“Tips for Serving Effectively,” Ensign, Feb. 1999, 28
The obligation we all have to serve in our communities is in reality an opportunity given by our Heavenly Father. When we approach it in the right spirit, with the right principles and goals in mind, we will bring blessings into the lives of others and enrich our own lives as well.
Approach service in your community with no thought of any particular benefit or personal opportunity except to make your city or area better.
Assess your own talents, abilities, interests, and time, then volunteer to serve where you believe you can make a contribution.
If you don’t know where to begin, investigate opportunities that will allow you to fill a need. In most areas there will be an agency or organization that maintains a list of service opportunities. Newspapers and schools may also offer information about needs that can be filled. Ask friends in other churches about the service projects they are involved in.
Give your support to an existing program where there is already an organization in place to meet a need. Go to service clubs or the city government and ask if there is some way you can help with a particular problem; if they know of no existing program, you may want to consider starting one.
When you enter into any community service activity, expect to meet good people and make new friends—and you will. Expect to find people who share at least some of your values—and you will.
Focus on the beliefs or attitudes and practices you have in common with others who serve in the community, not on differences. Whatever they may feel or express about Latter-day Saint beliefs or practices, let them see your desire is to make the community better.
Let your works prove your commitment; let your consistent, dedicated service speak for itself. Be patient if it takes time to build credibility, to prove you’re not there simply to do missionary work.
Reach beyond your friendships in the ward or branch when you socialize and serve. Help dissipate untrue impressions that Latter-day Saints are a closed society and do not enjoy friendships outside the Church.
Remember, “be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). One kind word, one friendly handshake can go a long way toward bringing about good.
Learn to express disagreement with civility when principles require you to express a different perspective; yet maintain your ability to work with people on the basis of principles that you agree upon.
If you are concerned about taking time away from your family, find ways to involve them in service with you. They will be blessed by it just as you are.
Be a regular volunteer if possible. If it is not possible, be willing to contribute whatever you can. Even a little bit will help.
Support your spouse in community service. His or her contribution can be greatly enhanced by your cooperation, and those who support are serving too.
Learn the pure joy of giving anonymous service. When you thoughtfully, sensitively, and prayerfully consider your course, your actions can change lives for generations, especially the lives of those who are embarrassed or reluctant about seeking or receiving help.
Don’t try to make your involvement in community service a missionary opportunity. Others are often wary of Latter-day Saint attempts to proselyte them, and if you fulfill their expectations in this regard, it puts barriers between you and them. Be assured that if you simply serve diligently in a Christlike manner, they will notice. You will be advancing the cause of the gospel whether or not they join the Church.
Try not to be judgmental about other people who may be involved in the service activity or organization you have chosen. Many people who do not share Latter-day Saint views on all moral issues or who lack knowledge of God or a testimony of the Word of Wisdom are good people whose service is also accepted and blessed by Heavenly Father.
Try not to be judgmental about the people you serve—their lack of responsibility or motivation about getting a job or changing other circumstances in their lives. That is not the attitude with which Christ rendered service—He knew their hearts and minds.
When other Church members are involved in the same service activity with you, you may want to avoid the use of Church titles—“brother,” “sister,” “president,” “bishop.” These tend to divide a group into those who are Latter-day Saints and those who are not.
Don’t hold impromptu meetings about civic projects at church, thus shutting out of the discussion and decision-making process those volunteers who are not Latter-day Saints.
Do not offer to commit the Church or its resources to an activity or project without authorization of the proper priesthood leader.
Be careful not to promise more than you can deliver, either as an individual or when a Church group is taking part in a service activity. Doing so can cause disappointment and ill feelings.
When your words or actions are motivated by your personal philosophy or your personal political beliefs, be careful not to leave a mistaken impression that they reflect Church doctrine.
When dealing with political or other controversial issues or campaigns, be careful not to let passion or emotion in a cause or a principle overpower the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, the ethics of right and wrong, or clarity of reason.
Be extraordinarily judicious about using the scriptures—particularly Latter-day Saint scriptures—in political discourse or discussion. They likely will not carry any moral authority with those who are atheistic, agnostic, or of other faiths. In fact, the scriptural texts may have a negative impact.
Church leaders have taught that we each have an obligation to serve in the community. How do you see yourself appropriately fulfilling that obligation?
If you have the health and time at this season of your life, do you seek out opportunities to be of help without waiting for someone in a Church leadership role to call you to service?
When people who profess principles of righteousness do not take an active role in setting community standards, then whose principles shape those standards? Will you feel comfortable and secure with lesser standards?
Research has shown that contact with individual members is by far the best introduction to the Church, whether people are proselyted or not. Do you make a good first impression?
Do you understand that everything you do reflects on the Church even though you may not represent the Church officially?
Can you be a good follower? Will you serve loyally and responsibly under the chosen leader in your activity or project, offering all your strengths in the effort to make it successful?
If you live in an area where there is a strong concentration of Latter-day Saints, do you take pains to include your friends and neighbors of other faiths in community service projects? Is your thinking and planning inclusive or exclusive because you turn only to those you know and ordinarily rely on in your LDS setting?
If the type of service you have chosen is politically oriented, is your orientation toward community betterment—or partisanship? Can you keep the establishment and defense of good principles as your goal rather than the ascendancy of your favored candidate or cause? Can you give diligent service with the people devoted to this candidate or cause while maintaining your loyalty to gospel teachings?
Have you taken advantage of opportunities to meet and even get to know some of your government leaders? Could you be more effective as an advocate for community betterment if you did so?
Do you basically react in opposition when you see a significant issue or problem in the community, or are you prepared to offer a productive and workable plan that can help resolve that issue or problem?