Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
When a Youth is called into her class presidency, it’s often her first experience as a leader. She has frequently never held a calling or chosen counselors and may not really understand what is expected of her. It may seem to her to be a show-off position rather than a sacred trust, or she may feel shy and inadequate.
A bishop can start the process of turning teens into leaders when he issues the call. He should take a few extra minutes to explain the eternal consequences of the calling and how it can affect the other youth. He should also explain to the new president how to choose counselors and a secretary. The natural instinct is to simply choose her best friends. Instead, she should think about the needs of the calling and select people who can or who can learn to do the jobs. She should select people with different skills than she has, in order to make sure someone is good at each task. She should also take into consideration the growth needs of the girls in her class. Who has never had a calling and should have the opportunity? A brand new convert, for instance, can do a secretary’s job and will have an opportunity to learn how church leadership works. While she doesn’t have experience, the calling can be issued for her own growth.
The adult leaders then continue the process. They can include leadership training in their lessons, but can also hold a brief training at the start of each presidency meeting. The youth need to know how to plan with a purpose. Activities are not meant to have fun—the world can out-fun the church any day. Instead, they’re meant to teach a lesson and increase testimony. If it happens they are also fun, that’s great, but the purpose should come first. Teach them to ask, “What do we want to have happen in the lives of our youth?” and then choose an activity that will cause that to happen.
Evaluation is critical. I’ve often seen teens, when asked to evaluate the activity, chant, “It was good and everybody had fun.” This is not an evaluation. Ask them if everyone really had fun or if some youth sat alone and were left out. How many people came? Did they learn anything? Has anything changed as a result?”
Youth leaders should see themselves as the first level of responsibility for the youth in their classes. Help them learn to look over the roster to see who isn’t coming and let them decide what to do about it. Ask them to watch during classes and activities to see who doesn’t have friends or fit in, and again, let them decide what to do about it. They should be guided to decide that if a class member is sitting alone, they should be the first person to change their seat. Being a leader means you don’t always get to sit or hang out with your friends. By asking questions that lead them to make the decisions on their own, we help them to see and resolve problems and let them own the solution.
Your youth leaders can learn to see problems in their programs and to recommend ways to change them. This prepares them for responsible adult service in the church and in the world.