Church-Hacker #1: The Guest Professional

We’re running low on recurring series here at BCC (Scott B., I miss our Thursday Morning Quickies terribly), so I’m launching a new one. It’s called Church-Hacker—it’s basically Lifehacker, but for church. Each week, we’ll post an idea that you can try in your ward or calling to make the meeting block more engaging, more spiritual, or even more fun.

Here are some basic ground rules that we’ll be sticking to:

  • The ideas won’t knowingly violate the guidelines in the church handbooks
  • An idea needn’t be tried IRL to be posted about (unproven ideas are A-OK!)
  • We’ll supplement our own list of ideas with your submissions (which you can
    submit here

Let’s kick off the series with an idea that my ward actually does. Every third Sunday, we forgo YM quorum meeting and YW class, and invite a member of the ward to speak to a combined YM/YW.

The topic of the guest lesson is faith and career, and we encourage the speakers to discuss gospel insights that they’ve gleaned from their chosen profession. We’ve found that it’s a good way to familiarize the youth with potential role models (and vice versa), demonstrate the diversity in our ward, get the kids thinking about college/career tracks, and present gospel teachings in a new way.

So far, our guest speakers have been a pro photographer, a freelancer writer, and an advertising scumbag (that’s me). I scared the kids to death on Sunday, talking about how brands target youth markets to win long-term loyalty. “Nike desireth to have you, that it may sift you as wheat.”

The creative bent of the speakers we’ve had so far is not intentional. Long-term–assuming the program survives long term–we want to involve all kinds of people and all kinds of jobs, including  (especially) SAHMs. Anybody who has insight and a testimony to share.

Would this work in your ward? Tried something similar? Sound off in the comments. And if you’ve got your own church-hacker idea,
submit it
! See all entries in this series here.


  1. I wonder what would happen if you started to feature a lot of working women. While I think that would be a great thing, I could imagine that it would cause an uproar.

  2. Kyle,
    I also miss the TMQ, and am reminded by your post that I still had 3-4 left to put up. Maybe I should do those…

    As to your idea for this week, I think that it holds a lot of potential for certain wards with a wide variety of careers and personalities. It would work very well in my ward, as we have many graduate students, doctors, lawyers, artists, accountants, and so on.

    I’m interested, however, in how this might be adapted to a small-town Mormon ward in the Mormon corridor, where agriculture or local store ownership drive most of the jobs (or in military regions).

  3. Jacob M says:

    We used to have guest speakers come in during Sunday School at the singles ward, but they only came in to talk about marriage relationships. This sounds far better.

  4. Same here Scott. I’ve never been in one of those wards but I’d be interested to hear if it would work.

  5. lindberg says:

    This is a great idea.

    Looking forward to more of the series!

  6. This sounds like a very interesting idea (both the series and also the speakers). Thank you for getting it going.

  7. Love this idea, and the concept in general. We need people in the church to think of ways to be more helpful, engaging and meaningful to the other members, and I think this is a way to do that.

    I work with the youth, and far too many are shortsighted. Not so much that they don’t want a good job, but that they don’t realize what it takes to compete in the types of markets they think the want to be in. Great to give them role models that they can talk to, so they can start building a picture of what they will need to do to get to where they want.

    Looking forward to this series.

  8. Kyle,
    One question I have is how you’ve dealt with the idea of deviating from the course curriculum so regularly–could you explain that? Is this something that you’ve just been “doing” or is it something that you’ve discussed with Bishop/whoever and received support for?

  9. Steve_G says:

    This is great. I used to do a career night for the Priests once a month when I was YM President. It was always on mutual night, so didn’t even have to be spiritual. I sometimes brought in nonmembers when I thought they could do a better job explaining a career, then some of the local talent.

    Including YM and YW to participate together is an even better idea. I wish I would have thought of that.

  10. You do know that Mormon Lifehacker already exists, right?

  11. @Gdub I love that site!

  12. Scott B., the bishopric knows we do it…I haven’t really had to “sell it in.” Part of the thinking behind the idea–part of the thinking behind this series of blog posts–is that, were we to do exit polls after church classes, we’d be horrified by the results. Saying “we should try this idea because it’s more interesting/effective/impactful than a typical 30-minute lesson from the manual” actually sets the bar very low, IMO, so we ought to feel fairly free to try things.

