Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Why follow the rules?

I was speaking to a family member today about problems in her stake. Recently, her stake had four wards added to it from another stake, to try to even out the numbers (her stake is dwindling, the other stake is growing). Apparently, these four wards are having a hard time integrating into their new stake. There is one big difference in the two stakes: economic status.

Truly, as far as church programs are run, there shouldn't be any difference in moving from a "rich" stake to a "poor" stake. But for these four wards, there is a difference. And it seems to stem from an unwillingness to follow the guidelines in the church handbook.

In their former stake, the stake president didn't usually follow the rule that states that all activities should be funded by budget money only--no outside funds (with the exception of humanitarian projects and one camp per year for the youth programs). It seems the reasoning went as follows: Here's a great idea for the youth. It's too expensive for our ward (or stake) budget. But Brother and Sister So-and-so have volunteered to write out a check for the activity! And so the activity is approved. [My relative is in her stake's Young Women's Presidency, so that is why I used the youth program. I have no idea if other auxileries had a similiar attitude.]

When you look at from the perspective of the single ward or stake, it is hard to see the problem. The youth are participating in fabulous, enjoyable activities, and the generous couple are using their wealth for a good cause. But when looked at from a wider point of view (say, that of the other stake), the trouble becomes more apparent.

The youth in the four wards new to my relative's stake are used to being part of big, expensive activities. The ward leaders (often their parents) are used to not having to be limited by the ward budget. They still have the various generous people in their wards, but the new stake presidency isn't allowing them to donate to their wards' youth programs. And so in comparision, the new stake isn't very fun. The leaders complain, the parents complain, and so the youth (obviously) complain.

This same thing happens, albeit in a smaller way, when other rules are broken without considering the consequences. What about the Sunday School teacher who bribes her class with candy bars to keep them quiet? What about when a new teacher is called, and he doesn't have the money to bring candy to the class weekly? What if the new teacher simply wants to follow the instuctions given by the church about treats in church? Too often, especially when dealing with youth, the new teacher is seen as boring, mean, and goody-goody. Is this the kind of attitude we want projected upon people trying to follow their leaders?

I don't want to say that there is never a time to disregard rules and instructions. In a church where personal revelation plays a huge role, obviously there may be times when a leader is prompted to do something different than what is in the church handbook. But those times should be rare, I imagine, and always undertaken with an understanding of what the consequences may be.


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  • You bring up an interesting problem. I have seen similar things go on. I for one would like to see all church programs greatly simplified and scaled back with more emphasis on families. If a family wants to go on amazing vacations, great. It seems to me the church goes overboard with programs. And this coming from a man with 4 kids.

    By Blogger Eric Nielson, at 3/01/2006 8:42 PM  

  • Thank you for this post. When a friend of mine was called to serve as his ward's Young Men President, his bishop told him that there was no way he could ever put together a program that could compete with the world on its level. There would never be enough money or enough excitement.

    Instead, he was told to put together a program that focused on the things that are most important to the Lord. The bishop promised that if he would do that he would never find a need to exceed his budget in order to have a quality program. That turned out to be true over his 4½ stint in that position.

    Perhaps this principle has broader application than simply youth and finances.

    By Blogger Scott Hinrichs, at 3/01/2006 8:48 PM  

  • Eric, focusing on families was an emphasis in the recent Worldwide Leadership Training meeting (according to my wife). Since I'm in a functional family, I tend to agree with you that the church should do less with programs for activities. But I wonder about those kids in families that aren't doing so well...

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 3/01/2006 9:57 PM  

  • You're right bradley. If families and home teaching worked as they should a lot of the other stuff could go away.

    By Blogger Eric Nielson, at 3/02/2006 6:37 AM  

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