Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Top Ten Suggestions on being a bishop

A friend at work told me that other day that the Church split his stake, his bishop was called to the new stake presidency, and he was called as bishop. He then told me he was sure he would be asking for my advice. I told him that up to one year I would be happy to share my experience, but beyond that he was on his own. My term as a bishop was one year to the Sunday, when the Church sent most of the members of a sister ward in our building to another ward, folded the balance into our ward, changed our ward name, and kept the other bishop.

So, what advice can I possibly give after one year? Let's see (Not in any particular order):

1. Family Second (see item 10). I was probably doing something wrong, but I never felt my time with my family was a premium. I did a lot of delegating, and really didn't spend any more time away from the family than before I was a bishop. Keep family at the forefront of your responsibilities remembering that if you take care of your family, then no one else in the ward will have to worry about them.
2. Keep a journal of your interviews. Although I got started doing this, I have never been a good journal writer. I wish that I would have been more careful. I sit in conference and listen to the general authorities speak of their experiences from 30 years ago with members of their wards, and marvel that they have the recollections. No doubt they kept journals.
3. Follow the scriptures. I came to the realization while teaching the Aaronic Priesthood Committee that in reality, deacons can help prepare the sacrament. Sure, look it up. Go to D&C 20 and read the duties of a deacon. It is amazing what the scriptures teach us, if only we would read them.
4. Memorize the Church Handbook of Instructions. Traditions run deep in the Church, especially in old wards that have been around a long time. It still amazes me how many times I would tell the PEC or bishopric that we were going to change the way we do things according to what the Handbook teaches, and how many times I was told "we have never done it that way". The instructions are their for our benefit and the blessing of the ward, and will work if followed.
5. Never carry cash. Another bishop actually gave me this advice. I should have listened better, because there were many times I found myself giving money to people who had wandered in off the street. The Church has a program for helping, and as much as it may hurt, or seem cruel, the bishop will always be better following that program to the letter of the law. Of course, the ultimate judge of "to give, or not to give" is the Spirit.
6. Listen to your Relief Society President and treat her as your equal. She has more intimate relationships with the sisters in your ward than you ever will, and will be the source of great inspiration and guidance. Treat the members of your Ward Committee as your right arm. They, like the RS President, are close to the members they serve and know best how to provide for them.
7. Let the presidents of the various ward organizations run their programs. They have been called, presumeably by the Father, to fulfill these callings. Let them. Offer advice when moved upon by the spirit, encourage them to follow the Handbook and stay close to the scriptures, and then get out of the way.
8. Encourage your members to be VERY generous in their offerings. Tithing is a set amount proscribed by scripture. Everything else is based on a person's willingness to be generous. And by all means, set the example. Be very generous in your own giving to Fast Offerings, Humanitarian Aid, etc. Once, while beset by how much aid to give a family, I knelt in my home office with my wife, after explaining to her my dilemna (without divulging names and particulars) and offered a prayer with her. Her immediate response after the prayer was "if you are going to err, err on the side of generosity".
9. Love the youth. Treat them with kindness and respect. Listen to them. Work with them. Be there for them. I struggled with this with some of the youth in my ward. There were times I wanted to wring necks, and times I gave verbal neck wringings. I still haven't figured out the balance, and actually had a mother pull her children from MIA because of the way I tried to help them understand modesty.
10. MOST IMPORTANTLY! Court your wife weekly, not weakly. Make sure she knows that she always comes first and foremost in your life. Never make her take a back seat to anyone or any problem. After all, the only real relationship that will last into the eternities is with your wife. Keep it first and foremost, and all will be well in your little Zion on earth.

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