Thursday, April 26, 2012

Too Much?

I know that we are supposed to always serve joyfully. Whenever and whatever asked.

Lately I've been struggling with that.

I recognize that some of this is of my own making. My involvement in last night's Pinewood Derby is a case in point--I wanted it to be nice for my own kid and took too much on myself that might have been easily and (equally successfully) delegated. There are areas to simplify my own service and if I'm not happy then I can see places I need to make changes.

My husband on the other hand ends up a little bit more stuck than I do. He is the Elders' Quorum President and I'm surprised by how much of his calling-time is made up of things that others need/ask/want him to do. Outside of his regular meetings he ends up doing a lot of visiting--either as a stand-in Home Teaching companion or with his presidency to get to families that haven't been visited in many months. He does exchanges with the missionaries and teaches the quorum on a regular basis. This is in addition to his regular home teaching route. This spring, in the last month or two on Saturdays, he's been to three moves and been the only one from our ward to show up at a service assignment at the stake camp, He also had to work one Saturday. Not long ago I heard him pray for a Saturday to open up so he could get his stuff done around the house. Not fun stuff, mind you . . . mostly stuff for me.

He has planned to rip out the floor and toilet in our bathroom, and last Saturday finally was free for him to do it. In the middle of the week he checked an email message that had come through the previous Saturday (he doesn't check his email very often.) It was a "reminder" that his Elders' Quorum was responsible for taking down the Stake Relief Society activity in the middle of the day on Saturday! He contacted the person and asked her how on earth it could be a reminder when this was the first he'd heard of it. She explained that she is a fairly new secretary and that she was told that there was an assignment calendar that was supposed to be good through 2017 (!!) and somehow none of the current EQ presidents seemed to have a copy of it.

Plantboy sent out the word to his email group--a mixed response proposition at best and said to me with a tired sigh, "I thought the whole point of those round tables was that sisters were supposed to be able to set them up and take them down on their own?" I had heard this somewhere once myself.

I was reminded of being in the young women's and being constantly bombarded with service requests--can't the girls just volunteer to babysit for such-and-such activity? For couples to go to the temple? Won't the girls serve at the Christmas dinner? We know there is an activity, church and fireside this week but we also need them on Thursday night to hold a meeting about. . . . You get the gist. I sometimes felt that the girls ended up so over-committed because they were seen as perpetually available and willing to those not in their lives.

I recognize that some of what my husband has going on is directly related to the fact that our ward experiences a particularly low activity rate--something perhaps most pronounced among the elders. He can't compel them to serve, of course, nor can he seem to stop the constant bombardment of requests to do more service.

So here are the questions I have. When is it okay to say "no?" Is it okay to say it even if you know it means that something won't be accomplished? Something somebody else views as really important? When we raise hands to sustain somebody, what is the extent of that? Does it mean that I need to babysit for a friend whose husband is out of town nearly every week when she is supposed to be at Young Women's? Even if being asked to do so makes me wonder why she said yes/was asked in the first place? When does all the doing take away from the "why" of the Gospel?

Just in case you were wondering: Plantboy did not help on Saturday, and only two men showed up to help. I didn't go to the RS activity: I chose to spend the afternoon working on scrapbooks with a friend. When we got to Church on Sunday we realized that we had forgotten a building-cleaning assignment. The reminder had come in the mail Friday, which I had failed to check.


emandtrev said...

My thoughts as I read this were a combination of frustration and sadness. For you and so many that serve in the church in general. I think there is SO much good done on a daily basis, but I also feel that sometimes we tax the living daylights out of some of those wonderful folks that serve (i.e., you and your hubby).

Long story short, I stand firmly behind "family first." My husband is the ward executive secretary and I am the Laurel advisor. We both have our busy times, but...if I feel like my kids need me home on a Tuesday night, or my overall home, health, and mental spirit is suffering, I take a night off from an activity. My husband has to be at a lot of meetings and sometimes he has an "Oh, no! I forgot do this or that," moment, but we're all human.

