I received a new calling yesterday. I'm excited, and really quite obsessed about it. Also a little intimidated. Perhaps more about all of that later. What I want to talk about is the process of callings.
Protestant friends, try not to be jealous. Don't say I didn't warn you.
A long time ago, when I was still a Protestant, I worked as a Children's Pastor in a large church in California. It was a full time job and I was paid well. The church was fantastic, with lots of young families, and I could pretty much do anything I wanted in terms of creating programs. The church committed massive resources to children's ministry and the few hundred kids I oversaw were deeply loved by the church. It was one of the most fun and creative jobs I ever had. Although, by the end, I was totally burnt out on working with children. I'm rather pleased that my new calling is not in Primary.
The worst part of that job - which was wonderful in nearly every other way - was volunteer recruitment. Between all of the various programs I needed to fill 100 different positions every year - some required only a few hours commitment, others required a serious weekly commitment. At least 50% of my job was recruiting, training, and encouraging volunteers. A more cynical way of saying the same thing is that I had to beg, congeal, manipulate and harass people into doing the needed work for the children. The expectation was that I also spent a lot of effort in making the volunteers feel really good about what they were doing. It. Was. Exhausting.
Contrast that to the system of Callings. A need arises in the church. The Bishop and his counselors pray about who should fill it. They consider the available people and decide on someone to ask directly to serve. That person is not required to accept the calling necessarily - they may have information that the Bishopric was unaware of (they're moving in 3 months; they're already overwhelmed, etc.), but they either accept it or not. If they accept, the entire church is expected to sustain them - though even this is not forced and there is room for someone to refuse to sustain. (I have never seen this happen, and someday would very much like to see it, just to understand how things go. Don't tell my Bishop.) After that they are prayed over by the Bishop in a ritual where they are set apart for the work. And off they go to do the work they have been given.
As an aside, when my Bishop told me about my recent calling, my response was: "Yes, of course, I would love that. Wait. Are you SURE??" Which gave him a good chuckle. Apparently this is not the response most people give. Luckily I can still get away with, "I'm a convert, how should I know what to say?!"
As far as I can tell, most active adults have a calling. Some don't and that's their business. But I love the feeling that we are all shouldering the work together, each with our separate gifts and responsibilities, but all working toward the same goal. And I will say to my dear Protestant friends, this is a far superior system. It's worlds apart from the begging and manipulating that is required for most churches (large and small) to fill the needed positions. There are 2 reasons why it's better.
1. The top leadership, who are tasked with the care of the church, inquire of Heavenly Father about who should fill what role. I shouldn't have to explain why this is better. But I can also hear Protestant friends who would chime in with: That's so impractical? How would that even work? Especially in a large church?
2. It keeps people from seeking out positions for mixed motives. We all have mixed motives. This is normal and there really isn't any way un-do this reality. The problem is when those mixed motives compel people into church positions where the lower motivations are being met more than the higher ones. For example, the man who is charismatic and charming and wants to lead the youth. He probably does have a legitimate desire to serve...but its also mixed with wanting adoring young eyes to look at him week after week.
I'm sure there are some down-sides to this system. and that I'll learn what they are eventually. But I think the rest of the Christian world could watch and learn.