Teaching the Youth

We’ve talked about this before: How do we reach our youth? My bishop, who is also my husband, has just called me to teach the 16-17 year olds. I’ve done it before, and found that to do it well, I needed to put about 10 hours of preparation into the class every week.

I approach it with a bit more trepidation now, because I know all of the kids I’ll be teaching. About half of them are on the brink of leaving the Church. Some have announced that they plan to leave when they’re eighteen. My own son, who will be one of my students, declares every Sunday that he hates Church.

Ideas are appreciated, but I also want stories. Some of you chose to become inactive when you were in your teens. What precipitated that decision? If you returned to activity, what motivated you to do that? What would have helped you? Did you have a stand-out teacher who managed to actually get you interested in the gospel?

I am planning on using _Preach My Gospel_ liberally, and using the manual only as a guide. I will be inventing games at least twice a month. I’ve made a list of core principles I think the youth really need to know: their eternal identity, their relationship with the Savior, the identity of the Savior, the power of the priesthood… But the truth is, they already know the essential gospel. They have been attending Church all of their lives, and also take seminary. Now, how do we get them to care about it?

I’ve used CES videos, but they’re so dated and (as described by the teenagers I last taught) “cheesy.”

When I teach fiction, I tell my students that if their reader finishes their story by asking, “So what?” the story has failed. If the reader doesn’t care about the characters, the writer has failed. In the Church, we have often taken the easy out–using sentimental tales (pioneer histories or embellished “Especially for Mormons” gems) to generate something LIKE caring. It is a poor substitute for the real thing. Why should we care about our religion? Why do you care about it enough to endure three hours of untrained speakers?

Right now, if nothing changes, two of the six students I’ll teach next Sunday will serve missions within the next three years. The rest will leave the Church within five years–if not sooner. In accepting this calling, I have agreed to do whatever I can to help them “get it.”

I wish I could use Kevin Barney’s knowledge and get these kids excited about the available information. This particular class, as a whole, lacks intellectual curiosity, however. Several have inactive families. At least one (my son) loathes wearing a tie and says, “Whenever I get in my Sunday clothes, I have to do things I hate.”

Elder Ballard said in Conference: “You can’t text a testimony.” I think all of these kids would love to spend class time texting friends about something other than the lesson I’ll be teaching. It’s easy to complain about the challenges we face in the age of the internet–where entertainment is easily found and much funner than anything at Church. Complaints won’t get us anywhere. We need something real and forceful and true to move the youth beyond their sense that if it’s not entertaining, it’s not worth their time.

What has worked for you?

Comments

  1. On occasion, have class outside under a tree (bring a couple of thick quilts). I was an active teen, but regularly skipped Sunday School because I just couldn’t take three hours, mostly in windowless rooms on hard chairs. In fact, the only Sunday School teacher I remember well regularly allowed us these “field trips” outside. You lose the structure of a chalkboard, but there’s an intimacy to being away from the building. I teach teens now for a living and still use the outdoor class to great success.

    Beyond that, I best remember teachers who where invested in us as people. Even if they don’t stick with the church, if they can remember the feeling of love that came from your class, you’ve given them something beautiful and lasting.

  2. Margaret,

    You raise some very tough questions. I know that when I was a youth, I don’t think that I had a teacher in all of my sunday school years that cared about teaching me as much as you apparantely do about teaching these children.

    I think that your idea of using Preach my Gospel liberally and ensuring that they understand core principles is exactly what they need. The ones whom you are concerned about leaving the church may some day, if they in fact leave the churchc, be like Enos who remembered the words and doctrines that you taught them and return to the fold.

    I have never been less active, so I cannot give that perspective. But, something that I know would have had an impact on me is having a sunday school teacher come to events that I was involved in during high school (sports, plays, various other competitions) and show that they cared. A little amount of time spent outside of the church in activities that they are interested in can leave a very big impression.

    I hope this is helpful.

  3. This may seem obvious, but here goes…
    -Let them know that we (the Church) need them. It’s not just whether they need the Church or not.
    -I don’t know how involved the last Bishop was, but make sure that this Bishop is very involved with the youth. You might be able to pressure him on this :-)
    -It’s hard, but the youth of the Church need responsibilities, too. You could also pressure the Bishop to find ways to get them to serve. In our ward we have all of the various class presidencies, there are different assignments in BYC, there are other youth that help with various clerk-type duties, etc.
    -Be sincere and be truthful. They will appreciate it.

    With all that being said, sometimes there isn’t much to do. Just be reliable, love them, and pray for them. The rest is in the Lord’s hands…

  4. Rameumptom says:

    I refer you back to Elder Holland’s Gen Conf talk on “A Teacher Come from God.” (I think that’s the title). I’ve heard him state we need to set our pulpits afire, as they once were. If we tried teaching like Brigham Young, rather than like a high counselor, we’d have a better chance of saving them.

    Second, encourage and challenge them to not rely on everyone else for a testimony. Tell them that it is THEIR responsibility, not yours, to gain one. Your responsibility is only to assist them in finding it. Then offer to help them to find it, as long as they are serious about doing their part.

    Encourage them to ask tough questions, which you can research with Kevin Barney (and our) assistance on-line. Invite them to some of the blogs online, including at FAIR, where we can move some of the discussion out of the classroom and into their regular lives. Let them taste some LDS philosophy, tough questions, etc.

    Don’t be afraid to have them compare pro-LDS teachings with anti-LDS teachings. They’re going to run into them eventually, and it is better they have a faithful teacher like you to guide them through it all.

    Give them tough, but interesting assignments to research, which would require interviewing Kevin or others online, then report back to the class. They feel like spectators in something they do not fit into well. Make them participants on their own level, and challenge them to excel.

  5. Revenent says:

    The description of your class is very similar to one I had just a few years ago. My first day as their teacher I stood up and said that this class was going to be different from every other Sunday School class they’d been in, because I was going to let them determine the focus of the curriculum.

    I asked them to help me make a list of the things they care about. The list had everything from snowboarding, video games, and kissing to family and college. We refined some of the items from the list into ideas or principles. Once we had a good list of what our collective primary concerns were we made another list. This one was a list of questions (we all had about life or otherwise). By the end of class we had two goals:

    1. To take the lesson for that week and put it into the context of, and revolve it around, the primary concerns we had listed.
    2. To answer as many of those questions (life and otherwise) as we could by the end of the year.

    It took a lot of work to contextualize the lessons, but these kids became surprisingly invested in the class, and felt that they had some control over focusing the gospel on their own circumstances. Not all of them came out of that year unscathed, but many of them flourished in ways I wouldn’t have guessed.

  6. Margaret,
    First, I’d like to say “kudos” for taking this calling so seriously. I believe you are in a position to make a big difference for these youth. I know there are many, many youth leaders and teachers who do make a tremendous effort to help our youth, but, myself included, too many of us simply don’t quite have the vision of our callings.

    I don’t have a specific story to relate but believe that the key to making a difference is convey to these youth not only your love for the Savior and the gospel but also your love for them- individually. I believe it is that personal touch that makes the difference.

    Also, I’m sure you are aware of this, but despite your very best efforts, it is very likely that some of these youth will still not “get it.” You can only teach someone to the extent that they are willing and want to be taught. Don’t take it personally when these youth are disrespectful or show little interest but continue to show as much love as possible.

    When I think of the people who have made a difference in my life, it is always because of their interest in me personally and the love that I knew they had for me.

  7. I taught the youth in an inner-city branch—all the youth ages 12-18 in one class, usually with ~12 in attendance. It was awesome—kids asking and answering questions, searching through scriptures, volunteering to pray, etc.—for about 6 months and then fell apart. I had no idea what happened. None.

    Now I look back and realize that after that 6 month period my confidence was up and I started preaching, telling the kids what to believe and what they should think (which means I no longer cared what they believed or thought). I’d go back and change that if I could.

    “Whenever I get in my Sunday clothes, I have to do things I hate.” Your son…honesty, clarity, brevity.

  8. I think there are two keys to being effective in this context (beyond following the Spirit, of course). Both have as much to do (more to do?) with what happens outside class than inside.

    Revenent properly emphasizes one: Get the kids “invested in the class.” He presents a great way, one that I hadn’t thought of or used. Rameumptom has another: ” Give them tough, but interesting assignments to research …. Make them participants on their own level, and challenge them to excel.” Asking a kid to teach is easier and more common — but seldom effective. The goal should be to have each student do something during the week that leads up to the lesson. And it can’t be something assigned at the end of the prior lesson; it only works well when it comes through an individual contact during the week, in which the student agrees to do something.

    The second is in many of the comments: show that you love them. You simply cannot do that during 40 minutes on Sunday; it absolutely requires demonstrating interest during the week. Want to show my son (the one still in high school) that you really care? Call, text, or email when you see that he does something at all notable – or when you think he might. (I had a great, though necessarily brief, text exchange last Saturday with a boy in a family I home teach, starting with my text to him asking if he’d jumped yet — he’s a pole vaulter, and I knew there was a big meet). Show up to watch a couple of tennis matches. Use Facebook not just to see what he’s saying, but to post things that he’ll see.

  9. Wow! I love these ideas. What if I used a Skype thing (i don’t really know what it is, but I know it exists–and I have a desire to know of a certainty that it is real) and interview people like Kevin, whoever Rameumptom is, my husband, Darius Gray, Julie Smith, all my my fellow bloggers, basically, and have something interactive every now and again. Would all of you help me teach my class? I don’t think I’ll introduce them to anti-Mormonism, but I might use some FAIR material–if those folks at FAIR would just finish their films. I also think it’s time to invest in a projector and good DVD camera and do some film work–like have the class make a film. How does that sound? I think next week will be a “getting to know you” class–with a twist. I’ll have each member guess things about the others.