    I’ve never had to actually use that argument, but I’ve got it ready if I need it. :-)

    And exit polls after church classes would be really useful.

  13. Just saw it Gdub, thanks for the link. This series will be more specific to hacking the 3-hour church block. (And I’m using “hack” in the sense of optimize, improve, repair; not in the destructive sense)

  14. @Kyle in #13,

    That makes perfect sense.

  15. I think this is a great idea too! As a YW leader with no kids (yet) and a career I try to find ways to encourage them to focus on their future with realistic goals. We teach them about family/marriage/motherhood ad nauseum, yet some may not marry until later in life or not be blessed with children. I so want them not to let the marriage/mother thing define their future at this age or be their only goal.

  16. Kristine says:

    arJ (#1)–just jumping in before Naismith does to say that you obviously mean *employed* women, because all women work (dammit).

  17. Matt W. says:

    Kristine: That made me smile from ear to ear.

    Kyle M: Good idea. We do the combined thing in our ward, but only on the 5th Sundays. Usually the Bishopric takes the time to talk about topics they find important, but we’ve also had people come in to talk about specialized fields like mental health, college prep, “What was life like in the 1940s”, etc. I think it really depends on the youth as to how it goes. No one wants to be thrown into a room full of 50 kids who aren’t actually going to listen to them. We’ve had a few of these types of failures. (Not every person can keep Teens attention)

    I think if your ward isn’t willing to do this in the 3 hour block, it can also be pulled off fairly well as a Mutual activity.

  18. ErinAnn says:

    If we do this in my ward I’m prbably going to skip RS.

  19. Karen K says:

    I love that idea. I would much rather have my daughter participate in something like that then another lesson on marriage.

  20. Matt W.–50 kids? Never seen a ward that has 50 youth. I don’t doubt that they exist, but I don’t think it is the norm. You are VERY correct, though, that some people would make very poor presenters in this realm.

    Kyle–love the idea. The Second graders at a school I teach at does this (sans testimony). Great idea for young ones, even better idea for older ones.

    ARJ–have you ever actually seen anyone bristle at a “working” woman in the Church? I know this is a common whine, but I’ve not seen it. Not when I was a youth and had advisers who worked. Not now that I am an adult and have firends whose kids are youth age. When I worked in YW, our entire YW presidency was employed (not the case for the YM presidency, though). I’ve just never ever heard anyone say that Sister N. is a bad influence because she has a 401K in her own name. I would guess that a much more important factor in this deal would the quality of the presentation, not the gender of the presenter.

  21. In our little corner of heaven we would have trouble finding enough people who are employed (men or women) to keep this running for even three months.

  22. Naismith says:

    I was asked to come out and speak for a career night in one of the smaller units in our stake (weeknight event, YM & YW). When I met the actual kids, I ended up throwing out all my notes and talking about being a geek in high school and how grand it is when you grow up and geeks rule:) Okay, demonstrating the light saber on my iphone was probably over the top (this was a few years ago when they were not as common).

  23. living in zion says:

    Love this! What a great idea. I would completely skip RS every third Sunday to hear what my fellow saints do during the rest of the week. I am surrounded by (who I assume are) wonderful people I worship on the Sabbath with, but I have no idea who they are outside of the chapel. I would love to hear how they handle the stresses of life and balance their faith within their chosen career.

  24. Great idea, Kyle. I’ll run it past one of my daughters and see if she wants to suggest it in the next BYC.

  25. I’d be interested to hear what the BYC’s response is, Ray

  26. love it! but i grew up in northern virginia, and the famous story was one sunday in EQ where they were trying to get some job ideas for someone and went around the room to find out what everyone did. after the fifteenth “electronics specialist” and “electrician,” my dad finally said, “okay, we know everyone here works for the CIA!”

  27. (I’ve lived in wards who had 150 youth.)

  28. @Kyle M awesome article, and excellent idea for a series of articles!

    @Gdub thanks for the shout-out for Mormon Life Hacker! We appreciate it.

