“A Conversation about Church Service,” Ensign, Mar. 1990, 79
Each year, a vast number of workers donate their time and skills to the Church through the Church Service program. To find out more about the program and how it works, the Ensign spoke with its director, William L. Pulsipher.
Q.: When did the program start?
A.: A First Presidency announcement on 26 April 1985 introduced the program to the Church, but actually the Church Service program began earlier. Its purposes were to supplement Church needs and to give members opportunities to serve. The program, first implemented in the Utah North and Utah South areas, has proven successful and is now used in many areas of the Church worldwide. An additional important change came when the First Presidency announced on 1 December 1989 that “effective immediately, all full-time Church Service workers whose assignment requires them to leave their homes will be called as full-time missionaries with an additional assignment.
Q.: How many people are involved in Church Service?
A.: More than fifty-three thousand. Most serving full-time are retired, but those serving part-time are in many different stages of life and give a few hours each week as their schedules permit. People may serve in their home area or in other places around the world.
Q.: What kinds of jobs are Church Service workers given?
A.: Church Service workers are serving in many of the departments of the Church, wherever they are needed. Many occupations and services are represented, and a number of professional people donate hours of service in their fields of training. Some examples of assignments include working in a variety of family history activities, helping locate members, serving in a variety of administrative responsibilities in the temples, and helping at Beehive Clothing Distribution Centers. Church Service workers are also serving at the Polynesian Cultural Center and in the following departments: Church Educational System, Curriculum, Finance and Records, Materials Management, Physical Facilities, Public Communications, Welfare Services, Nauvoo Restoration, and Historical.
Q.: How do individuals become Church Service workers?
A.: First of all, they have an interview with their bishop and fill out a Church Service Recommendation form, if they plan on serving while living at home. Those who will leave their homes to serve fill out regular missionary forms. On the form the volunteers list skills, interests, employment history, and availability for service and answer general questions about their health. This helps us place people in positions where they can make the greatest contribution. Missionary recommendation forms are available to bishops through the Salt Lake Distribution Center. Church Service recommendation forms can be ordered by calling our office at (801) 240-4077 or by writing to us at 50 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.
Q.: What happens after individuals send in their forms?
A.: When we receive a form, we review it and then have the department that has requested a worker review the form. We want to ensure that both the department and the individual have a positive experience. Then a “call” is issued.
Q.: From whom do “calls” and “releases” come?
A.: All calls are coordinated through the director of Church Service. Individuals who will serve while living at home receive six-, twelve-, or eighteen-month calls signed by the General Authority who oversees the department in which they will serve. Since the recent First Presidency announcement, those who serve away from home receive twelve- or eighteen-month calls from the President of the Church. Before the workers begin serving, they are set apart by local leaders—the bishop for part-time workers, and the stake president for full-time workers. Releases come from the General Authority who heads the department in which the volunteer has served.
Q.: How can Church members find out about service opportunities?
A.: A good place to start is to talk to their bishop or stake president. We provide a monthly listing to priesthood leaders that shows Church Service openings. We can also provide suggestions of what people might do, and if a person has specific skills he or she would like to contribute, we can often arrange a special assignment.
Q.: What is the relationship of the proselyting missionary program to the Church Service program?
A.: Church Service does not decrease the need for or emphasis on proselyting missionaries. But for people who have filled proselyting missions or who can’t go for some reason, Church Service is a good option. Church Service workers have many of the same opportunities for service as proselyting missionaries; the program provides a way for them to express their testimonies, their devotion to the Church, and their love for their fellowmen.