  10. My 17 year is in that state of leaving the church now. He points to everyone being too serious all the time and people just wanting him to do stuff for them with no respect or interest coming his way. I don’t know what it would take to get him to have more interest but I do know he is not interested in being preached to or used.

    Good luck

  11. So I need to learn how to text? Facebook I can do.

  12. Be honest with them.

    Love them – as a verb, not as just a passive feeling.

    Everything else is just programmatic.

  13. Yes, you need to learn to text. Of course, they’ll laugh at you when you text slowly, so very slowly, in their presence.

  14. Kristine says:

    Margaret, I’d be surprised if being allowed/encouraged/taught to make a film didn’t get them engaged. I know it’s kind of weak and psychologically primitive, but my kids seriously love it when I bake treats for them. I had a teacher in Sunday School when I was 13 who made beautifully decorated cakes for us almost every week. I don’t really remember many lessons, but I remember that teacher’s name and the sense I had of her devotion. (I’m hoping brownies from a mix have at least a significant portion of the same effect ;))

    The other thing that you can do that maybe not all of their teachers would is to find out what their real questions are and answer them honestly. I’ve found that giving permission to say what they really think about the scriptures opens lively discussions, and they can handle difficult issues a lot better than many adults can (I can tell it has been a huge relief to some of my kids that an adult could hear them say “polygamy is gross. Why did we ever do that?” without falling apart.

  15. I think that the most critical thing is to not dismiss their concerns, but to take them seriously. Now, since I know you would do that!, I think that more specifically I would have liked lessons that pushed me intellectually. Why not let them research the issues that concern them? Why not bring in primary sources from our church history and teach them in an academic way? Why not even just let them have a lesson in which they talked openly about their worries? I think that anything that sent the message that they were adults capable of having a serious discussion about serious issues would help them. What helped me most as I struggled to get over some of my concerns was to encounter faithful adults who were also knowledgable and had questions of their own, because it sent me the message that it was okay to question.

  16. Kristine–I ALWAYS bring treats. And I will quote you when we hit section 132. “Well, these are rather odd verses, aren’t they. My friend, Kristine, who is a general authority [do I need to specify that you are an authority on many general things?] says polygamy is gross. What can you think of that’s even more gross than polygamy?”
    I think we could get through the section.

  17. #14 – Showing your film is an excellent idea! If I were a youth whose teacher was involved in such a film, I’m sure that I would have thought that teacher was very cool and paid attention.

  18. It sounds like you know these kids pretty well already. If that isn’t the case, I’ve found few things as helpful as going to visit the student in their home or at one of their sporting events or something. You see things on their turf much more clearly than when they are a visitor on your turf. Kids that I thought were not very intellectually curious, when in a setting that really interested them, were completely different. It helped me to realize the ways in which my teaching needed to tailor to them, rather than thinking that they needed to behave better in my class. Good luck, MBY. You are a saint.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Wow, Margaret, I think you’ll be great at this. Your husband is an inspired bishop. And it is seriously just about the most important calling in the ward. These kids are there physically–for now–but the chances of them all remaining there are slim unless something changes. But it’s going to be hard, especially at first.

    I think you’ve gotten some fantastic advice in the thread so far. I think it’s very important not to be bound by normal convention. So I love your idea of using Preach My Gospel, of making little films, or field trip lessons. If you want to make an omelot you’ve gotta break some eggs. (I would bring food, since my class included some ravenous teenage boys, even though I’m pretty sure it was against some rule. For this age group rules are gonna have to take a back seat to what works.)

    You’ve gotta be nimble. Don’t get too invested in your lesson; if the class needs to go in a different direction some Sunday, go where the class needs to go.

    And whatever you do, don’t be patronizing to them. (I know you won’t.) That’s the one thing we all hated when my friends and I were that age–adults teaching down to us like we were idiots or still in Primary or something. If you want them to respect you as a teacher, you need to respect them as students. I always tried to treat my students like peers, not goofy teenagers.

  20. #14 – I also agree that having genuine discussions of what the scriptures say is an excellent way to spark conversation. Asking questions like what was motivating JS or Nephi, why did he write that – in other words, treating scripture study as if it were an English class – is a great way for students to hear something new and to really think about their beliefs.

  21. Nameless says:

    “You raise some very tough questions. I know that when I was a youth, I don’t think that I had a teacher in all of my sunday school years that cared about teaching me as much as you apparantely do about teaching these children.”

    I apologize. I read the original post and the first couple of comments then realized I would not have much more time before other duties called.

    I have a son who is 20 and is one of those who, during his high school years, slowly drifted to the point that he declared himself an atheist his junior year. Pretty shocking for me as his parent. I thought, maybe we just didn’t put up enough Mormon Ad posters, or play the right kinds of music, or have the right kinds of FHE, or PPIs, or…..(fill in the blank). He did attend early morning seminary for the most part without complaint but disliked Sunday meetings and going to mid-week activities. Not surprisingly he has chosen not to serve a mission. Things have improved though and we can see growth in his testimony that we think is sustainable.

    I highlighted the quote above because I think that is the big factor I can see with my son–he can tell when people care about teaching him and by extension just care about him. (Do they really listen to his questions/doubts?) He has also had to get past some of the Church culture that bugs him in order to get down to doctrines that resonate with him.

  22. Observer says:

    Hi Margaret,

    I probably fell into the category of kids you are talking about when I was in my late teens. I planned to leave the church when I turned 18, and would have without two things:

    1. I had a young men teacher who captivated us every week with stories from his life (he spent his career with the police, so had a million stories interesting to young men), his own personal conversion, the heart-wrenching experiences he had been through in his life, the times that the spirit guided him, and how he had seen the priesthood bless him or others. Looking back 10 years, if I heard that sort of lesson in Gospel Doctrine today, I would object that it is too focused on the teacher and his experiences; for me, as a young man who had been in the church and around it, but who hadn’t really felt it or lived it, the spiritual biography of an outstandingly good, Christian, charismatic man who loved us obviously was exactly what I and others needed.

    2. (which you as a teacher probably can’t do anything about) A longtime friend my age who had a lot of street cred in my book for coolness and had previously been on the road to leaving the church somehow came around, developed a budding testimony, and while he was (slowly) easing into adopting a Mormon way of life he used his influence to encourage me to give the Book of Mormon a shot, to think about what our amazing teacher had taught us, and try it out for myself.

    Best of luck!

  23. The important question to ask yourself is, “What do your students need?” Do they need to “get it?” Do they need a lesson from the manual? From “Preach My Gospel?”

    My story:

    I left the church in my youth. Church was boring. I did not want to be there. I did not want to get it. I did not want any unnecessary responsibilities such as researching a topic or teaching lesson. Church was largely a negative experience. Having an exciting teacher with an “exciting” lesson-oriented game is great if you are a church nerd. I was not a church nerd. I did not like it in a house, I did not like it with a mouse.

    Exceptions:

    In my youth, I looked forward to attending the classes of two different Sunday school teachers. One was getting ready for a mission and one had just returned. Neither of them ever opened the manual. They mostly talked to us about us, asked about our lives, etc. Sometimes we went outside, sometimes to their house, sometimes the old folks home. Anything they taught was subtle, with direct application to what we were discussing. I am active in the church again. I still miss those lessons. Church is still boring and I sometimes wonder of my youth-self had the right idea in going inactive.

    I’ve had callings to teach the youth and they are disappointed when I am released or they graduate to the next class. I always spend at least half of the class just talking to them, from five years old on up, and they like it. And I like it, and I like them. You can get to gimmicks, such as having them research or teach, later. First, do no harm. Kid first, teaching second.

    I had a young men’s leader who had a genuine respect for and belief in us. Every other leader I had, no matter what they did, always seemed to be thinking, “These kids are lazy. What can I do to make sure they ‘get it?’” He always treated us as if we were the most responsible, capable people he had met. He went out of his way to express his confidence in us. It was as if he assumed that we had already gotten it or believed that in our own due time, we would get it. Even when we did something stupid, he acted as if it was a one-time mistake—somehow offered positive praise instead of a lecture. He was one of the reasons I returned to activity in the church.

  24. Margaret, I second your suggestion in #16 that we refer to Kristine as a “general authority.” Perhaps if we say it enough, it will come to pass. It worked for Paul, didn’t it?

  25. Old guy–fantastic counsel. If you live in Provo, please consider this an invitatation to be a guest teacher in my class. Really good stuff. We’re lucky you decided to come back. It sounds like you’ve made a great impact.

  26. Steve Evans says:

    As an erstwhile teacher of youth, my only advice is that you have to keep the kids interested before you can get them interested in the church. So do whatever that takes. Slip out for waffles at your house during the lesson? Fine. Show archaic and goofy 1950 chastity videos to mock? Yes. A dash of PT Barnum and a lot of fun is what it takes, but you have got to retain the kid as a kid before you can think of dipping them in the Church.

  27. “Show archaic and goofy 1950 chastity videos to mock?” I love it! Is there still a filmstrip projector in your meetinghouse library?

  28. Nameless says:

    “I thought, maybe we just didn’t put up enough Mormon Ad posters, or play the right kinds of music, or have the right kinds of FHE, or PPIs, or…..(fill in the blank).”

    Popped back and wanted to clarify my earlier comment. I think we are sometimes looking for a formula that will ensure success–for the classroom: treats, exciting lesson, change in venue–but I am not convinced that formulas work. I think you’ve got to watch for openings and be flexible enough to take them when they come.

