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?