When we call someone to a position within our organizations, we often assume she has a certain amount of knowledge, even if she has never held that particular calling. When we in the church all your life, you might be surprised to discover how many things are not obvious to converts.
Although you probably orient all your new board members, prepare to spend an extra amount of time with your new convert. Explain the purpose of the organization and how the calling fits into that purpose. Help her to understand why her calling is important, even if she is in charge of straightening hymn books or greeting people at the door.
As a new convert, she won’t understand who to report to or even what to report, so make a handout she can keep that has everything she needs to know—purpose of the calling, meeting schedules, reporting structure, and duties. List resources that can help her find more about her calling, such as LDS.org’s Serving in the Church section.
A new convert doesn’t know church rules and probably can’t guess them based on past experience. Include information on the details. For instance, a new convert may not realize Primary children can’t be fed during Primary, other than in nursery, and they may also not know what the rules are for asking for money.
New members also don’t realize they can submit receipts for their expenses. Explain any budget that comes with the calling and how to get reimbursed. Make sure she understands she’s expected to be reimbursed, and not use her own money.
My first Primary calling was very traumatic because I was placed into a Primary classroom as a teenaged covert with seventeen preschoolers, several of whom had disabilities. No one thought to tell me how to prepare a lesson or cope with discipline. The only training I received was in working with the disabled children and that came from another ward member, not the leadership. It was well known that I liked children, so no one realized I had never taught before. When everything went wrong, I sat in my classroom and cried. I was afraid to admit I couldn’t handle the task I’d been given and had no idea how to get help.
Be certain you find out how much experience the new convert has and what type of help she needs. Let her know she can call you for advice. Then check on her each week for a time to see if she is comfortable with the calling or if she has questions. Make sure she understands no one is perfect on the first try (or ever) and so she can expect the calling to be hard for a while as she learns how to do it, but that she has your support.
Seek out compliments on her performance. If she is teaching Primary, ask the children or parents to tell you the good things, and then pass those along. Second hand compliments hold a lot of power, because the receiver presumes the compliment wasn’t just an act of courtesy.
Your support of the new convert can affect how she feels about callings and even her new church for many years to come. The leader is in an excellent position to provide the fellowship a new member needs.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.