  29. Steve Evans says:

    JrL, yes.

  30. Molly Bennion says:

    Great ideas, yours and others, Margaret. Your kids are further along than many I have taught. Whether the Bishop’s son or from an inactive family, they may be able to parrot years of basics, but few have put it all together. Their understanding is fragmented and shallow. I hope and bet God’s relationship to evil and suffering is on your core list. Also gems like the eternal brotherhood of man and its real life implications, stewardship of the earth, nitty-gritty practical reasons for the word of wisdom as well as how to handle the social stresses it poses for some, the justice of ordinances after death, justice which gives meaning to living ordinances. I’ve found many teenagers have never explored the rationality of the gospel or the reasons living the gospel really does make life better for them and everyone else. And it’s primarily a list of yes not no. Unable to see the big picture, the 16-17 year olds I’ve taught often see wonderful non-Mormon, often Christian, lives around them and wonder why carry Mormon baggage and bother with the Church.

  31. Great idea to explore this!

    I remember when I taught the young men in Priest’s quorum, they were fairly bored and I had to wax creative. I gave a series of lessons on ant biology, their warfare tactics, how a species lived among fire ants, etc. Every head was up paying attention. My son, who was in the quorum, said these were the best lessons he’d ever had. At the time would come home and at the dinner table on Sunday night, when we share what we learned at church that day, he repeated the whole lesson to his siblings including the gospel point I was making (for example, the fire ant lesson was on how this one species survives in the fire ant’s presence (which are unusually vicious ants) by Vigilance. Whenever they meet a scout they attack the ant with a massive response from the whole nest. The fire ants never get warned by scouts that this other species is there. I made the point we do the same against evil in our lives.)!

    These kinds of lessons sprang from a time when I was being set apart as a teacher and the person acting as voice said, “Do not be afraid to share who you are.” It’s been the best and most important advice on teaching I’ve ever gotten.

  32. Antonio Parr says:

    1. Have as much interest in the kids as you do in the lessons;

    2. Don’t overwhelm them with too many issues; focus on one concept at a time, and make sure that the concept is something that really matters;

    3. Rely on the power of humor.

    4. Don’t over-testify. Save your heartfelt expressions of testimony for things that really, really matter to you. Otherwise, they may not recognize when you are ~testifying~.

    5. To the fullest extent possible/appropriate, relate lessons to real life events.

    6. Like the kids. (“Like” is better than “love” when it comes to teenagers.)

  33. Antonio–Humor is not a problem. Reining it in might be. And I will need to have much more interest in the kids than I do in the lessons, because I really don’t like the manuals. I love your ideas, though. Especially #4.

    SteveP: Please come to my class and bring your ants. Is there a video on these ants? I don’t know about the other kids, but my son loves the Discovery channel and nature shows. Did you ever see the piece about a baby elephant stuck in deep mud? The photographers just took pictures and did nothing! I almost wept.

    Molly–wonderful suggestions. I remember reading something by an Evangelical talking about Mormon missionaries. He found them charming but strikingly ill-informed about their own religion.

    Steve–I am appalled at your suggestion. Where can I get a copy of the chastity video? Sounds like something the bishop and I might enjoy mocking together.

  34. One thought, if not already expressed, is to prayerfully consider how to face crises of faith. You may not call it that in such a blunt way, but to help them see how truth that the DO and CAN know can help them face what they don’t know, or what they struggle with.

  35. consider how to face crises of faith

    I mean discuss how to face it. To fold that concept into your lessons, into the questions and truths you explore with them.

    Bless you for caring so much about this important stewardship.

  36. merrybits says:

    I during summer I hold class outside around my car. I buy those washable glass markers, drag out some chairs, and let the kids draw out the lesson all over my car. For an end-of-lesson celebration, I let them do the mentos-in-a-diet-coke bottle explosion (it’s in the parking lot so who cares).

  37. merrybits says:

    My experience with teens is simple acceptance. If nothing else, you want them to remember the love. They don’t neccessarily get that in Sacrament or Mutual. They need it up close and personal. They may leave the Church, but it will be the love they remember that will bring them back. Good luck.

  38. merrybits says:

    And it’s perfectly normal to “hate church.” Many adults would never admit it.

  39. No surprise here, but what helped me make a connection and CARE about the gospel was the precise opposite of the gooey sentimentalized stories — it was real history, the stories of real people told with enough trust to leave me with the chance of identifying the moral, not having that moral pounded into me with fake tears and unrealistic behavior.

    I’ve come across what seems to me to be might have been a wonderful approach to teaching me when I was 16 or 17. It’s an old Sunday School manual from the 1930s or ’40s (if the library was open, I’d hunt up the citation for you.) Every Sunday School lesson focused on one of the “problems of youth” (“problems” as in issues to be discussed, not as in misbehavior). A question was raised: how to choose one’s life work, whether to go on to college, how to select a mate, whether to obey the Word of Wisdom (yes, they even went so far as to present it as an option not to live the full Mormon life). Obviously there were answers the church wanted the kids to arrive at, but the manual didn’t beat those answers into the ground. Whoever put that manual together raised questions and provided the teacher with resource ideas, but expected the kids to debate all angles and answer the question individually. The authors didn’t insist on arriving at the one correct answer, much less presenting only one side. Rather, they wanted the kids to be as informed as possible on their options and the consequences of each option.

    With that kind of plan, there is no “we heard this before” — the responsibility is shifted to the class members to present their own ideas and work through possible outcomes.

  40. new seminary teacher says:

    I hoped to find some good suggestions in this post to help me in my new calling as seminary teacher. I am pretty sure that I am the boring teacher that people can’t wait to escape from. I have a deep desire to engage the students, to teach, to do all sorts of good things. Two of the class are my kids. I like all the students. I pray, I prepare, I read, etc. but most days it doesn’t seem to make much difference.

    I found the suggestions more discouraging than anything else, mostly because they are so far out from my reality. I am a quiet, reserved kind of person. I am not funny or entertaining. I am not adventurous. I don’t have stories. I don’t make movies. I like to follow rules. I like to read and do word puzzles and knit. If I was motorcycle-riding, ex- movie star, sky-diving member of the SWAT team, maybe I’d have more luck.

    There is no “just talking” with the class. They are not interested in talking with me, and I mean just casual conversation like what did you do for Easter, much less trying to get anyone to discuss what questions they have about life or anything the least bit personal. Appalled would be the most likely reaction to me texting, facebooking or emailing them. We’ve finally gotten to the point where at least some of them will respond if I speak to them at church on Sunday, like saying “Hi.”

    The class is pretty much unwilling to do anything that takes any effort whatsoever. They are not invested in their own learning and either don’t participate at all in whatever the activity is or do the minimum. It is almost a challege on their parts to see how little they can do and still get away with calling it done. They do like games and will respond to competition. I have drained my brain to come up with games. I cannot maintain that everyday, but I try for at least a couple times a week.

    One of the comments said something about the ability to parrot back answers, but that the knowledge is fragmented. I see that with my class. They know the surface really, really well, but I don’t know how to get past that level.

    The teaching helps I’ve been given or have found often reference a quote that paraphrasing says something like: Teach the students the gospel straight-up; they are hungry for the gospel undiluted; they do not need you to sneak up on them with it and slip it in. I have found that to be the opposite of my experience. They seem to only want entertaining, not learning, and if they have to learn, it better be entertaining or they’re tuned out. I seem to spend a good portion of my prep time trying to find ways to sneak up on them with the gospel.

    Sorry, this is way too long. My frustration level is high and don’t really know what to do. Press on, I guess.

  41. >The class is pretty much unwilling to do anything that takes any effort whatsoever.

    Hrm.

  42. I haven’t read everything yet, but the last comment caught my eye.

    new seminary teacher: I don’t know if this will sound nuts or not, but have you considered talking to your classes about the situation? Or even to a few students? Perhaps a discussion on why the go to seminary, what they would like to get out of it, what the worst seminary lessons were like and what the best were like. This sort of discussion between teacher and student ought to be most appropriate in a seminary context (as opposed to a math class or something).

  43. Watch the cheesy video/filmstrip, and then when they say it’s dumb, open it up as a discussion to how it should have been adapted to *their* generation and *their* challenges.

    You’d be amazed at what they come up with, and how creative they are…

  44. Queuno, yup. Works every time.

  45. merrybits says:

    I loved, loved loved being an early morning seminary teacher. I brought in breakfast everymorning – sometimes cooked it in the Church kitchen. The boys especially loved to eat. We took turns learning (emphasis on learning) how to lead music. The boys really took to it because I told them the girls really dug a guy who could lead music. I would usually bring in a newspaper article or something from the tabloids as a topic starter and intro to the lesson. Sometimes the kids just wanted to talk about their classes and homework. We would do some fun scripture memorizing for cheap prizes. I had loads of fun – and yes on Fridays we watched the old Church movies and looked for prejudice, sexism, etc…good times.

  46. merrybits says:

    New Seminary Teacher – maybe for the kid is it sounds too much like school. Just one more class to get through. You gotta step out of your comfort zone. Perhaps stop trying to “teach” and just share and then let the teaching moments come. By the way, teens love to hear personal experiences where you totally screwed up some how, or totally embarassed yourself. I was a new convert just before entering BYU and made many a cultural fauxpaus as a student there. My kids loved those stories.

  47. My wife and I were just released from the primary. I was the chorister, she the pianist. They immediately called her to teach Sunbeams. I think she is struggling with that one, though the spiritual stakes seem higher (for the students anyway) with Margaret’s situation.

