Thoughts on Being a Ward Clerk

I was just released, due to my move to another State, from being a Ward Clerk.  I served in the calling for about 4-1/2 years.  there are some aspects of the calling that I quite liked.  I would like to share my thought about my time as the Ward Clerk.

– The Church wastes a lot of paper.  Yep, that is the top of my list.  And I am no tree-hugger either.  But good grief.  Somebody updates a phone number or email address and MLS kicks out a new Membership record update and asks if you want to print an extra copy for the bishop.  Page after page comes out and I often could not see any reason why.  Much of this will get shredded right after it is printed.  I do think there is some improvement in this over recent months, but there is still a ways to go.

– I was able to see what people pay in tithing.  This included many of my coworkers and the CEO of my former company.  And I don’t care at all.  This could cause some people grief, and I was a bit wary of this at first.  Maybe I was blessed to not care, but I don’t care.  There is a lot of confidentiality that a Ward Clerk needs to have – I think I did okay.

– I am glad I was in a small ward without much turnover.  It was hard enough keeping track of the presidencies of the youth groups, a few ordinances, move-ins, etc.  I feel for those poor souls who have a complicated ward to keep track of.

– Sending records from one ward to another is a snap.  It is almost instant and painless.  All you need is a name and a birth date.  Just tell the clerk, records can be pulled or pushed.  I had the impression that there was something difficult about it, but it is as easy as pie.

– You often do not have to deal with people all that much if you don’t want to.  Not like being an Elders Quorum President or something.  You will often have you clerical tasks to complete, they are often fairly easy to execute, and boom! you are done and can move on.

– On the flip side of the above, I did find myself getting even more … distant from people in this calling.  In some ways you are in the loop so to speak, but not on the front lines.

– The church does have some excellent training available on-line.  Some great strides here.

– Tithing settlement is a pain in the butt.  Don’t have your kids bring their coins with them to tithing settlement.  The bishop will tell you it is alright, but it causes grief.  You don’t have to be all caught up for the year to declare yourself a full tithe payer.  Do the clerk a favor and just pay tithing at the regular times.  I used to violate the above advice all the time.

– The priesthood quorums are generally much worse at sending in their quarterly reports than any other organization.

– It is kind of cool to have an office at church.

I was glad to serve as a ward clerk, and would gladly serve in this capacity again if asked.  But I think it would be good for me to deal with more people more directly – though perhaps not good for them.

If you want to help out your ward clerk, pass along information when you find it.  If someone moves, dies, has a child, changes their phone number, etc.  Write it down.  It is impossible for a couple of people to keep track of everyone.

10 Responses to “Thoughts on Being a Ward Clerk”

  1. 1 Nate August 14, 2012 at 3:28 am

    – I was able to see what people pay in tithing. This included many of my coworkers and the CEO of my former company. And I don’t care at all. This could cause some people grief, and I was a bit wary of this at first. Maybe I was blessed to not care, but I don’t care. There is a lot of confidentiality that a Ward Clerk needs to have – I think I did okay.

    Yeah, I never really cared either. The only item about the financial side of this that stuck with me? Was when I’d see tithing slips from individuals who donated to every item, and they’d do this most or every time they paid tithing. Those people stuck in my memory and I respected them even more (obviously never mentioned it to them or anyone else, just something that remained with me).

  2. 2 Eric Nielson August 14, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Thanks Nate. There was one particularly generous soul in our ward who payed impressive fast offerings that I silently admired as well.

  3. 3 Stephen R. Marsh August 14, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Yeah, it was interesting how I started to quit caring about who paid what in tithing when I dealt with it every week.

  4. 4 Ben S August 15, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    I’m a new membership clerk, so the post resonated. Thanks

  5. 5 Mike August 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    My biggest complaint with the ward clerk position is the meetings, PEC, Ward Council, Bishopric, etc. The ward clerk doesn’t really do anything for these meetings but is required to attend.

