"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
November 26, 2015
A Call in the Hall
by Cyndie Swindlehurst

Question:

Yesterday at church, I got a new calling. At least, I think that’s what happened. A member of the bishopric came up to me in a crowded room after church as I was trying to herd my children out the door. He casually mentioned that they had a new calling for me, told me what the calling was and asked if I would do it.

I felt cornered and pressured, and I said yes because I didn’t know what else to say in a crowded room. Frankly, the calling sounds nearly impossible to do given my husband’s work and church schedules and the number of children we have. I already bring our carload of young children to church alone every Sunday because of my husband’s stake calling.

I’m feeling peeved at the whole situation, but I don’t know what to do since I think I already accepted this new calling.

Answer:

Let’s start this column with an unequivocal, full-throated denunciation of the call in the hall. It is unacceptable to issue callings in passing, in public and in a way that does not allow the person being called to consider, ask questions and then respond. A call in the hall communicates that neither the person being called nor the calling itself merits an actual, private sit-down.

In fact, I don’t think anyone should be asked in passing to do something that requires significant effort. Whether a person is being asked to sing in sacrament meeting or teach one week of Sunday School, it is far better for the asker to say, “Can I talk to you for a minute,” and then to step into a quiet, out-of-the way place, where the request can be fully explained.

Taking this extra time shows respect for the person being asked and allows that person to consider his answer and then respond. It acknowledges that the request is not routine and that the task in question is important.

The correct way to issue a calling is described in section 19.2 of Handbook 2. “Callings should be extended in a dignified, formal manner, not in a casual setting or manner.” The person issuing the calling is supposed to interview the person being called to determine that person’s willingness to do the calling.

The calling should be explained, including any special instructions or challenges the person can expect to encounter, and the person being called should be invited to ask questions.

Your letter wonderfully demonstrates the unpleasant after effects of eschewing the Handbook’s advice and opting instead for a call in the hall. Not only are you unsure that you did, in fact, accept a new calling, but you feel irritated that the person issuing the call did not bother to talk to you privately.

You felt ambushed and cornered instead of open to a new challenge. And you had no ability to discuss the potential conflicts presented by your family logistics and responsibilities.

You also seem to feel that the bishopric did not think very carefully before asking you to take on another huge responsibility. On this point, you may be correct. They might have said, “We need a Primary music leader. Sister Barnard comes every week. I bet she’d say yes.”

But it is also possible that your new calling, although casually issued, was not casually determined at all. Most callings require sacrifice, stretching and schedule-juggling, and the bishopric might have determined that despite your other obligations, you were the right person for this responsibility.

You may think you struggle each Sunday to haul your children to church, but they may only see how successful you are at getting the children there. They may watch you each Sunday and think, “She can do anything. And she is always willing to do what needs to be done. Let’s ask her to be the Primary music leader. She’ll be fantastic.”

Which brings us to your current problem. You have accepted (you think) a new calling, but are unsure about your actual ability to do it. During the actual call in the hall, you would have been perfectly justified in saying something like, “Could we talk about this privately?” Or even in laying down a total non-sequitur like, “My brother-in-law just will not sing at family reunions. My mother has these darling twelve days of Christmas plates, but ... oh dear — Benson, darling, come back here. Excuse me.”

That chance has passed, however. So what can you do now?

I suggest you start by assuming that this new calling was an actual, carefully considered call. With that in mind, step away from your annoyance and figure out if you can actually do the calling. You could consult Handbook 2 for an overview of your potential responsibilities, or glance through the manual or training materials on the Church website.

You might find that you are willing and able to fulfill this calling despite the effort and inconvenience it will cause.

If so, file away for future reference that calls in the hall are a bad idea, but forgive the person who subjected you to one. Instead, think positively about your new responsibilities and do your best to fulfill them.

If, however, after open-minded, can-do consideration you have doubts about your ability to fulfill this new calling, you should contact the person who called you and discuss your concerns with him. It is perfectly acceptable for you to ask what your responsibilities would be, what the time commitment is, what meetings you are expected to attend, and whether there are other people called to assist you.

It is also perfectly acceptable for you to explain any limitations on your ability to perform as expected.

If you find that the calling is, in fact, impossible for you to fulfill, you need to say so. For example, let’s say you have been asked to plan and run an activity night twice a month at seven o’clock in the evening, but your husband has stake meetings on the same night, or works second shift.

You should explain that circumstance to the person who called you. He will certainly understand. A willingness to serve is all well and good, but your ward would have to be pretty hard up to ask you to run successful mutual, activity days or scout activities with your own small children in tow.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!


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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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