    Last week she taught “God loves the fish” or something like that.

  48. new seminary teacher says:

    BHodges,
    Thanks for the suggestion. Maybe if I talk to them individually or in a smaller group I might make some headway.

  49. new seminary teacher says:

    merrybits,
    I have to say, every single person I have talked to that has been an early morning seminary teacher says they loved it and it was their favorite calling, great, wonderful, etc., etc. Maybe that’s in my future, too! I hope so, because it is not in my present.

  50. Thomas Parkin says:

    I don’t know – and I’m glad I’m not you. It seems like there is lots of good suggestions. I love what Ardis said a couple posts back. The rebels, even mild ones, the ones you most need to reach, crave truth and will know when you’re blowing smoke (or rainbows) at them.

    I know two things from frequently teaching adults that I’d also do with kids, though. First, I’d plead with the Lord until He told me what to do (say) every week. Second, I’d keep with my assumption that if I do more than 30% of the talking, I’ve done badly. (I don’t know. That might be tougher with kids – but I think it still holds. I’d rather have them talking about just about anything than me talking at them about anything.)

    I think you’re going to be great. Don’t say anything final about polygamy. ~

  51. Mark Brown says:

    new seminary teacher,

    I can sympathize. The first time I was called to interact with young people, I was petrified. I didn’t really like them very much, and I was sure they didn’t like me. Here are a few things that helped me, if you don’t mind gratuitous advice. Remember, it might be worth exactly what you paid for it.

    1. Remember birthdays. I sent a card, and then showed up at their door on their birthdays with cupcakes or a small gift.

    2. Go to the events they are involved in. Sports, school plays, band recitals, etc. Stick around afterwards to congratulate them.

    3. Be yourself. Whether it is clear to you or not, there is something important that you have to give.

    4. Be patient. These kids are in seminary for 4 years. You might only reach 25% of the class, but 4 x 25 = 100.

    5. Lower your short term expectations. They’re adolescents, and they have a lot of other stuff in their life they are trying to figure out, too.

    6. Understand that your influence might not be apparent immediately. I taught a boy in a.m. seminary who came into the classroom, put his head down, and slept until class was over. I’m pretty sure he also often stopped off for a cup of coffee after seminary. And yet, at his missionary farewell a few years later, he singled me out as a person who influenced him. You really never know.

  52. imasurfer says:

    Talk to them sincerely about your genuine love for the gospel.
    Allow the class to explore their questions and doubts about the church, and help them fill in the blanks in their understanding. This needs to be done in a nonjudgemental way, without using the “5 point answers” that have become cliche in many of our classes.

    Love them, and not in a pandering, suckup sort of way.

    They need to be lifted to a place that is almost alien to their everyday experiences. If they are allowed to, they will seek the path of least resistance.
    Listen for the moments when their guard goes down and they reveal the feelings of their hearts, however tentatively: when these moments occur, abandon the lesson if you neeed to and start teaching.

    Prepare, prepare, prepare: when the questions start coming you will cover the gospel from one end to the other.

    Pray, pray, pray: no one knows these children like our Father in Heaven, and there is simply no substitution for inspiration.

    “”When I teach fiction, I tell my students that if their reader finishes their story by asking, “So what?” the story has failed. If the reader doesn’t care about the characters, the writer has failed. In the Church, we have often taken the easy out–using sentimental tales (pioneer histories or embellished “Especially for Mormons” gems) to generate something LIKE caring. It is a poor substitute for the real thing. Why should we care about our religion? Why do you care about it enough to endure three hours of untrained speakers?

    Thank you for sharing this insight : it is brilliantly expressed, and is the nutshell of effective teaching. The gospel cannot be presented in a way that it inspires a “so what”” response.

    These are a few things I have observrd in my own teaching experience. I know that I do not have all the answers, but to the extent I have succeded in my teachiing callings, it is because of my attempts to do some of thse simple things.

  53. There are a ton of good suggestions here, I am very impressed. I work with this age group and the things I have had the most luck with are treating them like peers (as Kevin said), never giving them an answer I don’t really believe (this is dangerous), getting to know them outside of Church through facebook and going to their school events, and never giving them a lesson that is like a lesson they have had before (this is easy).

    It pains me to add, but I must, that in my experience Preach My Gospel is not going to be much more interesting to them than the manual. Maybe your MTC experience teaches you how to make PMG come to life, but I have to teach out of it and I find it very hard to use it as the basis for an interesting lesson.

  54. I think a difficulty youth face in Sunday School classes is hearing the same old, same old time after time. The regular lessons are repetitive and unchallenging. The youth know all of the standard answers, and often are frankly tired of repeating them back.

    My Sunday School class, when I was a teen in a small largely Mormon community, chased out around 5 teachers in a row; the last one actually cried because of the disrespect the class showed her (I, of course, was an absolute angel in the class).

    Finally, the bishopric assigned a recently returned missionary to teach the class, who put aside the manual entirely, and focused our class sessions on faith promoting rumors and Mormon folklore. I do not mean that he did so from an academic standpoint, but he taught them as truth. We had lessons about the three Nephites and lessons about Oija boards (and relationship to Satan).

    This solved the problem of the class not paying attention. He had us wrapped around his fingers, so to speak. And he lasted as teacher for a long time. There were no discipline problems; the class members were interested and fully engaged in the class. And I think he actually taught us a few things, here and there, that would meet correlation standards. And, to the best of my knowledge, neither that teacher (nor the class members) ever formed a schismatic church.

    I am sure there is a moral to this story. I will let others figure it out.

  55. First of all, respect them. They may be young, but they think they know at least as much and maybe more than most adults. In some cases, they actually may.

    Use technology in the class if you can, outside of class to keep in touch for sure and ask their opinions and advice on technical things.

    Food!

    I put a sign on our classroon wall that said: How can this lesson bring me closer to Christ? I had hoped the youth would look at that sign each sunday and try to answer the question. I am not sure that any of them ever did, but it reminded me to make sure that I kept my lessons Christ-centered.

    Our kids are just learning how to be in the world but not of the world. We can’t expect them to be very good at it yet. Being able to talk about their experiences without being judged is important.

    Even if you can’t make it so that every boy serves a mission and every girl marries in the temple, it is ok. The seeds you plant in your class may take longer to sprout for some of them, but the eventual harvest will be worth just as much.

  56. Mark Brown says:

    Food!

    I second what [nr] said.

    It helps if we stop thinking of it as something we bribe nursery kids with and start thinking of it in terms of something adults do for each other when they want to be nice. The elders and high priests always like the cookies or brownies they get on Father’s day. It is a sign of respect.

  57. What do you think about incorporating service learning into your Sunday School course? What if the students were allowed to identify a community need that their class could fulfill? What would happen if they started believing their service was meaningful and actually made a difference in people’s lives?

  58. Banned Steve says:

    Great post. It’s the product that’s messed up, not the customers. And there’s just not much to be done at your level. In our church it’s conform or walk. You’re students are smart, knowing they can’t change things, they’ve decided to walk. It’s unfortunete we’ll have to lose virtually an entire crop before reforms are considered that are generations overdue. I know it’s distressing. I wish I had bottom up rather than top down answers, I don’t. Sorry.

  59. Thanks, Banned Steve, that was oh, so helpful.

    I’ve just finished typing up a 1950 lesson on Sunday activities for a Keepa feature that includes the line, “there comes a time when the nvoelty of attending Sunday School is gone … Then parents and Sunday School teachers alike msut be alert to find and give guidance … that will satisfy and challenge.” This is not a new phenomenon; we never lose an “entire crop,” although to the families involved the loss of even a small few can be devastating.

    But it ALWAYS helps to exaggerate, doesn’t it? That makes everything better.

  60. Sorry for the typos; I must have been channeling Banned Steve’s terrible spelling and grammar. Bad mechanics always help make a case, too, I know.

  61. Banned Steve says:

    AP,
    G-d bless. Our activity rate for young single adults is best in the teens, more likely single digits. If that’s not virtually an entire crop, I don’t know what is. We’re a top down reform place, not bottom up. The reforms will come because we LDS will survive. They just won’t come in time for this crop. I wish I could be more positive, but it’s not in my hands, is it?

  62. One more thing:

    Teach them something every Sunday they don’t already know – and that many of the adults in the ward don’t know. Tell them directly that you are going to do this. I guarantee that can be done within the general topics outlined in the manuals, but if you want to bring in something from topics they identify and list – great. Just do it the final 5-10 minutes and not the first 5-10.

    I did this when I taught Primary, Sunday School and Seminary – with Seminary being every day. It worked, and some of the kids still talk about it years later.

  63. Margaret, I’ve got some cool ant video I’d be glad to share. Once I showed the Hight Priests a segment of a documentary of the ill fated Ernest Shackleton expedition to the Antarctic where he kept every member of the crew alive after the ship was lost (message: let’s not lose any of our ‘crew’). They were even awake the whole time. Keeping the HP’s awake, now that’s amazing!

  64. Banned Steve, the number of temple marriages of LDS in their 20s proves you wrong, as both partners in those marriages were, of course, single on the day before marriage, and active for some period before that date. Newly former singles are not the only active singles, by far.

    Provide some reliable support for your single-digit activity claim, please. Also, evidence that whatever it is you’re calling “top down reform place” is at fault. Until then this is an outlandish threadjack, my participation in which is at an end.

  65. new seminary teacher says:

    #51 Mark Brown

    Thanks for your sympathy. I’m sure it would surprise you how much that means to me. Also, I appreciate your suggestions. There are some things there that I can actually do, that don’t involve comedy skillz or other things outside my reach.

