A little set up for those of you who are not familiar with my religion which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Often referred to as Mormons.
We serve in different capacities on a volunteer basis. There is no paid clergy. We have a primary which is for children ages 18 months to 12yrs. Our youth programs for boys and girls from age 12 to 18. The Young Men are also encouraged and work directly with the Boy Scouts of America. Both programs have a pamphlet with outlined projects and assignments for them to complete and earn associated jewelry or other significant sources of recognition. The projects and activities are designed to instill positive habits of clean living, resourcefulness, individual spirituality, interpersonal relationships, communication, public speaking, teaching and ultimately develop their individual testimonies of Jesus Christ as their Savior.
In Young Women's the program is called Personal Progress. Which is exactly that. Every activity and project is designed to allow the young woman to progress and grow in seven different value areas. It generally takes a young women a couple of years to earn it.
As leaders in the YW organization, we are instructed to encourage and provide opportunities for the girls to work on their Personal Progress and to appropriately acknowledge their progress. It's a fun challenge and often very difficult and time consuming to complete. It's certainly something that one could compare to a young man earning his Eagle in the scouting program.
I've been blessed and lucky enough to serve for several years in the YW program in various capacities. When I was first called several years ago, I was wary. I didn't even LIKE girls let alone have to work with them at least twice a week? Sundays and then one evening a week for activities? And don't get me started on a week of camp with them. Wary, indeed.
One Sunday with them is all it took. I was instantly in love. With every single girl. From the youngest 12 year old to the oldest 18 year old. In love. And an instant testimony of the importance of the program.
The past couple of weeks, it's been on my mind. I've quietly observed our girls. I've put a lot more thought into our personal interactions and then spent time thinking about each girl. Her strengths, her weaknesses, her needs, her individual personality. Our particular ward of YW is about 25 girls, so it's easy enough to manage and get close with each girl. It doesn't take much to get to know them each personally.
Over the past month or so, a particular idea has been zeroed in my mind. Yes, I have known this truth always, but for some reason, I feel very compelled that it's of the utmost importance RIGHT NOW.
The idea, or rather the truth, is that these young women (and young men for that matter) are really and truly, the future. We are teaching them by word, and more importantly example, on how to be leaders. One day, my little Mia Maid who is 14 years old now, will grow up and be a YW leader herself. How will she know how to lead? How will she know how the organization is supposed to be run? How will she know to step out of her comfort zone and love girls that are younger and much different than herself? From the simple act of conducting a meeting and teaching a lesson, to the more complex of prayerful decisions for the organization, the administration of the organization and following the rules in the handbook. How will she know these things?
Quite simply from us. From her leaders. From the other adults in her life that set the example and give them opportunities to practice and serve. Too often, we are afraid to let our children fail, and that extends to our ward children that we have stewardship over. Too often we forget that they don't know. In fact, that was one of the mistakes I made as a parent. Without realizing it, I was assuming that my kids just knew stuff. I don't think I am the only one guilty of that. And I certainly appreciate my children who kindly brought that attention to me, and now I am responsible for acting on it. I no longer have children in my home to raise, but the principle applies.
In fact, whether or not you or a member of my same religion, doesn't the truth apply regardless? Each one of us have interaction with young people on some level. As a parent, teacher, aunt/uncle, grandparent, teacher or friend. And all children need to be taught the same leadership principles. It might not necessarily apply to their religion of choice, but it most certainly applies as members of a community. As part of society. As one who will be a future adult, one who votes, leads in their areas, and determines the course of their individual circles of influence.
It has struck me hard the past little while and caused me to assess if I am fulfilling this stewardship responsibly. Am I following the rules, being organized, reaching out, conforming to the particular guidelines my church has outline for the program? Where can I improve?
With the world moving at a neckbreak speed, we have no time to waste. We don't have the luxury of relying on someone else to do this. We have to step up to the plate. It's crucial. It's not something to be approached haphazardly, but instead with a zeal and passion, and a belief that you are INDEED making a difference for the future simply by teaching, leading and being an example of how things should be done to the young people with whom you interact or whom you have stewardship over.
This past week we had our annual YW Christmas party. Now one would think, with a party, what is taught?
1. Traditions are important. For several year, our girls have gone out and tied Christmas ribbons on each mailbox in our neighborhood. Service is taught.
2. It's usually cold. We can do things that don't seem particularly fun or comfortable.
3. They go out in groups of 3 or so. Learning to work together and to be as efficient as possible.
4. We come back to the church for a simple dinner. They learn that things don't have to be super fancy to be special. Homemade soup and rolls teaches the importance of learning some basic homemaking skills. Simple decorations teach that they don't have to be "over the top" with decor to make a room fun and cute.
5. An organized table that is designed to allow several girls to serve at once. Lesson in organization and efficiency.
6. Unassigned seating. Learning to reach out to someone who isn't sitting with anyone and including them in your group. Befriending, socializing and the importance that everyone is important.
7. Noticing which girls are missing and texting them to let them know you miss them. Teaching to notice the girls not there and then reaching out to let them know you miss them and wish they were there.
8. A DVD of our pictures of activities throughout the year. Lesson in learning to laugh at ourselves and sometimes our silly pictures. Sadly, we mostly had camp and very few of other activities. Lesson in the importance of documenting your life. Pictures included as well as journaling.
9. A small and simple gift. The girls each received a simple Christmas tree ornament with their name painted on it. Lesson that gifts don't need to be elaborate, just personal.
10. When the activity is done, everyone tends to jump in and help clean up. Lesson that many hands make light work, and that simply walking away means someone else is doing the lions' share of the work. We all enjoyed the activity, we can all take the time to help clean up.
Clearing a Christmas party has become a learning experience. That should happen each and every single time we interact with our youth. No matter the event, they are learning from us. Our examples, our words, our attitude's A heavy responsibility to be sure, but is absolutely critical since these young people will some day be the leaders and if don't teach them the right way, we could likely be headed for chaos of some kind. Not just in our respective religions but in our world and society as well.
I love my opportunity to serve with the YW. They are amazing girls who never cease to astonish me with their level of maturity and willingness to serve and learn.
I can only hope I live worthy enough to continue to be with them. I love them to the moon and back. Every last one of them.
( I didn't know how to set the timer, so I had to do a different pic with me in and with TeraAnn's awesome hat!)