It sounds like you and your hubby are both doing an incredible job, and I honestly believe that Heavenly Father knows of our desire to serve, but also that our families need and love us. Take care of you and yours first. It is okay to say no anytime you want. Your faith is there. You serve willingly. Even if it means taking MORE than one Saturday off now and then! :)


Cathy said...

My husband was YM President in our Chicago suburbs ward, I was 1st Councilor in the RS, expecting our 3rd child (oldest not yet four), and had had issues with post partum depression previously. Also, I don't have trouble speaking up. This made me a great candidate for the necessary task of pointing out in ward council the fact that three or four families were double-booked in leadership callings, with both husband and wife having substantial time commitments asked of them. Oh, and three of those women were pregnant, with other small children at home.

A leadership shakeup soon followed. Sometimes bishoprics need to be reminded of the impact church service is having on families.

Do we need to serve? Yes. Should we be thoughtful and intelligent in how we manage our service? You betcha. And sometimes that does mean saying no. It does seem that this issue is particularly difficult when there are small congregations. In such situations, it is good to remember that not all of the programs of the church are essential for our salvation. Have functioning families is essential, and we cannot neglect that in order to provide frills.

Marie said...

We run into the same problem. Lets just say our family has cleaned the church for the last three weeks at 8 pm on Saturday night because the elders did not show up. The more I think about it the more I realize it is a commitment issue. I am just going to do my best and realize that my children are learning to work and see my commitment and get it done.

Melanie said...

This is a hard question. Service isn't meant to always be convenient, but on the other hand, I think that there certainly has to be a limit. That limit will change with the seasons of our lives.

The message I keep hearing from the leadership of the Church is that the Church is here to support families. I think that leaders should - and are trying to - be sensitive to that. But I also think that we can use our individual judgment to determine between the good, better, and best. For example, I'm all for letting the men take down the tables and chairs after Stake Conference, but I think it's a little much to ask them to come to the church building to do that when they don't have a reason to be there otherwise. And why does your husband have to be the one to do exchanges with the missionaries? Yes, I'm certain that he is needed and that it's a wonderful experience, but with all of the other responsibilities entailed with his calling, it seems like there are other people who should be stepping in to fill that particular need.

Doreen said...

Dave was EQ pres for 5 years (2 in Logan, 3 here). Now he's on the high council. I hear ya, loud and clear! You do and do and do, and still people show up to complain when one need or another hasn't been met. It's frustrating! For me, what it comes down to is family first. When things are crazy at home, nothing gets done, the house falls apart, and the kids hardly see their dad (or mom), then something has to change. Trying to find that balance is no easy task, but I think we're getting better at it. Saying no sometimes is quite liberating. :o)

Shiree said...

*sigh* Good questions. Not sure about the answers, though.

Christie said...

You raise an issue that everyone in the church must face at some point if they're being honest with themselves and care about their family. Every response so far has it right. And I want to echo the "family first" mantra. (If LDS people have mantras. I, for one, do.)

I also have to say that this year I went to full-time teaching after my first year of teaching 2/3rds time last year. It has been a challenge. And although I'm a committed Latter-day Saint, I'm not perfect.

This year the responsibilities of work, family and church seemed overwhelming at times. And I'm chagrined to admit it, but I started to find myself becoming resentful of some of the service that was asked of me. Looking back, I can see that I definitely had anxiety about church -- not just service, but attendance too.

I think my husband (he's the Executive Secretary in the bishopric) may have said something to the Bishop, because I eventually received a calling to be our ward music chairperson -- a calling that I can manage and feel successful at. If something hadn't changed, I was prepared to talk with my bishop about the situation. Our leaders aren't mind readers, and I believe that it's important to communicate honestly with them.

I've also become a bit outspoken about people who add "extras" onto the gospel -- appendages that aren't doctrine or in the handbook, but that are largely cultural in nature. Just because the church has done something for years doesn't mean that it's part of the gospel. It may just be part of the culture. And if it's placing a burden on young families or women, we ought simplify.

Relief Society leaders keep trying to get the sisters to simplify, but I think sometimes we're our own worst enemies when it comes to overdoing things -- gilding the lily, as it were.

Thanks for the thinking opportunity!