  6. 6 Scott August 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    I never post, but having been a Ward Clerk 5 times now, I have a few thoughts:
    When I was called the first time, the High Councilor gave me some invaluable advice that went something like this, “The Bishop has 2 areas of responsibility in the ward, administrative and administering. He doesn’t have enough time to really do even one of them. Your job is to move as much of the administrative stuff off his plate as possible, so he can concentrate on administering.” It took some time, but I learned what he meant.
    – I checked with each organization every Sunday to help with their crisis, Primary being the biggest challenge. When they had a substitute teacher (every week), I would get copies & pictures. I would track down the nursery coloring table or the primary microphone. I would make sure the Relief Society & Sunday School had what they needed (usually last minute copies). Whatever anyone needed, I was their slave. My thought was that by doing those things, I was enabling the ward leadership to concentrate on the most important stuff.
    – I had a key to every door in the building, and had learned about the systems, so I could handle things. Tripped circuit breakers, the real thermostats (not just the classroom remotes), the AV systems, the super-secret janitorial closet, I could get to it all.
    – As much of a pain as it was, I worked hard with my assistants to keep the membership and callings lists up to date. That allowed our leadership meeting to flow smoother, without playing “guess-whos-available” or “what-callings-need-filling”. Working with organization leaders, I could also *try* to keep the bishopric proactive in callings. “Family X is moving in 3 weeks, that means that callings Y & Z will need to be filled. I’ve already notified the respective organization presidents, so you’ll be getting nominations.”
    – The other part of the calling circus was the youth class leadership. 6 classes/quorums, each with 4 leadership position, which normally change twice a year means somewhere around 48 positions, more if birthdays interrupt. I kept the bishopric apprised of upcoming vacancies from birthdays, and a general running clock on how long presidencies had been in place, so they could take action as appropriate.
    – The records are an important function, and it should just go without saying that they all need to be current. That’s what assistants are for, and I wore quite a few of them out. But the Bishop never had to ask if things were current, and when he needed something, we could always get it to him quickly. And, he never got a call from the Stake President about the reports being late, or an audit with bad marks.
    – The other piece advice I was offered by the High Councilor went something like this: “Being a Bishop is very hard, there are too many things to do and remember. Bishop’s make mistakes, but you can help him make fewer mistakes by being his eyes, ears and memory. Take notes, build a relationship that allows you to speak honestly with him, and help keep him from embarrassing himself.” By keeping copious notes and records, and getting copies of them to the Bishop quickly, I was able to keep his memory fresh on critical items, and help him be able to prioritize(“There are 20 things to do on this list, these 5 need my immediate attention”).
    – Training all the secretaries in the ward to do their thing, and gently pushing them to be more supportive and proactive to their presidencies. Honestly, the youth secretaries stepped up more often than the adults in these positions did.
    – Become the master of the GHI. It helps to be able to know what the policy is (and even if there is a policy) in leadership meetings, and being able to find it in a few seconds can be a huge timesaver, and can help the Bishop avert a misfire.
    – Keep your lips sealed, and ask your wife to do the same. It’s amazing to me how much you will think you know about the ward, how much more you learn by inference, and also how much people will just tell you even though they shouldn’t (maybe because they assume you know). Even my wife has had some pretty startling conversations where people assumed that because the Bishop knew, he’d told me, and I’d told her. We both came up with a standard response like “I really don’t know anything about that, and shouldn’t, so please don’t talk to me about it. And I promise you that I will never repeat what you’ve just said to me.” And then keep your word.
    *putting away soapbox 🙂 *

  7. 7 Eric Nielson August 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Hey Scott, great advice there. I am glad you felt comfortable posting it.

  8. 8 Paul September 6, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Eric, I just saw your post. I think your observations are spot on (as are Scott’s); many could also apply well to an executive secretary as well as a clerk.

    My first turn at ward clerk was while I in a “family” ward while attending BYU. The bishop (also a student, but more “mature” than me) told me I would function as his counselor with responsiblity for clerking. It was empowering and scary at the same time.

    I had a membership clerk who was tireless. As the family ward, we got all memberships sent to our ward boundaries, and then he sorted (by calling them all) who should go to a singles ward (there were four or five of them within our boundaries) instead. It was a thankless job which he performed with remarkable reliability and efficiency. He really taught me by his example what kind of contribution an effective clerk can make, and I will always be grateful for that lesson.

  9. 10 cj February 12, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    A lot of good advice. With regard to the paper waste – I recommend getting a PDF printer so that you don’t have to print to paper.

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