  66. Steve Evans says:

    new seminary teacher, why is developing some of those skills outside your reach? You don’t have to become a stand-up comedian, but learning how to teach effectively may entail working on some attributes that would normally run counter to your personality.

  67. ok, not much to add, but I’ve been thinking about this all day.

    Here was my three step program to sucessful sunday school.

    1. “Ok, I noticed you all think this sucks and don’t want to participate. What can I do to make this not suck and you want to participate?”

    2. Youth Respond

    3. I do what the Youth said.

    And I wound up using the manual. the Youth will be using the manuals the rest of their lives, so it’s better to show them how the manuals can be used, rather than to ignore them, imo.

  68. esodhiambo says:

    Teach the kids, not the lessons.

  69. Banned Steve says:

    AP, since you’ve made it clear there’s nothing to discuss, G-d bless. I tend to focus on root causes, not symptoms and didn’t mean offend or trendjack.

    To anyone how cares, I’ve heard the low teens to single digit activity rates from a few senior missionaries assigned to work with single young adults. Margaret’s kid says he hates church. I’d be amazed if his objections didn’t go far beyond SS. We LDS make fun of the rock concert followed by dance festival before sermon churches, but those entertaining churches are packing in the young. What’s wrong with doing anything not especially prohibited by scripture to gather the flock? 30+ years after lifting the priesthood ban, where’s our new hymn book with lively gospel songs? Where are our gospel choirs? Call and response worship? In 2009 the church should rock with praise, not be something we dread. The whole program needs to be radicalized and made alive, not just SS. And in our church, such change comes from the top down.

  70. As someone who recently left the teen programs for the big wide world of adulthood, *snicker* I’d say that the most important lesson to get to them IMMEDIATELY is the relationship between God and His church–like on a 3 Nephi 22 level. They think they want to leave the church? HA! They have NO idea what they’re even saying. Unless they want to read that chapter some day and cry their eyes out because they’ve LIVED it, they’ll repent and shape up. If they’re anything like the youth that surrounded me before I came to BYU, they have no concept that walking away from the church will be like stepping into hell. Tell them that. Be straight with them. One of my biggest problems with the youth programs is that children don’t get this enough. They see sugarcoated stories and rules they’re supposed to follow, but they have no foresight. If they did, they’d know that what they’re thinking is stupid.

  71. Banned Steve (69)-
    I think you might be surprised to learn how many of the programs and practices in the Church today started as an idea in a single ward before moving upward to the top.

  72. new seminary teacher says:

    #66 Steve Evans,

    I’m 100% in favor of learning to teach effectively and gaining skills I don’t currently have. One skill in particular I would like to get is to learn how to ask good questions. The manual questions seem to bring out the standard “pray, go to church, read scriptures,” more often than not, and my alternate questions have been hit and miss, which is better than all miss, but still. Even more than that, I would like to get the STUDENTS to ask questions and/or discuss.

    When I referred to other things out of my reach I was thinking more of suggestions like providing breakfast every morning, assigning tough research topics to work on at home or adopting a “no manual, no guidelines” kind of vibe, not an opposition to learning to be a better teacher.

  73. Latter-day Guy says:

    I think that Banned Steve is making a point… sort of. But I disagree that there is nothing that can be done. I know what would’ve made SS (and church in general) more bearable for me:

    1. Find out WHY they don’t like church. Just boredom? Theological issues? This will obviously change your approach.

    2. While it is useful to be able to use the manual, don’t be afraid to pitch it altogether. Some of the manuals are just dreadful, and dogged persistence in trying to teach from them when it’s not working shows that one is more loyal to Correlation than to one’s students.

    3. No bromides. No platitudes. Most religious difficulties (imo) revolve around the ONLY real religious difficulty: The Problem of Suffering. Acknowledge that it sucks, that people’s pains are real and significant. Saying that “Jesus suffered more” isn’t really helpful. So some guy got nailed to something… Yippee. How on earth could that do anyone any good? (Use “A Grief Observed.”)

    4. As per 2 and 3, use good materials that aren’t cop-outs: Lewis, Chesterton (perhaps), William Sloane Coffin, etc. Use clips from movies with Christological symbolism: ET, Babette’s Feast, Star Wars, Winter Light, etc. (Heck, use the whole movies!) Use Raymond Brown for NT interpretation.

    5. Let them read the un-redacted version of Poelman’s talk on the Church and the Gospel.

    … Gotta run, but those are just a few thoughts. Bless you for accepting this heroic calling! I (and I’m sure many others) will be praying for you!

  74. Latter-day Guy says:

    … and OH! I can’t believe I almost forgot:

    6. Take them to a mass!

  75. I really wish I had something to add. The calling I hated the most was exactly this one. I had the high school seniors during the last semester of school, and they were all leaving home (and probably the Church) as soon as the school year was up. I never really found a way to relate with those kids before they all left, and I was released soon after that–I didn’t have a class to teach anymore.

  76. I haven’t taught teenagers, but I’ve taught the oldest girls in primary for the last couple years. One thing I’ve noticed is the group dynamic—and maybe this is exaggerated because it’s all girls—but there’s always one girl that I think of as the hub of the wheel. She’s the one the other girls flock around. And if she’s bored and not wanting to participate, no one else pays attention, either. So I try to get that girl’s attention.

    At the beginning of this year I had a little survey I asked the girls about what kinds of lessons they enjoy most. I really put a lot of effort into making Sunday School fun for them—I want it to be something they look forward to, not dread. I talked about different learning styles and tried to get the girls to figure out what kind of learners they are. They all said they most enjoy acting things out, which we do a lot of.

    Anyway, my son is 14, and his class is probably the toughest class in our ward. A friend of mine got called to teach it and she has gone out of her way to really reach out to the kids. She visits them at their homes, drops by with cookies or whatever. One of the boys in her class recently bore his testimony and said how she has made a big difference for him and that he loves Sunday School now.

    I try to have a pizza/pool party with my girls in the summer, when we have a sharing time presentation to prepare. They love getting together outside of church and doing something exotic like visiting their teacher’s crummy apartment complex. Ha.

  77. NW Member says:

    I like a lot of the comments. I’m teaching the 12-14 yr class and trying to do my best to help them not be in that situation in 4 years.

    My 2 cents:
    Make them think about their life.
    Teach them tolerance. How the gospel is at it’s core and that there’s a difference sometimes in that and in what we see every Sun.
    Have them answer where they’ll be in 2 years. Paint both scenarios with them for that answer as to in the church v. out of the church, serving a mission v. not serving.
    Ask them if they know enough about the “truths of God” for their life. What will they teach their children when they have a family. How is life going to be marrying an LDS spouse v. non-LDS spouse. An older brother of mine went inactive after his teenage years and didn’t come back to church until married to non-LDS, nice lady, but wanted to teach the children something different. That made him defensive about his beliefs and started coming back to church to teach his children what he used to know and has since compromised with his wife and rotates Sundays with her at the 2 churches.

  78. Coffinberry says:

    I personally have a massive crop of 11s (13 of em, 8 are boys). Most are currently active, but on the edge of bored-to-tears-with-church (my daughter especially). My main method is storytelling. I tell the story, and let them pull questions from it. For example, the other day the lesson was D&C 25. I set up the background to the revelation as a story, then asked them about what Emma needed to know, and why. Then we found out the surprising things God told her. They were very excited to find those things for themselves (and they learned, that day, a little bit about footnotes, when they wanted to know what ‘elect’ means).

    I also second the idea of ‘how would you teach this’ — helping the kids think through the gospel as if it were something they were telling someone else about. What is the main idea, how does it connect to other ideas (making connections can be exciting).

    My oldest two went through an I’m-leaving phase. They came back. Partly because of good people who reached out to them (my son’s seminary teacher didn’t miss a single choir concert, for example), and partly because we gave them some room to exercise their agency while following the promptings of the spirit on when to speak and when to listen.

    Good luck, Margaret.

  79. I guess I’ll speak from the side of one of those dastardly apostates (cue evil-sounding music).

    I’m sorry to say, but I don’t know how to reach people like me (although, I think I’m confidant that most students aren’t like me, which is better for teaching efforts). But regardless, I think the problem is that there is no meaningful testimony of the basic concepts of the gospel. So everything in the scriptures or everything in the lessons sound good to say on an intellectual level (standard seminary answers, etc.,) but they don’t pierce deeply within.

    And until you can do something to get them to pierce deeply, who can blame students for not caring, not doing any work, taking the easiest path, etc.?

    Now, as I said, I don’t know how to create that meaningful testimony. Perhaps it isn’t learned in the class. The cheesy videos and prepackaged stories from lessons certainly don’t do it. Wrapped up and whitewashed history don’t do it. Not even edgy history and controversy will do it.

    As I said too, I wouldn’t know how to reach people like *me*, but fortunately most of your students wouldn’t be like me. For example, just saying…it just creeps me out if ‘adults’ try to contact me on facebook/AIM. I mean, even now that I’m technically an adult (19 and counting), there still is a divide…it’s like, sometime after someone’s mission, there is this psychological barrier that makes them “different” than the youth they could be teaching.

    At the same time, I’d see many of the suggestions here as “trying too hard,” which would annoy me. But I don’t know if that’s how most youth would respond.

    I think that in the end, things will be ok. For many of the people I know who became inactive just because (rather than from having ideological issues), they eventually came back, or they eventually became serious and wanted to repent because they still had that foundation of the church. They just needed some experience to make it real and applicable.

