Women counseling women! Hallelujah!
From Deseret News October 5th: “Relief Society presidents and Elders Quorum presidents may take a greater role in counseling adult members. Young Women presidents may take a greater role in counseling young women. A bishop maintains his role as a “common judge” on ecclesiastical
matters and the organization leaders work under his direction.”
General Conference ushered in many changes; the most significant, in my opinion, was the enhanced role of Relief Society and Young Women Presidents in counseling members. This may come as a welcome opportunity to many or a stressful turn of events. Not all presidents are prepared to offer counsel, although in reality many have been doing this informally.
How can RS and YW leaders prepare themselves for this new role as counselor? Topics for counsel include depression, mental health concerns, abusive relationships, economics, employment, housing, transportation, education, health challenges, sex, contraception, LGBTQI, temple, garments and other topics. I offer suggestions on a few of these topics and hope readers of this blog will offer further suggestions in the comments section.
The most important aspect of offering counsel is learning to listen. A few good books on this topic are: The ZEN of Listening: Mindful Communication in the The Age of Distraction by Rebecca Shafir and The Compassionate Communication: The Healing Power of Empathy and Mindful Listening, by David Rakel. An internet search on “how to be a better listener,” “improving your listening skills” or “bad listening habits everyone should break” will bring up blogs, university communication departments, books, articles and coaches.
RS and YW presidents need to recognize the confidential nature of counseling relationships. Ground rules should be reviewed at the onset. What will and will not be shared with the Bishop? If abuse is divulged, RS and YW presidents need to know the legal obligations in the geographic areas where they live? Resources are available on the church’s website. This topic is deserving of a separate blog post.
Many RS and WM presidents may be unfamiliar with the emotional toll a faith crisis has on members and their families. Bridges, by David Ostler is good for this topic. Ostler’s website www.bridgeslds.com has many resources to aid in understanding the complexity of a faith crisis with links to books, podcasts, support groups and research to help us.
Grief is a universal experience. We are good at providing help in the immediate time following the death of a loved one. Many people would benefit from more comprehensive grief support. Stephen Ministry at https://www.stephenministries.org is a resource I find helpful. It provides training to provide one on one ministering to people who are hurting. They have resources to share at specific time points in the year following the death. There are in-person support groups available through most local hospice organizations and on-line support groups for many unique grief situations such as widows, suicide, murder, pregnancy and neonatal loss. I will share more grief resources in a future blog.
Our church is worldwide. The counsel common in one area of the world will differ from that needed in other parts of the world. Coincidentally I’ve been reading Melinda Gates’s book, The Moment of Lift, How Empowering Women Changes the World. Gates offers excellent counsel for women, young women, and those in a position to help them. She discusses issues relevant to today’s worldwide church including: maternal and newborn health, family planning, education, child marriage, women in the workplace and other topics. It’s a fascinating call for gender equality. Ms Gates is passionate about helping women.
When I served as a RS president years ago, I became familiar with the local agencies in my community. I created a notebook with resources readily available to help me in my calling. I learned that the church is not responsible for meeting all the needs or solving all the problems of its members. I also learned that the church is often the first place many turn when facing troubling times. It’s important to have resources and to understand the role of the individual, the family/friends, and the church in assisting members as they navigate life’s rough waters. Moving the counseling FOR women and young women TO women is a great step in empowering women to help each other. I applaud this move.
What resources would you recommend to RS and YW leaders to help them in their expanded roles?
What are your thoughts about seeking counsel for a RS or YW President rather than a Bishop?
Do you see this as a positive change?