Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day Without the Syrup

By Rodger Dean Duncan

Yesterday Rean and I spoke in the Waco 2nd Ward sacrament meeting. We know that some women in the church (including Rean) are somewhat uncomfortable with Mother’s Day because they don’t feel up to the idealized persona of the “perfect Mom.” So rather than focus on the typical Mother’s Day syrup that we sometimes hear, we talked about the gospel. (That’s what sacrament meeting is for, right?) Using scriptures and specific doctrines as an underpinning, Rean spoke about seven lessons she’s learned about marriage and parenting. I spoke about honoring our mothers by honoring our covenants, with special emphasis on the Savior’s “Sermon on the Mount” message from Matthew in the New Testament and Third Nephi in the Book of Mormon.

On Saturday I was asked to join the stake presidency in speaking at the bishops training meeting (also attended by counselors, clerks, and executive secretaries). They invited me to talk about public affairs and “anything else that the spirit may dictate.” I reported on recent progress in the Waco Stake’s organizing its public affairs operation, then told them about the work we’re doing to build relationships of trust with city government, the chamber of commerce, Baylor University, and several non-profit organizations. I told them that Alan Mayfield, the stake’s Public Affairs Director, will soon visit the wards and branches to provide further details on Just Serve and other public affairs initiatives. 

For the “additional” part of my message, I talked about the difference between “transactional” and “transformational” leaders. Transactional leaders focus on meetings, reports and other routine things. Transactional work is about administering. Transformational leadership, on the other hand, is about ministering. It’s about inspiring people to understand that they can aspire to and achieve higher performance. Transactional leaders make sure the train runs on time. After that work is done, transformational leadership ensures that the train is on the right track, headed in the right direction, and that everyone who wants to make the journey has a ticket and is on the train. I urged bishops to delegate as much transactional leadership (administrative duties) as possible so they can invest the lion's share of their energy in the transformational (ministering) portion of their leadership role. I ended by telling the story of my first bishop, in the original Waco Ward, who was a wonderful transformational leader and who inspired me (as a recent convert) to be a tireless covenant-keeper rather than only a covenant-maker. I said my bishop understood Section 121 of the Doctrine & Covenants and knew that “reproving with sharpness” does not imply “harshness,” it implies “clarity.” And he knew how to “show forth afterwards an increase of love” after he had reproved or corrected someone. As Christians, we of course want to be kind. But I believe some church leaders mistake lack of courage (or skill) for kindness. Is it “kind” not to hold someone accountable when they fail to perform in the calling with which they’ve been entrusted? Is it “kind” to say nothing and simply release a poor performer “with a vote of thanks,” thereby implying that the poor performance was acceptable? I think not. I will forever be grateful to my first bishop who taught me the difference.

Judging by the animated comments after the meeting, I’d say my message struck a chord. Two bishops inquired about my availability to speak in their wards. (I told them that although we are assigned to the three units that meet in the stake building, we are available to speak anywhere in the stake.)

This past week we got the Zone Leaders moved into a new apartment. Their new place was not quite ready for occupancy, so they spent two nights with us. It was a pleasure having them as our guests.

We miss the great missionaries who moved to others areas at the least transfer, but we're delighted to have
new faces and spirits among us. Surely this rising generation must be the best and the brightest. We are so
grateful to have the opportunity to work with them. And our buddy Kermit likes being here, too.
Rean coaching the Elders during this week's Zone Council meeting.
They really love her. And let's just say that when Mama Bear talks,
the Cubs listen.
Tuesday’s Zone Council meeting was the best we’ve attended since being in the mission. The missionaries here have been using the SMART Goals approach we taught them in January. But Elder Petersen and Elder Reed took it a step further. For the “accountability” portion of the meeting, they had the missionaries divide into Districts. These smaller groups then applied SMART Planning to their work with investigators. This was so much more productive that the previous accountability discussions that were sometimes little more than a repeat of the previous meeting’s general comments like “we will get the members more involved.” The SMART Planning approach requires very specific, measurable, and time-bound commitments on action steps in behalf of the investigators' progress. This approach produced very animated discussion as the missionaries challenged and coached each other to markedly improved goal setting. Over the next few weeks, it will be interesting to track the results of this meeting protocol.

All is well.

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