I had a Relief Society leader recently contact me and share the frustration that a counselor in her presidency is overwhelmed by the responsibility that is required of the calling. She knows this because her counselor shared this feeling without reservation. She’s at her breaking point and needs relief. So what’s this Relief Society president supposed to do–release the counselor?
As she shared this experience with me a quote by Elder Sterling W. Sill came to mind:
One of our problems in the Church is our big turnover in office. We are constantly starting and stopping, quitting one job without success and starting something else. Many people betray their attitude by being too greatly pleased when we are released from office. If we think and act like quitters and deserters, we will become quitters and deserters. If we don’t get a thrill out of doing God’s work, if it weighs us down rather than makes us buoyant and enthusiastic, then there is something wrong with us and we should repent. The Lord’s work is important, and it should be a lot of fun, and we ought to be happy while we are doing it. (Leadership Volume 1)
Elder Sill’s strong language is refreshing; however, telling your demotivated counselor that “something is wrong with you and you should repent” isn’t going to be stellar leadership guidance on your part. We have been taught in the scriptures that “we ought to give the more earnest heed” to callings, and if we “do this thing willingly, [we] have a reward”. Most importantly, we must exhaust our strength as we “feed the flock of God which is among [us], taking the [responsibility] thereof, not by constraint, but willingly”.
With that said, nobody should feel ashamed to share that they are tired of the commitment it takes to serve in the Kingdom.
When someone under your jurisdiction expresses that their calling is weighing them down it’s time to pull the alarm. You, as the leader, should focus nowhere else until this problem is resolved. No home teaching assignment is more important than a depressed leader; no principle of the gospel can be purely taught with depressed leaders. If the leader is off course, everything is off course.
How Do You Fix Depressed Leadership?
Short answer: I. don’t. know.
….but I have a few thoughts to consider:
1. Would your counselors be willing to tell you this?
Are those you lead comfortable enough to approach you and tell you they are overwhelmed? If your leadership style doesn’t make people comfortable enough to approach you with concerns, you probably don’t know it. You may think, “well, none of my counselors have said anything, so they must be loving it!”.
The reality is, discouragement isn’t always obvious. This is, yet again, another reason why consistent personal interviews are so vital. Get them in a room, sit them down, and ask them, “are you overwhelmed by the responsibility of your calling?” You may be amazed by what they tell you.
2. There’s a clog in your delegation stream
There may be a variety of reasons why their leadership is dragging, but more than likely it will be because their plate runneth over with things to do–giving rides, making visits, organizing lists–they have to accomplish it all and there isn’t time enough. They’ve spent so much time taking things off the leader’s plate that they now have too big of a burden. Helping them lighten their load may be exactly what they need.
By lightening their load I don’t mean putting the onus back on you (your plate is full enough). They need to be shown how to delegate and to whom. You have two counselors and can’t add more (unless you are David O. McKay or Spencer W. Kimball). So you need to create committees or callings to take on the additional load.
3. Articulate the problem to your quorum
Now you are thinking, “how can I spread out the responsibility to other people in the quorum if there just isn’t enough people willing to help?” This is a valid question, we all know the law of Same 10 People. Many times you get to the end of your bench and realize nobody is there.
Many times the general quorum is unaware of the problems and concerns you face as their leader and are more than willing to help; however, they just need you to articulate the problem and ask for help. Defining the problem clearly is a part of leadership that many miss. If you stood in front of your quorum and said, “we are overwhelmed as a presidency and need your help”, you will see the valiant rise to the occasion. Your “presidency problems” are really “quorum problems”. Give them a chance to help and they will help.