  80. Interesting. I’m 22, and I did not want my church leaders involved in my life as a teenager (and I still don’t, though I married in the temple and have a RS teaching calling). The thought of a teacher stopping by my house randomly is creepy.

    I do love the ideas of having class outside and mocking cheesy church movies. Talking to them about where they want to be in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years is also a great suggestion.

    One of my favorite memories of YW is when my mother, the YW president, kicked the member of the bishopric out of YW. It was for the chastity lesson and he had a daughter in the class, so my mom decided his presence would be too awkward.

  81. anotherseminaryteacher says:

    I am an early morning seminary teacher who also knits and enjoys word puzzles – are those traits now prerequisites for teaching seminary? The comments are great. Here are a few things that have worked for me.

    1) Get to know them outside of class
    2) Love them
    3) Ask them the question “So what?” Help them to discover for themselves why something is important. (Less preaching/lecturing more time spent helping them to think about, discover, and recognize gospel principles and truths and their application.)
    4) Help them to recognize the connection between what they are learning and their current/future situations.
    5) Be flexible.

  82. I’m a pretty poor teacher, but FWIW when I taught the youth I found that two things would hold their attention:

    1) Stories from my own life of my own struggles in (or with) the Gospel. (And not necessarily stories about how everything worked out just fine in the end — sometimes the struggles were ongoing, and sometimes the ending wasn’t good but strengthened my faith anyway.)
    2) Anything even vaguely sexual in nature. (I bet the one thing they remember from my Old Testament class 10 years later is David delivering 200 Philistine foreskins to Saul as his daughter’s bride-price.)

  83. I taught deacon’s quorum for four years. The best comment I ever got was when one boy said to another, “Shut up and listen to Brother W. ! ” What a lift.

    I divide the world into the metaphysical and the existential. Metaphysical lessons are horridly boring to adolescents unless you are talking about the rapture and the destruction, death and suffering of the second coming. You end up talking about stuff in melodramatic ways that have no relationship to anything in their lives.

    Existential lessons are much more interesting. What is real and here and now. No varnishing the problems of being a kid (or an adult, for that matter). Talk about life, the future, growing up. Talk ants, chemistry, tech, hiking, anything, because it all has connection to religion at some level. Then make the connection.

    Of course, sex and marriage.

    I have observed that children seem to have no real connection to the gospel. That connection is made in the years between 12 and 18. If the Church connection is made then there is a chance. The connection is made when it is demonstrated that the Church is relevant in kids’ lives in concrete and existential ways.

  84. Just one other comment. The church is an organ of the political right. We know that youth is moving to the political left. There will be fallout in terms of church activity and it will be mostly among the bright and thoughtful and curious.

    How can a right-y teacher teach left-y kids?

    My observation is that in California Prop 8 was like grape shot through the late teens and early twentys.

  85. These are such wonderful comments–and I’m so glad others have been helped by them besides me. Btw, to BobW–I would be considered a left-y. My son really has had a hard time with remarks from his Provo friends when he, for example, wears a shirt from the Obama campaign which says “HOPE.” He is greeted with accusations of supporting a socialist (and this was after the election). That was actually one reason he started sluffing seminary.

  86. Lulubelle says:

    I had a class just like that and this worked like a charm:

    *I used the manual only for the topic and then put it away. I taught the topic from entirely outside sources and used my own life stories as a backdrop. I found the manual completely horrible.
    *I told stories, stories and more stories. Real stories. Stories they could relate to. Any speech writer knows that one of the only ways to get people to listen is to tell interesting stories. One after the other that will drive home a certain point.
    *I broke up the class into morsels. The first 10 minutes we spent passing around a plate of fresh baked whatever. I brought refreshments every single Sunday except fast Sunday. While the plate was being passed around, we chatted about whatever. Usually I asked everyone to share something interesting that they did or that happened to them the prior week. The next 10 minutes were answering some random question and sharing their answer, as it was a good way to get to know each other. It would be any question, including what was the best movie they say in the past month and why; if they could go anywhere in the world and safety would be guaranteed, where would it be and why?; if they could pick any dream job and know they’d make a lot of money doing it, they would pick what and why. Then I’d teach from the lesson. And the last 15 minutes was usually a game that had to do with the lesson. It ranged from “Who wants to be a Book of Mormon Millionaire?” to “Bible Bingo” to “charades” to “Book of Mormon tic tac toe”.
    *If they’re not into the lesson, let them change topics. There were mornings they were just rowdy and I would close the book and say “OK, we’re not into this lesson, I see. What would you like to talk about?” And then we’d talk about that.
    *I cared about them and wanted to know what was going on in their lives. I would ask questions, like “What are some of your biggest high school temptations and how do you handle them?” And that would spark an interesting discussion.
    *I let them know that I wasn’t perfect. I shared my crazy teen and college stories. They laughed and felt I was ‘genuine’.

  87. Margaret,

    First of all, my stomach sinks when I read your post. I know kids make their own decisions, but as a parent it can still break your heart a little bit and sometimes a lot.

    We lived in a pretty small branch growing up, there was a small group of youth and we were pretty tight (some of us still are). And while the a durable testimony must be personal I can’t unstate the influence of a few good peer friends to help you through those growth periods. I know of more than once, well into adulthood, of when one or the other of us has gone back and said that at such and such a time we weren’t quite sure about things but the example/support of another was enough to keep us working at it.

    So I guess if I was to chip my two cents in, you have as much potential to impact the group as you do the individuals and then the group may be able to do things that you yourself cannot. As much as you are able make them respect, enjoy, love and like each other.

    Be acutely aware of instances of negativity between individuals and correct it immediately and with an appeal for the guilty party(ies) commit to participate in the overall social health of the group regardless of their personal feeling about the setting. The lack of social hygiene will sick you ship before you even realize it.

  88. Thanks to all for the helpful info. I really mean that…this has been great to read. I will try some of this out on Sunday.

    I have had more failures than successes. These are some things that actually worked:

    1) You-tube videos. Richard Prior introduced my lesson on honesty.

    2) Games. For instance, “win random things found around the teacher’s house.”

    3) Teach them how to make explosives with household items. I had their attention! Note: it is best to alert the parents when applying this tactic.

    I heard a story on NPR a couple weeks ago that doo-del-ing (how is that spelled) actually increases attention in a otherwise boring setting. We are going to try that on Sunday.

    This poorly crafted comment gave me another idea: A spelling bee. I’m sure they’ll get a kick out of beating me in a spelling bee.

    I too hate wearing a tie. Maybe we will all take them off during the lesson.

  89. …sink you ship… not ‘sick”

  90. There’s only Sunday School teacher I really remember from my teenage years. There was only one other girl with me in our SS class, and he taught us for a couple of years (14 and 15, I think). While I loved him and his class, there was never really any chance I was going to fall away from the church (or even sluff SS much). The other girl who was in my class, however, only came to church because her parents forced her too, and she generally hated every minute of it. Those were the only years I remember her actually attending SS, and she came every week.

    The biggest thing our teacher did was to listen to us. He brought snacks (usually large pretzel sticks, so nothing too expensive or requiring much time), and we’d all sit and eat and talk. I’d talk about whatever books I’d been reading (usually fantasy books), and he’d discuss them with me. Then the other girl would tell us about her week, which was always interesting. It usually involved a fight or two, hanging out with friends who were probably drinking and doing other drugs, etc (though she avoided actually saying that anyone was doing things that were illegal). After we spent about 2/3 of the class talking about whatever was important to us, our teacher would relate it to our lesson for the week. I honestly can’t figure out to this day how he managed that (other than perhaps a large amount of prayer that he would be able to), but he always did. I think just knowing that he not only cared about us, but was interested in learning about what we was important to us, made a huge difference. The other girl in my class did not remain active, but I know she responded with delight every time she saw that teacher, and I would guess she, too, retains fond memories of him to this day.

  91. Lulubelle says:

    Oh, a few more…

    *I never ever asked the kids questions where the answers would be the dull, boring, pat, typical “pray, read scriputres, fast.”

    I, too, had a couple of fantastic teachers (only a couple) and what made them great? They seemed real, weren’t afraid of sharing stories that didn’t paint them as ‘perfect’, I could tell they genuinely liked me, and didn’t expect me to be perfect or appear perfect in their class.

    I remember one of my students saying, “I have a question. Why should I have to wear garments once I’ve gone to the temple? If you work out and have great arms, why should I have to hide them?” I struggle with garments and hadn’t been to the temple at that time so I answered truthfully: “I don’t really know and I haven’t been to the temple and that is one of the reasons why I haven’t. I am probably not the right person to ask on that one.”

    One of the students who had been known to regularly offend teachers so much that they refused to go back and teach left the church after he graduated from high school. Nonetheless, his mom came up to me and thanked me for being his teacher. She said that my class was one of the only reasons he even came to church at all during his senior year.

  92. I second the youtube idea! The most successful undergraduate class I’ve taught used funny youtubes to introduce topics. I’m glad others have the same idea of my #18 of visiting the kids outside the classroom, either at their home or their sports event, etc. If I find myself thinking my students are lazy, unmotivated, or any other negative thoughts at all, I know I need to immediately put myself in check. The best way to cure those thoughts is to see your students do something they are very motivated about. My love for the students greatly expands, with it the quality of my teaching.

  93. Course 17 is one of my favorite courses to teach, and a great teacher (such as you) can make all the difference. When I was 16, I stopped attending my Course 16 class and started attending Course 17 because the teacher — Pat Guffey [see, I still remember his name nearly 40 years later] — was so much better.

