When It’s Okay to Refuse a Calling

Church callings are supposed to give us purpose.

Callings help us feel included in a ward and give us responsibility. Millennials understand that need because we want a purpose and a why for doing what we’re doing. We’re happy to contribute. We want to contribute. I think there is great wisdom in having YSA wards where those who are not married or attending a family ward can get leadership experiences and serve in unique ways.

However, with limited callings available, this can lead to “creative callings” that are outside the norm. I was once called as “Communications Chairperson”.

As I always did, I accepted without much hesitation. Except when my new bishop took me aside to talk about it, he said “I expect you to pick up the little assignments I need someone to do.”

This is how that calling went:

  • 8 hours a week editing and prepping pictures for a calling board
  • 10 minutes spent taking pictures of new members (and instantly becoming the most hated person in the ward)
  • Organizing the calling board in the bishop and clerk’s office during church since that was the only time they were unoccupied and unlocked.
  • 1 hour in ward council every other week.
  • Creating a ward texting list and updating it weekly.

By the time my week was over, I felt like I was doing a part-time job. I didn’t socialize with anyone in the ward except to take their picture because I spent most of church alone in the bishop’s office organizing the boards with everyone’s calling.

After an entire summer, I went to my bishop and told him that I needed to be released. I told him that I no longer felt that I was a part of the ward. I wasn’t feeling spiritually fulfilled, which is one of the main reasons I come to church every Sunday.

Before Accepting or Refusing a Calling

Nearly 75% of Millennial Mormons feel it’s okay to refuse a calling. Sometimes we may be assigned something for the sake of needing someone in a calling. But we should make sure that our talents are being used effectively. The counselor in the bishopric of my family ward recently told me, “Information precedes inspiration.”

Before you immediately give your answer to any calling, consider these questions:

  1. Ask for time. You shouldn’t feel obligated to give an answer right there.
  2. Think about your commitment level. Is this something you can do? Is this something you want to do?
  3. Pray and study the scriptures. Seek to find your own answer as to whether the calling is from God.
  4. Counsel with our leadership and provide some background to explain our hesitancy in accepting a calling or why we would refuse a calling.

My friend was recently extended a calling in her ward’s Relief Society presidency. With small children at home and a husband who travels often, she was overwhelmed by the thought. She approached the Relief Society president and explained her family situation and her willingness to serve, but her limitations as well. Her president understood, still asked that she be a part of the presidency, and has worked around those limitations.

In this case, my friend could have easily refused the calling. But instead, she discussed it and found an opportunity to serve and get to know the women in her ward better.

Not every calling is convenient or easy, but the Lord sometimes needs us in a place at a specific time so that we can become instruments for him. A “No” may be the easy answer for a calling, but a “Yes” may provide you with new talents, new opportunities, and new awareness about yourself.

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