. Organize to Magnify
It’s a new year and with each new year our Church callings could use some extra attention. With a little bit of time and focus, our capacity to serve well can be an improved season for all we nurture. One way we can better magnify our callings is to plan and prepare for the new year with some definitive focus during the month of January. Here are some ideas that have worked well for me as I have grown in my various callings.
Set Up A Church Calendar
Have a specific “Church” calendar upon which to detail your plans. There will be some weeks when you might not serve. For instance, in a normal year, you usually get Sundays off for Stake and General Conference and thus will be relieved of preparing lessons or holding meetings. The calendar will give you a sense of pacing, allow you to work around known challenges, and also help you see the bigger picture.
Set Up Forms to Help You Function
Forms help members of the Church stay more organized as they serve. If you are the Primary Music Leader, for example, you might set up a simple form on your computer for planning out the traditional Primary songs such as reverence, birthday, rest, opening and closing. Print these personalized forms out 50 times. Since you are focusing on this project and now have 50 printed forms, you can easily plan out a simple rotation system, deciding which of these regularly used songs will be sung each week of the entire year. (Remember, it is always better to have a plan and change it than to no plan at all.)
Wow, just thinking about getting all the decision-making done early is enough to get your blood boiling. Again, the Primary Music Leader would fill out her planning forms and then duplicate them so she has an extra for her pianist. Then, these forms can be kept in a binder. Retrieve two of the prepared weekly forms each Sunday. One is given to the pianist so she can practice for next week’s needs. The other form is used to prepare for the following Sunday’s visual aid gathering and additional preparations.
Gather and Prepare Visual Aids
Many callings are enhanced with simple visual aids that can be used over and over again during the year. Whether it be the Young Women’s Theme with a set of flags, or the Relief Society Motto with pictures of women engaging in charitable service, prepare your “theme” visual aid now to use again and again as the situation invites.
In addition, you might consider creating a library system for easy retrieval of additional visual aids. Let’s look at the Primary Music Leader’s needs again. If there are more than just a few visual aids, she will want to order her visual aids with letters and numbers written in a discreet place on each one as the first step in setting up a useful filing system. The letters could stand for the type of visual aid: F=flipchart, G=game, P=puppets, M=motivators, etc. The numbers are for ease in keeping them in order. The first flip chart could be labeled F01, the second flip chart F02, and etc. The flip charts would be stored in numerical order. Puppets of like kind might be kept in ziploc bags and thus the bags could be numbered.
Then our Primary Music Leader could make up a simple card system to remember what visual aids were available. This would include a recipe box, index card dividers, and index cards. Prepare sufficient index cards per visual aid to make reviewing and retrieving visual aids more convenient.
So, for instance, the Give Said the Little Stream flip chart could be numbered #F01 (you probably will never have more than 99 visual aids). The index card box might have a tab entitled: Flip Charts and the index cards filed behind the tab would be in alpha order. One index card filed behind here would say, “Give Said the Little Stream”, page 236 in the upper left-hand corner and #F01 in the upper right-hand corner.
Another index card could be prepared and filed by song name. So a second index card tab could be labeled Song Name. The index card would have the name of the song and the page number in the upper left-hand corner and the visual aid letter and number in the upper right-hand corner. Again, in the case of Give Said the Little Stream, this would be F01.
It is useful to plan out a preliminary Primary song schedule for the whole year (to make it easy for the pianist, too), rotating through reverence songs, birthdays songs, and opening/closing songs with appropriate visual aids in an ordering manner. Then, if you have twelve games, you can plan to use one a week on a rotating basis every three months. If you have six games, you will use them twice in the three-month period, and thus eight times during the whole year. Of course there might also be seasonal and holiday visual aids to add variety and interest.
So, as you prepare your yearly schedule, if you plan to sing a song, you can go to your card system and see if you have a visual aid for it by looking under Song Name. If you don’t, you can revert to a using that week’s game to teach or reinforce the song. If you have nothing, it is time to fix something up. This should be done early in the week, with the needed visual aids gathered and put aside for easy retrieval on Sunday morning. You might consider making an over-sized visual aid holder to carry these items easily. (I have a pattern for one I would be happy to share that has worked very well for me.)
It is helpful to keep visual aids, for the most part, stored in such a way as to keep them neat and clean. I like to use sheets of poster board as dividers. This keeps them available and yet safe. You might choose a long, tall, narrow box to keep them in between uses or maybe find a secret spot under the front room couch.
For those who already have a storage system set up for their visual aids, the Primary Chorister Visual Aids form (download by clicking here) easily informs them if they already have a visual aid prepared for a certain song. To aid Primary Music Leaders, I have attached this form for your free download and use.
Especially with children, having a container full of simple puppets will fill out visual aid needs for especially hard days in Primary. These will prove useful to gain children’s attention and expedite learning of new and/or difficult songs. Some music leaders might also want to keep a box of different-sized visual aids such as over-sized glasses to encourage “singing loudly”. These items could also be listed in the index card system and notations made on the Church calendar.
I hope these ideas are helpful. A little more work now will make for much easier Church calling as the year progresses. Of course, just as soon as you become competent and comfortable, the Lord will move you to a new and less comfortable calling. But keep your visual aids stored safely. Somehow, they seem to come in handy as you substitute, are called again to the same calling, or find that in a leadership position you have the opportunity to teach others better organization skills.