Lessons Learned – Part 2
January 21, 2011 3 Comments
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part 2 of a two part post. Click for Part 1
4. Give them a seat at the table. An opportunity to lead.
One of the most impactive ingredients for our youth conferences was allowing, even empowering our youth to help plan and carry them out. They had real input into what would be taught and discussed. I have multiple examples of going into planning meetings thinking I knew exactly what I wanted done for a specific event only to leave the same meeting having changed or at least adjusted the event because of the input of the youth. They know what they need, we just need to listen.
Further, they were given key leadership roles. For example, youth led almost every family discussion. The assigned “Mom and Dad” simply listened and added their insights. The power of peer-to-peer (in the original sense) teaching and testifying is incredible. For an adult leader to teach about how the Atonement has affected her life is one thing, but it is entirely different to hear it from youth their age, someone going through what they’re going through.
In our families do we listen to our children? Do we counsel together as a family? Do we allow them to choose? Revelation can and will come through our kids if we allow them to be part of the discussion and are willing to listen to them.
5. Invite Youth to Use Their Agency
Related to the last point, youth were allowed to use their agency. They got to choose items from conference topics to what was on the lunch menu. The conferences truly become “their” youth conference. The adults were just there to serve and carry out the youth’s plans.
Do our children get to use their agency? Remember, “Agency is the detonator to the miracle of Becoming.” If we don’t step back and allow them to “test” the gospel for themselves they will never develop their own testimonies.
WARNING: Allowing our children to not only choose but to accept the consequences of their “agency exercising” mistakes can cause stress, even pain for the parents. But we have to allow it. In a world of “every kid gets a trophy” and where you can just reset the video game if it’s not going well, parents have to be strong and allow (and at times insist) that there are consequences to our children’s choices. We have to stop coddling our youth.
6. They Don’t Need to be Entertained.
I love the quote by J. Reuben Clark about teaching the youth of the church.
You do not have to sneak up behind this spiritually experienced youth and whisper religion in his ears; you can come right out, face to face, and talk with him. You do not need to disguise religious truths with a cloak of worldly things; you can bring these truths to him openly, in their natural guise. There is no need for gradual approaches, for “bedtime” stories, for coddling, for patronizing, or for any of the other childish devices used in efforts to reach those spiritually inexperienced and all but spiritually dead.
On “Our Quest” our youth had virtually no free time. Some leaders where concerned about how the youth would react to not having some time to just hang out with friends. Not once during or after the conference did we hear any of the youth complain or ask for more free time. Why? Because they are hungry for the gospel. Not in a boring, from the pulpit way, but in lessons from their own lives, from the lives of their friends. They are eager to actually have the gospel mean something in THEIR OWN lives, not just the lives of their parents and leaders.
7. Debriefing or “Reflection Discussion”
This ingredient provided the “pop” to everything we did. Lives were changed in these brief discussions. After an activity, regardless of what it was, the families got together and discussed what they felt and learned. They debriefed. They reflected. They counseled (Led by the youth). We have learned a lot from our general leaders about the importance of councils but once again the place where these principles should really be employed is the family.
Do we discuss what is going on in our family member’s lives? How many times have we heard that we need to eat together? Even the “world” gets this one right. We must discuss everything with our youth from school to dating. It is in these small moments where profound spiritual experience can occur if we recognize and talk about them.
8. The Most Important Word in the Dictionary
President Spencer W. Kimball taught that the most important word in the dictionary is “remember”. We made a huge effort to document, through pictures and video, both the Trek and “Our Quest” and those tasked with the project did a great job. (If you clicked on any of the links to pictures and videos you might argue that we “over-documented”.)
It wasn’t done to show everyone else what we did. It was done for those who experienced it – that everyone would remember. Remember the experiences, the miracles, the feelings and the commitments. We had multiple firesides after the conference to reconnect with our “families” and to remember.
How do we do in our own families? Do we reminisce about fun times, hard times, and spiritual experiences? My wife and I live in the town where she grew up. We live around a lot of family and almost every Sunday we meet for family dinner. It is like a family reunion every time. After dinner, the visiting almost always turns to “Puffer Stories” (My wife’s maiden name). Though all of us “in-laws” give them a bad time about more stories, it is a wonderful way to remember. They talk about the good and bad times, tell incredibly funny stories, share spiritual experiences and most importantly bare testimony of the Gospel of Christ.
However we “remember”, through pictures, video, journals, blogs, we must record your family’s “happenings”. It is through the vision of those memories and records that we can truly see God’s hand in our lives.
As I waved at the last bus leaving for home, I felt good. As the buses drove out of sight, we adults exchanged “high-fives” and cheered. Partly because the youth were finally out of there but mostly because we knew of the experiences in which our youth had just participated. We knew lives had been changed. As I walked down the road to my own car I had a huge feeling of gratitude for the blessings that had been poured down on our youth. It was a deluge.
Now, if I can only take the lessons and principles I learned and apply them in my own life, in the lives of my own family. If I can do that, spiritual experiences will happen. Miracles will happen.
Our quest continues.