Scott’s excellent post on comparative advantage and using opportunity cost in considering ward callings provided some impetus for me to articulate one of the concerns I currently have with how we approach callings. Scott noted that ‘supply generally exceeds demand’. Though there are some areas of the Church where this might not be accurate (i.e. my Ward) I am sure that this is generally true in a wide variety of areas. Moreover, if this accurate it suggests an excellent question: What do we do when the Ward is saturated?
Many of the people I have known in the US, specifically those on the West coast or in the Mid-west, have a very different Church experience to me; primarily because their wards are numerically large. A very talented and capable friend has taught primary with his wife for a number of years, served on an activities committee (where they organised 2 activities per year) and was recently called to be in an Aaronic Priesthood adviser. If you speak to most returned missionaries in areas of the world where demand is (perhaps) greater than supply they become the president of the Aaronic Priesthood within weeks of returning home. Are we under-utilising people in our wards by providing callings for them which have an opportunity cost which is too low? My point is that it did not take my friend and his equally capable wife to teach a class of primary children, rather at least one of them could have been used elsewhere. But where, if all the callings have been filled?
The world is a big place and our wards can become parochial if we reinforce our inwardly focused approach to Church service. My modest proposal is to create responsibilities which call people to serve with or among those not of our faith. Volunteer groups are in desperate need of people who can assist in a sustained fashion over an extended period of time. This is exactly what Mormons specialize in. Could we not ask one of our local ward members to volunteer at a homeless shelter or at a Women’s refuge? Could we not extend callings to work as mentors for children who are struggling at school?
There will, of course, be some logistical challenges in pursuing such a course. Yet, if we are destined as a Church to be numerically small (which I think we are) then we need to find other ways to start bringing the benefits of our culture and religion to the world.