  29. I would be disappointed if my youth were sent to this type of a class once per month during the Sunday quorum/class instruction time. Seems much more fitting for a youth activity night, or a BYC on occasion. I applaud the effort though – just would like to see it centered more on our Savior and His teachings on Sunday.

  30. Researcher says:

    just would like to see it centered more on our Savior and His teachings on Sunday.

    So would most of us.

    In our ward this Sunday’s Young Women lesson is “Heritage” (appreciating and continuing traditions) and next week’s is “Understanding a Missionary’s Responsibilities” (those responsibilities are defined as the responsibility to keep to a tight schedule and strictly obey the rules). That is typical of many of the lessons.

    The workshops presented in the original post about how members take care of their temporal responsibilities and how their work ties into their spiritual lives may or may not be better than the current curriculum, but it certainly isn’t worse. I personally like the idea.

  31. I smile at Scott’s suggestion that this idea might work in a ward full of accountants and lawyers but not military wards. Because kids listen with rapt attention to job talks from people who manipulate symbols on paper and push that paper around in an effort to keep track of or marginally increase someone else’s wealth, but are bored to tears by the guy that pilots a magical steel bird that flies at speeds greater than the speed sound and rains down fire from the sky.

  32. John Mansfield says:

    Well, there’s Super Accounting Saints 2: More Thrilling Stories from LDS CPAs.

  33. have you ever actually seen anyone bristle at a “working” woman in the Church? I know this is a common whine, but I’ve not seen it.

    *raises hand* I have. When I first moved into my ward (not in the Mormon corridor, but in the southeast), and people found out I was *gasp* not married and have moved here for MY job and not for my husband’s, I was referred to as “one of those career woman” and brushed off.

    I still get the look from some people when they find out I am a genetic researcher and have been married for two years with no kids and I am still working. I have now been told that if I quit working, maybe I could get pregnant. *head smack*

  34. @krista
    “I have now been told that if I quit working, maybe I could get pregnant. *head smack*”
    I hope the part in asterisks was your response to them.

    Give me your name and address and I’ll be happy to send you some eggs for that person. (By that I mean their house. Trust me, they won’t be edible.)

  35. I’m interested, however, in how this might be adapted to a small-town Mormon ward in the Mormon corridor, where agriculture or local store ownership drive most of the jobs (or in military regions).

    Two people with the same profession could still have gained very different gospel insights from that profession.

  36. @Ron-thanks for the laugh, if only I was so brave. I have always been the oddball in my wards, whether as a youth or as an adult. I don’t suppose you ever get used to the idiotic statements of others, but you do get better at brushing them off (in theory!).

    But seriously, as a YW leader I love the idea of the OP. When I am teaching my girls on Sunday I am saddened at how many of them only see their futures as marriage and then family. If they talk about college, some of them only see it as a means to an end: find their EC.

    While those our worthwhile endeavors, I have to remind them of my life where I didn’t meet my husband until I was in my 30’s. Without my education and career, I am saddened to think how I would have navigated my 20’s. As it turned out, I was able to live all over the country in different states and serve in various capacties in the church and community and enrich (hopefully) the lives of the people around me because of my experiences.

    I remember having an FBI agent speak to us at a youth fireside and it stayed with me far after the morality and modesty lessons had faded away.

  37. eso,

    A member of my family was fired from a prominent position at BYU for featuring too many women who worked outside the home in conferences. So yes, I’m aware of people getting up in arms over the issue. We don’t portray reality to the YW or even the RS and those that acknowledge reality are often shouted down.

  38. StillConfused says:

    I am all for anything that is not the same-old same-old boringness. I remember that one of the kids in my ward had his black friend come sing a traditional black hymn acapella during sacrament meeting. It was awesome. Half of the ward members about fainted but such is a small price to pay

  39. “Half of the ward members about fainted but such is a small price to pay”

    Thanks not a price, StillConfused…that’s a reward.

  40. Kyle,

    Just chiming in to say I really like your idea and that it’s working in your ward. I don’t have much else to offer.

  41. Carmina says:

    Anyone wants to hear a “multi-level marketing” speaker? Not me!

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