    My general advice: teach them like college students, and bright college students at that. This has a few effects. It challenges them intellectually (and spiritually) to keep up with you. It provides something different from the lessons they’ve had all their lives. And it tends to cut down on discipline problems, because it makes them a bit daunted.

    Let them know they can ask any question they want to, and that there are no dumb or off-limits questions. The “I can’t believe we’re discussing this!” effect will keep them coming to class. Good luck, and God bless. ..bruce..

  94. My father, who I considered an excellent teacher, would actually stop the lesson durring particularly strong spiritual moments and identify it. The youth, and others who were new to the gospel, don’t always know how the spirit touches them. Showing them that something is different is important, be it a feeling or peace, burning, clarity, however it touches them. Them feeling the spirit, and being able to identify it, is huge!

    I had a seminary teacher who drove off all but two of us one month into the school year because the parents of the other kids didn’t like his style. The two of us and the teacher made it through the whole year. He did a number of things to let us know that he cared about us individually. One of them was giving me an autobiography by Dale Murphy. He was a hero of mine, and I played baseball and other sports myself. The teacher inscribbed in that book that I had the ability to positively affect peoples lives through my involvement in sports. It was the first time anyone told me that I could be an influence on others doing something I actually liked. He was replaced the next year, but I ended up naming my second son after that seminary teacher.

    The next year, my Junior year, four weeks into seminary the new teacher pulled me aside after class and told me that she wanted me to shape up (I was a bit of a smartass) or not come back. So I never went back.

  95. I also think it’s good when you get to know the kids to compliment them on qualities they have that are positive. Last year I gave each of my girls a Christmas card and included something personal about what I appreciated about each of them in it. Who doesn’t like getting a card like that? The girls love it when I do stuff like that.

  96. Wishing I was in your class.... says:

    Just some suggestions from a youth, who wishes they could be in your class.

    I wholeheartedly agree with all suggestions thus far, especially the stories. It makes things personal. Try to inject some humor in there too. :-) Get a discussion going and let everyone know that there is no such thing as a bad or wrong question; almost all revelations have come because someone thought to ask, so learning how and what to ask I think would be helpful.

    And, this is just a pet peeve of mine (so by no means is it universal), but try to focus on *our* church. So, pointless meanderings about what *we* believe compared to what *other* churches believe, doesn’t really help us.

    And food is always a plus. :-)

  97. Great comments! I think the conversation is close to over, but I have one question. The Church has a video for teachers, one of those world-wide teacher training things. However, the audience was hand-selected (I know because I know several of the audience members) and was taught by master teacher Elder Jeffrey Holland. And it was an adult class. Are there similar resources for teachers of youth? What kind of training do seminary teachers get? Or is it just a fact that each youth class is so distinctive that the teacher has to make his/her way feelingly–according to the needs of the students? I wonder if a WW teaching training for youth video would be depressing because it would give us a picture of how our classes should look–and we’d never quite measure up. I am just curious about what’s out there.
    The fact that I can unduly influence my bishop just by wearing a nice nightgown might be a little unfair. I don’t want to get him in trouble by showing something our SP wouldn’t like. I think I’ll need to talk to the Bish about all the wonderful ideas I’m now planning on using.

  98. Rameumptom says:

    Margaret,
    I’d love to help out. We met at the 2004 FAIR Conference. Renee Olson introduced me to you and Darius as her “adopted” brother (honorary title). Let me know how I can help.

    Gerald Smith

  99. To Wishing I was in your class: ME TOO!!
    And I hate it when any teacher compares our Church to others–almost consistently to the detriment of the others. I have dear friends who are pastors in other faiths. I am actually planning on getting their advice also, since they have excellent youth programs. I would NEVER diss their beliefs. Never.

  100. Well, Gerald, let’s talk. You know how to reach me, right? I’m at BYU. Not in my office currently, and I lost my cell phone yesterday, so I’m a bit harder to reach right now, but shoot me an e-mail. Btw, Scott has promised to get those DVDs I requested. I want them before FAIR.

  101. Rameumptom says:

    Margaret,

    Helping the youth see things on different levels, teaching symbolism and how it relates to them (after all, the world revolves around each one of them), is also how we can catch their attention.

    The WoW, tithing or chastity will cause eyes to roll and attention spans to contract, unless taught in a way they haven’t considered before.

    Why is tithing fire insurance? How is a terrestrial level commandment important for keeping, in order to prepare for the celestial order to come?

    Consider discussing how tough it is for a bishop (my b-i-l) to explain to the youth that oral sex is still sex (you may want to get the bishop’s guidance on that one).

    I like focusing all lessons on a few key topics: the atonement of Christ, the ascension of man to God, being saviors of mankind on Mt Zion, creating our own City of Enoch. How do the topics given relate to core doctrine and concepts? How do they increase faith and heavenly power?

    I taught Institute the other night for our Instructor. It was on Revelation 1-18. I didn’t focus on the last day signs of times. I focused on the book being an endowment/theophany, beginning with Rev 1:5-6, then the promises given to the 7 churches if they overcome (given white stone and new name, pillar in temple, sit on God’s throne, dressed in white, etc), John’s vision of God on his throne, continuing into detailing the premortal counsel (war in heaven with dragon, etc), the events of the Creation and Fall, the Telestial world (book w/7 seals), leading to the Millennium (Terrestrial world), and eventually the final outcome of the heavenly temple/city coming down and having a Celestial realm. I used quotes and experiences from the Apocalypse of Paul, Isaiah 6 and Ascension of Isaiah, Books of Moses and Abraham, Book of Enoch (ascends heavens, clothed in white, sits on God’s throne and is given new name of Metatron).

    Suddenly, the entire class was involved in questions and learning, because they weren’t hearing the Book of Revelation like their parents and seminary teacher taught it. And they could relate it to their Mormon experience.

  102. I’ve taught youth Sunday school for about 9 of the past 12 years. I had a few techiques and general guidelines. When I was growing up in Idaho, the good kids would make a doughnut run during that hour, and the bad kids would smoke in the parking lot. Keeping that in mind as the null hypothesis, my class was run as follows:

    1. I’ll never ask anyone to go to a different class. If they want to sneak in, that’s fine.

    2. The first 15 minutes is for talking and chatting. Since I couldn’t force them to come to class, class should have a little bit of the second most popular option. I always got the most interesting questions during this time, and sometimes I’d end up bagging the lesson and teach around what the big concerns were. At the end of chat time, I’d announce that we were going to pretend to have a lesson, and I almost always got full attention. I’d generally teach just one principle, or at most two, but make it memorable.

    3. At the end of the lesson, I’d ask “So, when you go home and your parents ask what you learned in Church today, what are you going to tell them?” The *only* point of lessons in Church is to facilitate family discussions. If the kids could go home and be taught by their parents, then the lesson was good. If the kids could go home and teach their parents, the lesson and my time was a full success.

    4. Make it clear that you know that they know all of this already. In most cases, they have been going to Primary and Mutual and seminary and all manner of things. “If you don’t know this by now, you’re not going to learn it from me. So, why does this matter?” If they can’t come up with a reason why the topic today matters, emphasize that for the boys, they are probably less than two years from having to teach this themselves. I could always point out young men/young women from the ward, just a couple of years older, and mention how they “Elder X” was in the exact same seats just a year ago, and now he’s personally responsible for teaching EVERYTHING a person would need to know to enter the Celestial Kingdom. Missionary and apologetics approaches to just about any topic give it a new twist that teenagers probably haven’t heard before.

    5. Don’t ever ask somebody specific to read or pray. Ask for a volunteer instead, or approach personally beforehand. Some people have reading difficulties, some don’t like speaking in public settings, and some may have been asked by the bishop not to offer prayers. Follow this and you’ll avoid some huge embarrassment problems. I’ve learned this one the hard way.

    6. Remember that for today’s teenagers, going to school is a lot like going to an R-rated movie. Help them understand where to draw the line. Girls don’t need to wear FLDS prairie dresses, and they shouldn’t look like streetwalkers, but somewhere in between there’s a happy medium. Let them know when they look sharp. One of my class boys was chewed out, rather publicly, by the High Priest group leader for wearing a black silk dress shirt to church. I stopped him, mid-rant, and told the boy that the next week, I’d be wearing a black shirt too. The following week, he was looking for me to make sure I’d followed through. The HPGL tried to make a snarky comment, so I told him that on the list of crimes that make the Baby Jesus cry, failure to wear a white shirt isn’t anywhere on the first two hundred pages.

  103. Although in general I agree with the not-bringing-up-other-churches, at times it can be interesting and elucidating (although in no circumstance should it be to the detriment of our or other churches).

    On Sunday, I taught my Primary class D&C Section 25. We went far broader than just, Emma was commanded to compile a hymnbook, but we touched on that. What was interesting to me (and therefore I brought it up to my boys, who also seemed to dig it) was the wide range of US protestant thought in the early 19th centery, per Michael Hicks’s Mormonism and Music, on music, from the Society of Friends’ eschewing all music to the Baptists’ hesitation toward music to the Methodists’ embracing of informally sung music to the Presbyterians’ use of choirs. It is out of that conflict (one which doesn’t really hit us, because most US churches now use music) that the revelation emerged. And the boys seemed to dig it. We didn’t talk poorly of churches that didn’t use music; instead, I illustrated an area that may have been uncertain at the time that God clarified through revelation.

    And that’s how I try to engage my students, be they Primary or youth–I try to teach things that I find interesting, and hope they catch some of my enthusiasm. (Whether it works, well, it does sometimes.) And, of course, food when I (or my wife) remember to cook it.

