Service Member Group Leaders

group leaders

 

In today’s complex world, there are an ever-increasing number of Latter-day Saint service members who are deployed around the world. Many times they are aboard ship or in locations where they are unable to attend the local ward or branch. In such cases, service member group leaders should be called to look after the welfare of the Church members. This section covers guidelines for calling service member group leaders and the duties and responsibilities of the group leader.


Guidelines for Calling Service Member Group Leaders

These guidelines help answer three important questions: (1) What is a service member group leader? (2) Who calls a service member group leader? and (3) When should a service member group leader be called?

What Is a Service Member Group Leader?

Church members in the military often serve aboard ships or are deployed to locations where there are no wards or branches. To help meet the spiritual needs of these members, service member groups are organized with a Melchizedek Priesthood holder selected as the group leader from among the military members. Sometimes military members are restricted to the military installation because of training requirements and are not allowed to leave the base to attend Church meetings at the local ward. If only a small number are affected by this restriction or if it is a short-term situation, then a service member group should be formed to meet the spiritual needs of the group. However, if the situation will be a long-standing restriction, such as recruits attending basic training, then consideration should be given to establishing a branch.

Who Calls a Service Member Group Leader?

Presidents of stakes or missions that encompass a military base are responsible to call and train service member group leaders. The stake president or mission president should also provide the group leader with a Certificate of Appointment and a letter that outlines his responsibilities and authorizes him to preside over the group and conduct meetings.

When Should a Service Member Group Leader Be Called?

Group leaders should be called under the following circumstances:

  • When a military base has units with a wartime mission that could require personnel to deploy on short notice. In such instances, the group leader should be called and trained before he is deployed; doing so after deployment is generally not feasible. Since it is unlikely that an entire base would deploy together, group leaders should be called for each military unit where Church members are assigned.
     
  • When there is no established ward or branch that meets on the military installation and military members are restricted to the base. This is usually the case with new recruits attending basic and advanced training. In such instances, a group leader should be called to oversee the Church programs.

Service Member Group Leader Responsibilities

In today’s complex world, there are an ever-increasing number of Latter-day Saint service members who are deployed around the world. Many times they are aboard ship or in locations where they are unable to attend the local ward or branch. In such cases, service member group leaders should be called to look after the welfare of the Church members. This section covers guidelines for calling service member group leaders and the duties and responsibilities of the group leader.

Duties and Responsibilities of the Service Member Group Leader
  • Represent the Latter-day Saint service members at your location and establish a liaison with local military authorities.
  • Contact the unit commander and the senior chaplain at your deployed location to receive permission and guidance concerning holding Latter-day Saint services and to arrange meeting times and a meeting location for the group.
  • Provide a copy of your certificate and letter of appointment to the unit chaplain. This authorizes you to function as the lay leader for the group.
  • Identify and contact Church members in your unit and at the same deployed location. The chaplain may be able to assist in providing a list of those who have identified themselves as Latter-day Saint on the Alpha Roster.
  • Plan and preside over group meetings and activities.
  • Conduct a weekly sacrament service to give members of the group the opportunity to partake of the sacrament. Members should be asked to prepare and give talks on a gospel topic. Ensure that the dignity of this worship service is maintained in both word and deed.
  • If time and conditions permit, hold Sunday School, priesthood, and Relief Society meetings.
  • When feasible, organize home teaching to ensure that all members of the group are contacted and strengthened often (daily, if needed) throughout the deployment period.  
Reporting Procedures
  • Report meeting attendance and activities to the bishop or to the stake, mission, or area president, depending on where the group is located and the local Church organization.
  • In addition, report names of group leaders to the Church Military Relations Division (pst-military@ldschurch.org) so they can maintain a current roster of group leaders and contact information. They can also assist in forwarding reports to the appropriate priesthood leaders.  
Group Leader's Kit and Other Church Materials
  • Obtain a Group Leader's Kit and supplies needed by the group from the stake or mission president before you deploy.
  • If deployed to locations where stakes or missions are not organized, contact the Church Military Relations Division. They can assist in providing names of priesthood leaders and coordinating required support and resources.
  • The unit's chaplain may be able to supply sacrament cups and other materials as well, even if he is not a Latter-day Saint chaplain.
Convert Baptisms and Aaronic Priesthood Ordinations within the Group
  • With permission from the stake, mission, or area president, interview candidates for baptism and advancement in the Aaronic Priesthood and make recommendations to the priesthood leader.
  • If approved by the priesthood leader, oversee the baptismal service and priesthood ordination as directed.
  • Complete the Baptismal Record (form 35919), Confirmation Record and Baptism and Confirmation Certificate (form 35920), and Aaronic Priesthood Record and Certificate (form 35857) as appropriate and forward a copy to the mission office responsible for the military installation where an individual is permanently assigned.
Calling a New Group Leader in a War Zone before Returning Home

Recommend to the stake, mission, or area president names of worthy priesthood members to serve as a group leader after your departure. If you are deployed to locations where it is not feasible for the stake, mission, or area president to call and set apart a new group leader (for example, war zones), these presiding priesthood leaders may authorize a Latter-day Saint chaplain (if one is assigned to the deployed location) or the departing group leader to act in their behalf.

What If There Is More Than One Group Leader at the Deployed Site?

When more than one military unit with an organized service member group is deployed to the same location, one of the group leaders will be chosen to preside over the combined group. The stake, mission, or area president will make the selection, unless they authorize a Latter-day Saint chaplain to act in their behalf. If the group leaders are unable to contact the appropriate priesthood leader, the group leader holding the highest priesthood office and the highest military rank should assume responsibility for the combined group, and the other group leaders should serve as his assistants until contact with priesthood leaders can be made.

Things a Group Leader Is Not Authorized to Do
  • Collect tithing or other Church donations. These donations should be made to each member's home ward. They can also be sent directly to Church headquarters if the members are new converts.
  • Baptize individuals or ordain members to offices in the Aaronic Priesthood, unless the group leader has been authorized to do so by the stake, mission, or area president.
  • Interview members for or ordain them to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Latter-day Saint chaplains may interview a person for advancement to the Melchizedek Priesthood if authorized by the stake, mission, or district president.
  • Serve as a judge in Israel with regard to unresolved serious transgressions by a member of the group. The group leader can assist in helping a member through the repentance process but does not have the keys to resolve transgressions that would normally fall under the responsibilities of a bishop or stake president. Therefore, the group leader should seek guidance from the stake, mission, or area president in these matters. Generally, these cases would be referred back to the individual's home bishop or stake president.
For More Information

For information about group leaders, see Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops (2010), section 10, and Principles of the Gospel (military scripture set), pages 4–8.
For answers to questions about group leaders or resources, contact Military Relations at 1-800-453-3860, extension 2-2286, or e-mail PST-Military@LDSChurch.org.  


Group Leader Locations

Group leaders are in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Djibouti, Diego Garcia, Oman, Uzbekistan, and ships at sea. Group leaders are also in Kosovo, Korea, Okinawa, and Japan. Because of military security concerns, we are unable to post more specific information online, but please contact our office for specific information.