The responsibilities of missionary work vary, and missionaries can be asked to fill a variety of roles. Perhaps the ward struggles with bringing inactive members back to activity, or the area or country has few members at all and very little leadership. How can missionaries prepare to step into any role asked of them, including major leadership positions?
A preparing missionary raised in the church, attending meetings from cradle to call, cannot always rely on what they’ve grown up with to give them enough to step straight from member to leader. It’s similar to driving. Even though you may have gone across town hundreds of times as a passenger, if you haven’t been paying special attention getting there on your own can be a challenge. A single detour or unfamiliar street name can throw you off.
The day-to-day function of a ward or branch, when going well, often looks seamless. Actually, it’s a dance of authority, respect, and reverence learned over time and through careful attention. The structures of member meetings, roles, responsibilities, and conduct of ordinances can be found in the church handbooks, which, though accessible, are often less useful in application than looking to your leaders for instruction through example.
Priesthood instruction (and sister leadership in the Relief Society) should be your first resource in understanding why things are done in the church. Though the instructions are clearly outlined, the people who put the instructions into practice can provide insight into the people skills that make these policies function effectively. Your attention and interested questions can not only help you learn, but help them improve as well.
Soft skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. These are desperately needed in the church and the world at large. Put time in before your mission to observe the way your leaders help members contribute to the ward and develop confidence in service opportunities. Where possible (and appropriate), volunteer to shadow members of the bishopric and other leaders to see how they serve and ask them questions. Be sure to ask them if they have someone else they believe you can learn from.
Begin as early as possible, with the understanding that you, like everyone, have room to grow. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is built on doctrine and imperfect people doing their very best, and everyone has something to share.