Surviving Primary: Watchful in His Care

By: Hedgehog
April 11, 2013

noahs arkDo you always enjoy your church callings, or sometimes do you find that it’s just one of those days? A few weeks ago I was having one of those days with Primary.

As a counsellor in the primary presidency my responsibilities are the teachers and music. We have great teachers, who always let me know if they will be away, and a music leader the children love, but as a YSA isn’t always there. I love looking after my teachers and music leader, I enjoy the children less. On a monthly rotation I have to take my turn at conducting the opening exercises, and running sharing time. And I get to be pianist, the part I enjoy the most.

This year we have the afternoon slot, and since we don’t start until 2.00pm, the children are already pretty tired because sacrament meeting is first, and primary doesn’t even start until the time school would have finished for the day. And this particular week I was busy: the sunbeam teacher had called in sick the day before, it was my sharing time, and the music leader was away.

Classes come first, and standing in for the sunbeam teacher the lesson was ‘I am thankful for animals’, including the story of Noah’s Ark. I knew the nursery had a Noah’s Ark with animals and planned to borrow it, and I’d texted the parents requesting the children bring a favourite toy animal to talk about. With only two sunbeams it’s a long 40 minutes; it was pretty obvious who was in control, and it wasn’t me. We were talking about different animals when the eldest of the two decided we were going to play ‘Simon Says’. I can make this work, I thought: Simon says bark like a dog/purr like a cat. But then suddenly it wasn’t my turn to be Simon. ‘Simon Says jump’ shrieked the eldest. ‘Which animal can jump?’, say I trying to rescue the lesson? ‘A kangeroo’, they shrieked. We moved on to Noah. The ark had an eclectic collection of animals, most of whom had lost their significant other, and some of whom had obviously migrated from elsewhere (care bear?), and why is it these toys only house the more exotic creatures, what happened to the horses, cows, goats and pigs? I launched into the tale. The sunbeams decided they were going to be mermaids (yep!) swimming in the water around the ark, and resisted my attempts to suggest that dolphins or fish would be good. Mermaids it was, as the ark bobbed up and down on the water. The telling of the story got particularly tricky when the parts of raven and dove had to be played by the blue and pink toucans respectively. Both children told me about their toy animals: a pig belonging to a younger sibling; I managed more mileage with the dog, and then my own turtle. Both children professed to want to draw and colour, but when it came to it they insisted I draw the animal, and then didn’t colour it in. Just as we were about to say the closing prayer, one child spotted an older sibling in the corridor, and had to be hauled back into class to finish. By this point I was frazzled, but as it wasn’t a fast day, no headache.

I wasn’t conducting (always fun with the dash between podium and piano), but I’ll say now that I really don’t like sharing time. The children have just had an age-appropriate lesson, and trying to keep both the youngest and eldest engaged is no small task. I try to keep it fun, but my heart usually isn’t in it. The theme for the week was Christ’s role as our Saviour, and as suggested I was armed with pictures of those who work to save lives (bearing in mind my PC tendencies in selecting the pictures I use): a black doctor; a female police chief; firemen, who probably were men; male paramedic; a lifeboat crew including a woman; mountain rescue folk, in all that gear, viewed from the rear could have been anyone; an olive-skinned lifeguard at a pool; and finally, because I knew one of the children would mention him (and they did), a picture of Prince William with his air-sea rescue helicopter. The discussion went as well as could be expected, and tied up okay, though as is usually the case, I finished well within the allotted time slot.

All the more time for music, by far my preference. The children had been learning the Sally DeFord song ‘If the Saviour stood beside me’, and this particular week we were going to be looking at the third and final (at least in the sharing time booklet) verse. True, the music leader was away, but I am always prepared for that contingency, having a large printed copy of the words, ready to stick up on the board, for all the songs we’ll be using. Except that, whilst I can copy most of the song texts from the appropriate lds.org pages, I hadn’t found a text-only version of this song on the site, and had typed it up myself. We’d gone through the verse twice when the CTR teacher piped up asking if the words had been changed for that particular verse. What? I looked through my copy at the piano, and then the words up on the board. There was no mistaking my slip: instead of typing ‘I am in His watchful care’ I’d only gone and put ‘I am watchful in His care’ !

  • Which aspects of your callings do you particularly like or dislike?
  • Do you prepare for contingencies?
  • Have you ever revealed more of your inner self than you’d have liked whilst doing your calling?

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9 Responses to Surviving Primary: Watchful in His Care

  1. whizzbang on April 11, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    I am the ward mission leader and have been so since Aug. 2011. I have been on the ward council continuosly in various callings since 2005. I want a release. like.real.bad. I like the missionaries for the most part. I don’t like dealing with the church red tape, policies and frankly I don’t like our Bishop and his counselor! haha! Our ward council mtgs are more like ward conflict mtg and he doesn’t know how to run them and micromanages us to death. The YM came up with a phrase we use sometimes, “killing the willing” I am tired and want to do something else!

    I have a vice ward mission leader who is excellent and handles stuff so it makes sundays easier

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  2. hawkgrrrl on April 11, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    “Killing the willing.” I’m definitely going to adopt that one.

    Nursery was like being on a Japanese game show: loud, unpredictable, and both physically and mentally tiring. Plus, I would leave church with a personal odor I called “nursery stink,” which was a term even my non-Mormon friends understood from their own churches.

