As with every leadership calling I’ve had, my best advice to anyone called as President of an auxiliary is to focus all your energies on loving those you serve and those you serve with. Supporting and relying on wonderful teachers, leaders and counselors makes all the difference in the world. These are not jobs to be done solo, not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, sometimes the hardest part of leadership is to learn to delegate and trust those you’ve given opportunities to. But everyone responds positively to love and trust and in my humble opinion, you can’t give too much of them. The returns are ten fold.
So where did I start? With the handbook. I sat down with my new presidency and we read the handbook section on Primary together – each of us taking turns reviewing and reading parts specific to our callings individually and collectively. Then we reviewed what our responsibilities were, what resources were already available from the previous presidency and our focus as newly called leaders. We all left that night with a task to think on the things we’d discussed and share ideas at our first Presidency meeting.
Let me just say, in all my callings to date (including YW President), I found Primary President to be one of the most challenging, time consuming and rewarding I’ve ever had! It seemed to me that it had similar stewardships to YW and RS in that I was responsible for the spiritual and physical welfare of my group, leadership of those helping me with that task, as well as weekly activities and special events. However, it was both of those at the same time plus a yearly Sacrament program and new baptisms as well. By sheer organization and tracking information, my stewardship gave me responsibility over 2/3 of my ward! While I had over 150 children under my stewardship, I also had a cumulative total of nearly 75 adults in teaching or leadership roles as well. Believe me, I felt the weight of this responsibility and it gave me great insight into what our leaders must feel for each of us.
I think some items are general to the needs of any Primary. Leaders and teachers should always be given the right materials to successfully perform their duties. In our ward, we provided leadership binders for each teacher. We used simple, white, 1 1/2″, view binders. The covers were simply a copy of the new year’s Primary theme. Inside each binder we included:
- A welcome letter with our Presidency’s contact information (sample: teacher responsibilities)
- A class list (sample: Manual Class List)
- Lesson schedule (sample: 2010 Lesson Sched Primary 1)
- A substitute list (a simple listing of available members and their contact information for substituting)
- Lesson manual
One note on these binders, we found it not only helpful but necessary to keep an extra one for junior and senior primaries for weeks when substitutes were not given the binders/manuals.
The presidency members also need the correct materials. I made sure each of my presidency had a section of the handbook for Primary in their materials. We also had the yearly theme and program outline as well as general information like our entire Primary class lists (including room numbers and teachers), maps of the building and rooms, leadership lists, schedules, calendars, budget information, agendas and conducting sheets and any other helpful information for our calling passed down from previous leaders. Here’s what some of our information looked like:
- 2010 Primary Conducting
- Primary President Responsibilities (each presidency member filled out their own based on handbook information)
Taking time to arrange and plan our Primary room was also a very helpful exercise. My goal was to find a way to increase reverence. I found that created three sections rather than two allowed for greater movement through the room and allowed teachers to be closer to each of their class members. (sample:RoomSetUp)
Assigning sharing time talks, prayers and scriptures is another fun thing to keep organized. Thank heaven for secretaries!! We used a system of wrist bands. The information was printed onto a piece of paper that was then cut and taped onto children’s wrists (with the help of their teachers). We handed these out each week using the method of our Primary mailbox. Each week we took a moment to see who had mail and hand it out. This mail also included special notes from leaders or teachers as well as birthday cards and wishes for our children.
- sample: WristbandMaster
One other valuable tool for me was using Google Docs. This way we all worked from the same master so when changes were made we didn’t have to update a bunch of copies or undo work others had done in making changes. The concept of Google Docs is to simply upload or create whatever files you want to share (documents, spreadsheets, etc.) to Google Docs, then invite people to view and/or edit those documents. It was a great way to collaborate and had the bonus of wasting less paper and not having to email files. My entire presidency and Bishopric found the use of this technology extremely helpful. We shared everything from stake calendars and info, to presidency meeting minutes, organization and leadership files, lists and more.
Every President will have their own unique challenges. One of my greatest, and reasons for the files I’ve created and shared here, was growth and staying on top of staffing needs/changes. My primary grew from about 120 children to nearly 200 within 4-6 months time. With so many changes, our needs and organizing were in constant flux. I found a few systems that really helped me and alleviated stress, allowing me to focus on the spiritual aspects of leadership.
To track the nuts and bolts of our organization’s staffing situation I generated a spreadsheet workbook that I loving dubbed my “Callings Worksheets.” (I used Numbers for my Mac, but any spreadsheet programs will do the same things.) I had two sheets within my workbook one was for Primary Leaders, the other was for my Activity Leaders (Cub Scouts, Activity Days, etc.)
I added a color code for any names to aid in my need to see things at a glance.
The information I tracked was key in my ability to identify and be aware of our Primary’s needs. It also provided me critical and visual information in working with our Bishopric on our many needs and changes. This information was extremely helpful and allowed me to be aware of the needs of our teachers as well as our children. The real beauty of this spreadsheet was the visual of the graph to easily see how long our wonderful leaders had been serving in their current calling as well as in Primary in general. Here’s a sample of what my sheet looked like:
Two other things I found that were specific to my calling were the Sacrament Program and Baptisms.
For our program, we sent out an invitation the week before. It was a simple half sheet that was included in that week’s sacrament program. (sample: 2010 Sacrament Program).
The baptisms were a big and special event that our Presidency took joy in helping make special. We started the year with a baptism fireside (sample program: Eight_is_Great_Fireside_Program_1_) where we gave every family who had a child being baptized that year a brief overview of what to expect as well as a special binder for each child with fun items to help them prepare for their baptism and record their experiences.
Baptism Book Files: