A common failing of those responsible for activities is the tendency to do everything themselves. Most of us don’t want to impose upon others, and so very often “I’ll just do it myself,” becomes the mantra of an activity planner. Although this works fine for smaller activities, this attitude will turn every event into drudgery for you, and will deprive others of opportunities to use their talents in serving ward members. In this column will give some hints for selecting those who will help you with the event, and give some counsel about the proper level of control you should exercise during the process.
Organizing Your Committee
You may believe you can put together an entire ward activity on your own, and in fact you may be the best person in your ward to do so. But because ward members are more likely to support an event if they’re responsible for its success, your best bet is to involve as many people as possible. The next couple of columns will list some of the people you may want to have on the committee for your ward activity, along with the responsibilities of each one. Obviously, not all activities need all these people – and some activities need even more people than we’ll list here. (After all, a costume committee may be an integral part of a road show, but it isn’t on the agenda of most other ward activities.) For smaller events, it is also common to have one person filling several of the roles mentioned here.
In case you haven’t figured it out, the event chairman is you. You may have a committee just to help you chair the event, but more than likely you’re acting alone. The buck has to stop with somebody, and that person is going to be you. It’s your job to decide what kind of activity you’ll have, when and where the activity will be held, who will be invited, and how the budget money (assuming there is any) will be spent. You’ll also be the person who chooses your committee members, and that’s a big responsibility in and of itself.
Choosing the proper committee is vital because one important function of the event chairman is to let committee chairmen make their own decisions – within reason. Your food chairman may be grateful for your ideas, but don’t offer those ideas unless she asks for them, and don’t insist your ideas be followed. Just as you enjoyed choosing the theme of the party, the food chairman will enjoy choosing a menu and recipes, the decorations chairman will enjoy deciding how to beautify the surroundings, and the program chairman will enjoy figuring out how people will be entertained. You do have veto power, but you shouldn’t exercise that veto power unless you have a deep and compelling reason to do so. For example, if the food chairman wants to serve ostrich filets and peppered kangaroo at the dinner, you may have a legitimate question as to how she can serve these items and stay within her budget. If the entertainment chairman decides on a program that is too risqué for tender Mormon eyes, you may have to step in and offer a voice of reason. And if the decorations chairman wants to wreathe the cultural hall in flowers, it may not work if there’s an activity in the cultural hall the night before. But before you step in and veto the plans that others have made, make sure that your interference is absolutely necessary. If you learn that peanut butter pie is going to be served as dessert and you hate peanut butter, live with it. Your veto power should only be used for blatant violations of budget or appropriateness or practicality.
On the rare occasions when you as event chairman have to steer a committee chairman in a different direction, it is vital that you do so diplomatically. You may even have to enlist the bishop to help you by “playing the heavy” and vetoing a plan that could be detrimental to the people of the ward. (Be sure you counsel with the bishop before you do this!) But always remember that others’ feelings are as tender as your own. There are ways to enforce your authority that won’t make enemies in the process, and these ways should be used at all costs. You and your committee chairmen may be working together and living together in the same ward for many years to come. No ward event is so important that it justifies making enemies.
If you have never served in a calling before that allows you to delegate responsibility, you’ll soon learn that delegation is a two-edged sword. It does ease your burden by adding additional bodies to share the work, but it will also introduce people with new ideas who will approach things differently, and will steer your activity in a different direction from what you may have planned. Perhaps your original idea for “A Night on Broadway” did not include macaroni salad and children singing Primary hymns. A truly wise leader will understand that people do not expect a perfect activity, and that promoting ward harmony is more important than having absolute control. These leaders will “not sweat the small stuff,” but will chose their battles and only get involved when necessary, and will then do it in a manner where there will be no hard feelings.
In an ideal situation, you’re going to pick a group of committee members who are so talented and reliable that all you’ll have to do is to make assignments and then sit back and admire everyone else’s work. In reality, this isn’t always the case. All too often, you’re going to be working with people who have more enthusiasm than inspiration, or who have great ideas but can’t be counted on to actually show up the day of the event. Sometimes you’ll even have a person foisted on you who never darkens the door of a ward meetinghouse, but who is given an assignment by a bishop or ward auxiliary leader in the hope that it will inspire that person to want to return to church. Because you cannot predict human behavior, the best course of action for the event chairman is to know enough about each committee’s job that you can step in and help at a moment’s notice. If all goes well, you won’t have to fill in at the last minute. The day of the event your work will be done, and you can step back and watch everybody else pull rabbits out of hats. But if your food committee chairman just doesn’t bother to arrive on time – or at all – you’ll be prepared to step in and do the work you need to do.
In order to be free to step in and help when someone else drops the ball, you as the event chairman should not have any assignments of your own on the day of the activity. If you’ve already committed to help with the program or to set up chairs, you’re not going to be available if the kitchen crew doesn’t show up. Making sure you don’t have an assignment on the day of the activity isn’t a sign of laziness – it’s an indicator of common sense.
Besides, by the day of the activity you will already have put in enough work that you shouldn’t feel guilty about sitting back and enjoying the party you’ve put together on those rare occasions when everything goes right. But you should definitely plan on being the first person to arrive at the event and the last person to leave, just so you’ll be available to lend a hand where one is needed.