matters. And there may be a certain time and season for some service.

    • My thoughts exactly, Kerry. Thank you for bringing up mental health struggles, this is a very valid point that the author hasn’t addressed.

      While I haven’t myself turned down a calling, and agree that it’s hard when many people won’t accept a calling or avoid specific callings (like nursery as stated in the example) I feel like putting a blanket statement “always accept a calling that is extended” isn’t helpful or encouraging to people, because it doesn’t work 100% of the time, and it can be very shaming to those who have very valid reasons to not accept callings at a particular time.

      One example from my own life is that several years ago my husband and I were living in a new city and ward for the summer while he had an internship. Just three weeks before the summer finished and we were preparing to move away to return to school the bishop approached me at church and set “I need to meet with you and your husband, we’ve got callings for you!” and I reminded him that we actually weren’t staying in the ward long term because we had just been here for a summer internship and were leaving in three weeks (we had met at the beginning of the summer when we first moved in, but I suppose he forgot that part of our introduction?). His reply was “ok, then nevermind!” and then quickly waked away. While we would have gladly accepted callings just for the four months we were there had one been extended to us when we first arrived (as we had done before other summers in other locations we lived for internships), clearly in this instance the call wasn’t “from the Lord” since the bishop wasn’t even aware that were weren’t moving in the ward permanently. So yes, I agree that there are people that turn down callings that probably could accept them, but I also think leaders can do a better job of knowing the life circumstances of individuals before extending callings that simply don’t work.

      I also think that if the Bishop and counselors (and other auxiliary leaders) are allowed and encouraged to pray over callings and people before extending calls to individuals, then shouldn’t we encourage the same practice to the people being asked to serve instead of expecting immediate conformity and agreement when the call is made? I think if people we encouraged to take a few days to consider their own life circumstances, and prayerfully consider the call being made there would be much more willingness to serve, even in callings that one might have initially rejected because the person has been given time to think about it and not feel so on the spot.

      I have seen too many circumstances when a person has accepted a call only to do nothing with it, or completely stop attending church and I would far rather someone say no outright, then to feel pressured to say yes 100% all the time and then fail to fulfill a calling, leaving others in the lurch who rely on that person’s service (like teachers who don’t show up on their week to teach, leaving presidencies scrambling last minute to fill that time).

      And on the note of nursery callings specifically: one great practice I have heard of in another ward is that the bishop started limiting callings in nursery for 6 months to 1 year. When a person was being asked to serve in nursery they were told that this would only be for that specific time frame, and when the time was up they were asked if they would consider staying in longer, or if they were ready to serve elsewhere. People were much more willing to serve in nursery knowing if was for a specific time frame and that they wouldn’t get forgotten about in nursery forever (which can be a challenging and isolating calling). Perhaps that might have more success rather than shaming the congregation for not serving and threatening to abolish nursery altogether.

  4. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I am very glad to see such excellent information being shared freely out there.