    Our toughest thing is, we teach together, and the boys are obsessed with our 8-month-old (who, needless to say, comes to class with us). It is tough to grab a kid’s attention when a baby is doing something cute.

  104. I’m not sure how early-morning seminary teachers are trained. While studying at BYU, I worked as a part-time Seminary teacher for special needs students. I taught at Payson for a school year. I was paid. BYU has a seminary teachers program. The CES program does hire from this pool of potential teachers, but not exclusively. My training was conducted more on a personal level because we did have a unique work. Anyway, in August, CES usually has a big seminary teachers conference at BYU. There are hundreds of lectures about scripture, doctrinal issues, church history, teaching techniques, etc. I can’t remember if any of the lectures were recorded, but I do know we were given abstracts of the talks.
    As far as I know, it was open to anyone teaching seminary, whether paid to do so or not.

  105. FMaxwell says:

    I agree with many of the suggestions already posted. A few weeks ago, at Sunstone West, I was on the panel about being a Gospel Doctrine teacher. I made a comment there, which I’ll expand here since it’s applicable:

    Teaching Sunday School is like being a chef. The word of God (scriptures, and gospel principles) is the fresh produce which is available to you to prepare and serve. The lesson manual is a cookbook, containing *suggested* recipes that you can use each week. But it is up to you as the chef to prepare the meal in a way that will be best for the people sitting at *your* table. If you can prepare a meal that’s better than the one in the cookbook, go for it!

    If you know and love the people at your table, this will be easier to do. Listen to their concerns and complaints, their likes and dislikes. You can listen to them in the group class setting, but also may need to listen to them one-on-one. If someone can’t stand a certain food (gospel principle or teaching), you need to find out why. Was the food properly cooked when they were last served it? Or was it stale even before it was served? (For instance, in a few minutes I’ll be eating some freshly-picked asparagus, which is growing wild on our land. It’s sweet and delicious — very different than even the asparagus in the produce section of the grocery store. Not to mention the frozen or canned stuff.)

    Does someone have a food allergy? Or is someone just bored because the food is always served exactly the same way, with no variation? As the chef/teacher, you can change that.

    The problem with too many classes is that people are “teaching the lessons”. The “lesson” is only a means to an end. Instead, I think one should be “teaching the gospel” or “teaching the people I love”.

    A few more thoughts:

    1. The youth in the class need to know that you love them. Listening to their input and feedback, coming to their activities, not getting upset or dogmatic if they disagree with you — that’s all part of loving them. “That they may know that your faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death …”

    2. Some youth may feel more comfortable giving you feedback in writing. Sometimes, upon starting a new lesson year, I’ve passed out surveys, asking the class members to write down what they like and don’t like about the class. The advantage of doing a survey over a verbal discussion is that I have a record of their suggestions, for me to review later.

    3. If they really know that you love them, they will find it easier to accept your enthusiastic sharing of the things you love. If you love the scriptures and the gospel, and you also love them, they will remember that. And maybe later they will understand the connection between those 2 loves.

    4. Story is important — both the personal stories of you and others who are dealing with gospel principles, and the stories of what is happening in each youth’s individual life.

    (I also like to use pop culture references. Once I was subbing, and started off by asking each youth to tell me what their favorite movie or TV show was, and then I found a gospel connection to each.)

    5. You may also find that some youth’s disinterest in Sunday School is connected to their family dynamics. For instance, do some youth feel that their parents are hypocritical about the gospel? If parents are active in the “Church”, but inactive in love and listening and compassion, the youth may not be too enthusiastic about Sunday School. They’re just going through the motions until they’re 18.

    Also, is it possible, since your ward is a demographically homogenous area (i.e., Provo), that some youth think about leaving the church as a way to achieve some kind of differentiation and individuality?

  106. I haven’t taught a lot of high schoolers in a church setting, but I am a high school teacher, and here are some things I’ve learned about effectively teaching high school students (there have been a lot of fabulous suggestions already!).

    *High school students aren’t going to be engaged unless you’re talking about ideas and topics that matter to them. For example, when I teach Romeo and Juliet, I spend a lot of time talking about the conflict between the “teenagers” point of view vs. the “parents” point of view–the students really latch onto this because they have a lot to say about conflicts between parents and children. I really liked the ideas in comments #5 and #90 (and other related suggestions).

    *As Kevin said, treat them like adults/peers rather than children. There isn’t much that teenagers hate more than being treated like they’re immature children. Also, if they respect you as a teacher, they will often rise to meet beliefs or expectations you have of them (so make sure your expectations of/belief in them is high).

    *If they don’t respect you, you’re going to have major issues. Respect is gained by doing a variety of the things that others have suggested. Be accepting, honest, consistent, fair, respectful, and take them seriously.

    *Show them how the scriptures can be crazy and complicated and cool. When I read books with my students and point out interesting patterns and ideas that they didn’t see before, they get excited. Things they might like: things like chiasmatic patterns and stories you don’t hear in standard Sunday School lessons, etc. And ask questions that give them a different perspective, like: “if you were Laman and Lemuel, would you want to beat up Nephi? Why?”

  107. Lulubelle says:

    Seraphine: I like your comment about showing them how scriptures can be crazy and complicated and cool.

    When I was teaching the Old Testament, I taught them some of the really crazy pieces of the stories that I was never taught in my bland and very ordinary Sunday School classes. The whole Sodom & Gamorha story is crazy, like jaw dropping crazy. When I taught them all the intricacies of that story and we opened up and read it for ourselves, it was like “Oh my gosh! No way!” It was one of the funnest Sunday lessons I’ve ever given and the kids… well I almost had to scrape them out of their seats to leave the classroom. I feel that so many of my classes lacked color– they made them full of faith promoting trite stories that I never found to be credible, trite stories with the expected answers (pray, go to church, read your scriptures), and other stuff that left me bored, frustrated, and thoroughly resentful of being there.

  108. new seminary teacher says:

    Today was a good day at seminary. Thanks for the suggestions; some of them got used successfully today.

    The training I had to be a seminary teacher includes being given a green booklet called Teaching the Gospel: A Handbook for CES Teachers and Leaders and an accompanying cd that goes over the material in the handbook with video examples of what I guess are real seminary classes and quotes from talks by CES leaders and General Authorities. (They tell us it’s not CES anymore, but Seminaries and Institutes or something along those lines.)

    There was some sort of formal training by the regional CES coordinator or whatever he is called before the school year started, but I wasn’t called until three weeks in, so I’m not sure what happened at the official training. Every 8 weeks or so we have a two hour training meeting. One has been held since I was called. We were taught a lesson from the manual as an example to follow, and then we had a lesson on how to get kids to find patterns in the scriptures by finding repeating words. We also reviewed part of the green CES booklet. Note, I am in Australia, so I don’t know if US teachers have different training.

    Running long again, but since Margaret Young asked (#97) . . . The training videos were kind of . . . funny.

    This quote from that comment is spot-on. “I wonder if a WW teaching training for youth video would be depressing because it would give us a picture of how our classes should look–and we’d never quite measure up.”

    Yes, it would be.

  109. Don’t know if you’re still reading this thread, but…

    I actually had my mom as a Sunday School teacher, and she was wonderful. I wasn’t ever one who wanted to leave the church, but I can say that food was actually a huge motivator to get kids to come. I remember there were two boys a year older than me who skipped their SS class to come to our because there was food and my mom was fun.

    Another thing I like that she did was to just start every class with a “highs and lows” (sometimes she’d call it “sweet and sours” and even better, sometimes she’d get mixed up and call them “sweet and lows”) where everyone, or whoever wants to, shares something really good and something really bad that happened to them that week. It opened up some room for personal interaction and relating the gospel to daily life, and/or at least celebrating/commiserating with other members of the class.

    And I guess patience is always needed in these situations. Not that you can just acquire more patience, but remind yourself that it is useful when things get hard. Good luck!

  110. I just posted this on another blog. I do teach teenagers.
    The key thing to remember – is that you dont do the teaching – the spirit does. If you prepare and are worthy to carry the spirit with you, and teach by the holy ghost – that is all you need. Joseph Smith was not a great speaker – but people would sit for hours and listen to him. Not beacuse of him – but becasue he carried the spirit with him so strongly.
    I get really exited about the princapals I am going to teach – and if you have a teacher that loves the Gospel and loves them, they will pay attention. You dont need gimmicks. Just faith and humility. Those things that bring the power of the Holy Ghost.

  111. Don’t forget what is probably the first principle of the gospel: free agency. Satan wanted to force us all to do good. Now parents and other authorities often take that role. Since we all are born with a desire for freedom, we naturally rebel when others coerce us, whether it is to do good or to do evil. Teach your students this principle. Tell them that they will soon have the ability to decide their own courses in life, regardless of what their parents think. But happiness comes only by living the laws that lead to blessings. Failure to lead those laws will lead to misery. It’s as simple as that. Teenagers need to do the necessary steps to gain a testimony of the gospel, and then they will find it much easier to resist temptations and to obey God’s commandments. So I would concentrate on helping them develop and build testimonies. They must be allowed to feel of the spirit. Real stories will help them. Bring in guests to talk about how they developed their faith and how they overcame their mistakes. Bring in recently returned missionaries to talk about experiences that built their testimonies. And help them with those testimony-building steps: scripture study, pondering, earnest prayer. If a kid is bound and determined to spread his wild oats, experiment with drugs, and so forth, you have a last chance to help him see how costly such a decision could be. May God bless you.

  112. When you “teach” the youth, do you call them by their first names, or Bro. /Sis. last name. How do you have them address you – first name or Bro./Sis.?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,516 other followers