4.6 Ward Council Meetings
The ward council meets regularly (at least monthly). The meeting usually lasts 60 to 90 minutes.
The bishop presides over the meeting. If he is absent, he may assign a counselor to preside. However, major decisions are not made in the bishop’s absence.
As recommended by the ward mission leader, the bishop may occasionally invite full-time missionaries to meet with the ward council.
Priesthood and auxiliary leaders attend ward council meetings in two capacities: (1) as ward council members who help the bishop address needs and concerns in the ward and find solutions and (2) as representatives of their organizations. These leaders seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost as they unite in love and concern for those they serve.
Ward council meetings should focus on matters that will strengthen individuals and families. The council spends minimal time on calendaring, activity planning, and other administrative business.
During the meeting, the bishop explains each matter being considered, but he does not normally decide how to resolve the matter until he has heard the discussion. He encourages discussion without dominating it. He asks questions and may ask particular council members for their suggestions. He listens carefully before making a decision. These discussions should foster a spirit of inspiration.
Council members are encouraged to speak honestly, both from their personal experience and from their positions as organization leaders. Both men and women should feel that their comments are valued as full participants. The bishop seeks input from Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary leaders in all matters considered by the ward council. The viewpoint of women is sometimes different from that of men, and it adds essential perspective to understanding and responding to members’ needs.
After open discussion, the bishop may make a decision, or he may wait to discuss the matter further with his counselors. After he makes a decision, council members should support it in a spirit of unity and harmony.
If council members have strongly unsettled feelings about an important decision, the bishop may wait for another council meeting to consider the matter further and seek spiritual confirmation and unity.
Council members must keep confidential any private or sensitive information about members, families, and subjects that are discussed.
Under the bishop’s direction, the executive secretary prepares an agenda for ward council meeting. The bishop invites council members to contact the executive secretary to place items on the agenda. The executive secretary may also suggest agenda items, including those from previous meetings that may need additional discussion or follow-up. The executive secretary may also prepare a calendar of upcoming ward events for council members to review.
A list of items that could be included on the agenda is provided below. The bishop should not try to consider all of these items in every meeting. Instead, he prioritizes each meeting’s agenda to address the most important matters first. Rather than discussing too many subjects in a superficial way, it is better to focus on a few that will bless the most individuals and families. The bishop relies on inspiration to know which subjects matter most at a particular time.
Undertaking a Course of Action
The ward council seeks inspiration in developing a course of action to bless the lives of members. The council’s focus is on helping people, not administering programs.
Priesthood and auxiliary leaders use their own leadership meetings to review ward council decisions and enlist the help of other leaders and teachers in their organization to fulfill council assignments. Similarly, the ward mission leader holds a missionary coordination meeting with the full-time missionaries and ward missionaries to carry out the decisions of the ward council. This work in the organizations is an extension of the spirit and purpose of the ward council.
When undertaking a course of action, council members should be careful to avoid overburdening individuals and families (see Mosiah 4:27; D&C 10:4). Each member’s first priority is to his or her family. The ward council ensures an appropriate balance between the member’s family obligations and his or her responsibilities in the Church.
Ward council members regularly evaluate each course of action and report on their assignments. In most instances, progress will require sustained attention and follow-up assignments.
Responsibilities of the Ward Clerk
The ward clerk keeps a record of assignments and decisions made during ward council meetings. He makes sure that information used by the ward council is accurate and timely. He provides the most recent copies of the New and Returning Member Progress form. He also provides relevant statistical information from Church record-keeping software. He takes initiative to inform the bishopric and ward council members about information he finds in these sources rather than waiting for them to ask him.
Other responsibilities of the ward clerk are outlined in Handbook 1, 13.4.2.
Responsibilities of the Executive Secretary
The executive secretary prepares agendas for ward council meetings as outlined in 4.6.2. The bishop may also ask him to help follow up with ward council members on their assignments. In addition, the bishop may ask him to obtain reports from ward council members on the status of investigators, new members, members returning to activity, and other matters.
The executive secretary can provide continuity between the ward council and the priesthood executive committee.
Other responsibilities of the ward executive secretary are outlined in Handbook 1, 13.4.4.