The Secret Stories of Church Leaders

© Mark Hayes/deposit photos

© Mark Hayes/deposit photos

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few weeks now but for whatever reason it keeps getting pushed to the back burner.  Maybe I’m slightly afraid of how it will come out, or if I can do the concept justice, but none the less, in my own imperfect way I’ve decided to finally decided to put my thoughts to digital paper.  And it starts with…

Story Time

A few Saturday’s ago, my wife and our two kids (both under the age of three) went to our local church to set up chairs for chair the following Sunday.  In the LDS church, members are given “callings” which are essentially opportunities for members to serve without pay in various capacities.  My calling happens to be “physical facilities manager” which is a nice title for “guy who sets up a bunch chairs for church.”  I’ve had it for about a month now and surprisingly I really enjoy it.  Anyway, back to the story-

So, there we were, setting up chairs in a particular room when suddenly we heard a loud voice coupled with a blinking light saying,

Warning!  Warning!  An emergency has been reported in the building.  Make your way to the nearest exit immediately.”

We both froze.  I’m pretty sure I can remember the watching the color drain from my wife’s face.  We turned around and saw the culprit of this “emergency”  Our own little “Curious George” who thought it would be fun to pull the big red fire alarm.

Who me?

Who me?

Luckily we were the only ones in the building at the time so a major evacuation wasn’t needed but we were also pretty freaked out and completely unsure of what to do.  Do we call the fire department?  Do we call the police?  Do we hide in a corner and pretend we only speak Russian?

We ended up calling our Bishop and his first counselor (the bishop is another unpaid calling in the church, he essentially oversees an entire congregation.  He chooses two counselors to assist him with this.) and they dropped whatever they were doing and came right over.

Two fireman eventually showed up and then bishop and his counselor… and then the building manager…. and then a couple of other people… and then a few other people who heard the alarms and were concerned that the church was burning down…and then…(you get the point). Finally through all of the confusion they were able to find a way to turn off the alarm.

Both my wife and I felt incredibly stupid and guilty that we had inconvenienced so many people, especially the bishop and his first counselor who I’m sure were enjoying some precious quality time with their families on a lovely saturday evening.  Not to mention how we had wasted the firefighters precious time.

But you know what?

Even if deep down they were frustrated, they sure didn’t show it.  They came and cheerfully helped us sort out the situation.  (I again want to give a big shout out to the firemen who also were very understanding and compassionate about the whole situation.)

The first counselor even joked with us to help break the tension,

“Man, if I was you guys I would’ve just ran.”  He said.

We laughed.  We apologized profusely but everyone was completely understanding.  This was very gracious of them.  They had every right to be frustrated or impatient or annoyed, but they weren’t.  They were almost the exact opposite.  Their demeanor was a great comfort to us in a stressful situation.  This may seem like such a little thing, but to two stressed-out parents, it meant a lot that they would come so quickly, so willingly, and so patiently to our aid.

The Bigger Picture

While  this is a really silly story of leader service (and pales in comparison to bigger acts of service that go on every day) it did leave me pondering about all of the times my life has been blessed by a leader in the church.  There have been countless stories when a leaders counsel, while hard to hear or hard to do, blessed my life.  Countless stories when their example has inspired me and encouraged me to do better.  Countless stories when I admired their courage for doing or saying things that may not have been popular at the time but most certainly were right.  

For the most part these specific stories stay secret.  They will never be broadcast.  They happen “behind the scenes” and surely that’s the way it should be since many of these experiences are personal and sacred.

But it does make me sad when what is broadcast is open criticisms and harsh judgements to others who serve in leadership positions.  Keep in mind these are not paid positions.  There is no monetary gain.  These are just ordinary people who have been given a tremendous responsibility.  I can only imagine how difficult it must be and at times very lonely.

Yes, church leaders are not perfect.  Nobody is.  They make mistakes.  Everyone does.

But surely, they are more deserving of our prayers and support than they are of our criticisms.

So I just want to say thanks to all those that serve in leadership positions.  Thanks for the prayers, thanks for the tears, thanks for the sleepless nights,  thanks for the countless hours of meetings and service projects.  Thanks for your sacrifices.

-AJ Barlow

One of the unique things about my church (that I mentioned here) is that Bishops and other leaders of congregations are not paid.  You can learn more about my beliefs here 

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Featured photo © Mark Hayes/deposit photos.


8 thoughts on “The Secret Stories of Church Leaders

  1. Mary

    I really love reading your blog. I’m struggling with my testimony in the church right now, but when I read what you write it strengthens me. Keep up the good work because you really are making a difference!

    1. AJ Barlow Post author

      Thank you Mary. That means a lot. I once struggled with my testimony for a while too, if you ever have any specific questions don’t hesitate to contact me on my contact page. Thanks again for the comment.

  2. Amanda

    The way you open up to us is inspiring and it helps me to know that there are other people with children that do embarrassing things. My own first child was born autistic and that child did everything. One time he dumped cardboard puzzle pieces down a public handicap toilet (oh yes where was I when this happened just one room away) and he flushed them in till they were good and stuck. The people knew that Matthew did not function like other children did and they thankfully did not charge us for what must have been a very very expensive replacement of the toilet. Handicap toilets are expensive. Anyway we lived through the utter embarrassment and are constantly grateful to all the people in our lives that make it easier by their kindness and goodness. Thanks to all of you who give a little extra when you see someone in need. Thank you for sharing it helped me to remember in a difficult time that we are experiencing that blessings are always upon us.

  3. Shelly Lee

    I’ve been one of those leaders. I was a RS President for three years, and as I look back, I know I made some mistakes. I was always appreciative of those who were compassionate and forgiving when I stumbled. To me, this is one of the blessings of living in the church. When our leaders don’t perform in a way we think they should or someone else offends us, we don’t really have the option of running to another congregation. We have to work it out with one another, if we’re going to stay committed to the gospel.

    1. AJ Barlow Post author

      Thanks Shelly. That’s one of the things I love about the church. I also love that callings and service give ordinary, regular people a huge chance to grow.

  4. Anthony in Minneapolis

    Love your message on being patient and kind with others. Couldn’t agree more. And great job on getting that message across through a personal story (my nightmare is that my kid will do that one day)! Well-done.

    1. AJ Barlow Post author

      Thanks Anthony. It was pretty stressful…but we are counting our blessings that it didn’t happen DURING church. That would’ve been a whole other story…


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