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  3. Hedgehog on April 12, 2013 at 7:11 AM

    #1 whizzbang
    Sympathy for all those meetings. I only attended ward council twice in my life (bawled out for standing up to the bishop the first time…). I’m not a meeting person, takes me too long to process, so for presidency meetings I usually have to say I’ll think about it and then send my responses by email over the following couple of days. My husband has had to attend PEC and ward council for the last 15 years I think, he’s been YM President, EQ President (3 times), ward mission leader, ward clerk, and is a counsellor on the bishopric at the moment. It does consume a lot of time. We are lucky he works locally so doesn’t have too much travelling, but what with meetings and home teaching, and having to attend YM activities he’s only home Monday and Friday evenings on weekdays.

    I’ve been on the primary presidency for over two years now. On my second president. I see my task as a counsellor to keep things simple and running smoothly, and reign in any over-enthusiastic ideas that are terribly time-consuming.

    I’ve seen ‘killing the willing’ in action.

    #2 hawkgrrrl
    I had two stints in nursery, and it was grim. I always finished with a migraine.

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  4. Mike S on April 12, 2013 at 7:47 AM

    My current calling is my favorite in the Church – Primary pianist. We have enough kids for a Jr Primary and a Sr Primary, so I spend 2 hours in sharing time. Half the time I actually play some songs, and the other half of the time I sit behind the piano and read my Kindle. Then Sacrament for an hour and I’m done for the week.

    Prior to this, I was YM president – 60-70 YM, mtgs during the week and on the weekend, activities, more meetings, ward council where people would talk about whatever and then in the last 2 minutes the YM would get some assignment to fill, scouting, oh, and more meetings. It was great getting to know the kids, but nearly destroyed me and my family. I never want another calling like that again.

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  5. MH on April 12, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    I’m currently a family history specialist. Since I enjoy geneaology, it has been fun. During Sunday School, we try to help others learn to do Indexing, or try to help with basic genealogy. (I know the basics pretty well, but don’t ask me any advanced questions. I’m stuck on my own line, and don’t know how to get past it.)

    Favorite callings in the past include Gospel Doctrine teacher (twice) and membership clerk (twice).

    Least favorite callings: EQ counselor, primary teacher, asst boy scout leader, and webelos leader. I feel your pain regarding primary. I just don’t enjoy it at all, and I don’t relate very well to the kids. Our last set of webelos were especially rambunctious, and it felt like herding cats.

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  6. MH on April 12, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    I was also ward mission leader in a student stake. I got released because I didn’t want to attend the 7am meeting on Sunday morning. The Stake Mission leader didn’t seem to care that I actually went on splits with the missionaries more than anyone in the stake, and participated in New Member Discussions instead of letting the missionaries do it. He was perfectly happy to have useless WML’s who only attended the stupid meeting on Sundays. I could never figure out that, but told him that I should be released if he didn’t really care about actual missionary work. I was released the following week.

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  7. jmb275 on April 12, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    I’ve always liked working with the youth. Best calling for me was counselor in the YM presidency. I was sad when I got released from that.

    I’ve also been 11-year old scout leader which I liked okay. Didn’t care for EQ presidency much. Been finance clerk, which was fine.

    I’m currently in the SS presidency. It’s fine because I don’t have to do much, but on the other hand, I don’t get to do much. :-)

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  8. LovelyLauren on April 12, 2013 at 11:00 PM

    I did 3-4 months in primary before I asked to be released. I was with 4 sunbeams. I knew absolutely no one in the ward and the first thing they did was stick me in the basement where I couldn’t meet anyone and had to try to explain the priesthood to a bunch of 5 year olds. I dreaded Sundays and I don’t particularly like small children. I teach high school and I love teaching. I hated coming up with coloring activities each week.

    Now I’m on the RS Activities Board. It’s not that bad, but it’s pretty much the same calling I had for over a year as a YSA and I get tired of planning the same activities. It always seems to involve teaching some possibly useful skill that I’ll never use. I don’t scrapbook. I don’t photo scrapbook. I don’t coupon. Then again, no matter what we plan, not everyone is ever going to be interested. Probably because we’re not allowed to just do something that’s fun every once in a while. It has to be service-based or education.

    I would love to teach Relief Society or Sunday School or Gospel Principles or Gospel Doctrine or YW, but in two years, it hasn’t happened.

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  9. Hedgehog on April 13, 2013 at 2:22 AM

    Mike #4
    60-70 YM! Ouch. I hope you had plenty of advisors with that group. I don’t think I’ve been in a ward that had more than 10.

    MH #5,6
    I quite fancy membership clerk myself – not too likely to happen though..
    I know that feeling of herding cats.
    Bizarre they’d favour meeting attendence over actually working with the missionaries.

    jmb275 #7
    I find youth the hardest thing. I’ve been in the YW presidency a couple of times, but I didn’t understand the YW when I was one, never mind once I’d left. I always hated it.

    #8 LovelyLauren
    Why do they do that? I’ve been in this ward over 6 years now, and most of that time have been in primary. I was called as a primary teacher when we first moved in and was there over 2 years, a two year stint as youth sunday school, very brief interlude as VT coordinator, and then back to primary. I only got to know the people I worked with or was VT to. I still don’t really feel part of RS, in the way that I did in my previous ward, where I’d been RS teacher for several years, and then counsellor responsible for teaching (which basically meant teaching as there were no teachers), I did enjoy teaching RS the most of all my callings.

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