The lesson last Sunday was about councils, so I cleared it with my Bishop to do a mock Ward Council with the youth, but to make it as real as possible - including discussing real issues and solutions.
we talked for a few minutes about what a council is and how it is
supposed to be conducted. We defined a council as a group of people who
discuss things and try to reach consensus about what they discuss,
generally with the idea of understanding things and coming up with
solutions to problems.
I mentioned that in the November 2010
World-Wide Training session, Elder Bednar or Elder Holland (I couldn't
remember which one) said that Bishops should NOT share their opinion
first and then ask the council members what they thought - since the
answer generally would be, "I agree with you." He then paused and said,
"Duh!" He said that the person who is presiding should solicit input
from everyone first and then make a decision.
I started the
mock council by asking each student to think of something they believed
would help improve the ward in some way, with one of the students taking
notes, so I could share the final suggestions from the class with the
Bishop. I gave them about two minutes of silence to think about it and
then went around the room and asked each of them for one suggestion.
The suggestions were:
1) Have more opportunities for the youth
to attend the temple, not just the two or three times each year as a
substitute for YW/YM activities that week.
2) Fix the heating and A/C in the building, so it isn't so cold in the winter and hot in the summer in the YW room.
3) Increase the "worship" aspect of Sacrament Meeting.
Stop flooding people who have problems with service for a few weeks and
then moving on to someone else (a feast or famine approach to service).
5) Start YM/YW activities earlier, since the students
sometimes aren't getting home until 9:00 or later - especially during
the school year. With Seminary the next morning, this is a real
I told them that we wouldn't talk about the heating
and A/C issue in this council meeting, since I would have to talk with
someone who understands that issue better to know if it is something
that can be changed or fixed. Rather, we would focus on the other
issues - and, since #3 above (Sacrament Meeting) was my issue, I put it
last on my list (and never got to it).
I then asked for input
on each issue, one at a time, and we talked about it until we had
something to present to the Bishop as a concrete suggestion:
For the temple attendance issue, we will find out from the temple what
days and times are available during the summer to bring a group of
youth, talk with the youth to see how many could attend on those days at
those times and, if necessary, talk with another ward in town to see if
they would like to combine with us in order to have enough youth and
adults to make it work.
2) For the issue of more even, regular
fellowship, we will suggest a more active ward activity schedule - so
everyone has a chance to get to know each other better. We also will
suggest regular service activities - things focused strictly on
unconditional outreach, with no activity or baptism strings attached.
The students thought this would give everyone a chance to get to know
each other better, so any outreach in a time of crisis would be more
natural and seem more genuine than lots of simultaneous attention all at
once that ends suddenly after a few weeks.
3) For the issue of
the YW/YM activities ending so late, we talked about all of the
implications of that situation and exactly what the issue(s) were.
After talking extensively about it, we decided that there are two main
a) There is a lot of socializing when opening exercises
are supposed to be happening - which means opening exercises often are
taking over a half-hour - which means the lessons and activities are
starting late and then running late - which is followed by more
socializing after the lesson ends.
b) Since the start time is
set at 7:00, this means that the regular end time can be as late as 9:00
- and many families have multiple children of varying ages at the
building, with each class / group ending at different times (the YW
generally going the longest).
We will suggest to the Bishop and
the YW & YM Presidents that the arrival time be changed to 6:30 -
with 30 minutes designated as time to socialize. Any earlier time would
be hard for athletes, musicians, actors, etc. who have extra-curricular
activities that keep them from getting home before 6:00-6:30. From
6:30-7:00, the youth could talk, eat food they could bring rather than
trying to eat at home, etc - so that their normal schedule could start
at 7:00 sharp and end at 8:00. Then, anyone who wanted to stay could do
so, but anyone who needed to leave could do so without feeling like
they had missed a chance to socialize. Also, we will suggest that all
meetings and activities have the same start and end times, so families
aren't waiting for children in different settings and can know exactly
what time their children will be done. As part of this, the bell will
be rung just like in Sunday School, as a reminder of the need to honor
the scheduled times.
I ended the lesson by stressing three things:
Not all things that are proposed in council meetings like this can be
done, especially immediately. I told them that I would pass along the
results of our council, but that our Bishop (whom they all love) is the
person who has to decide how or whether to proceed with any of them.
I explained that PEC used to be the primary council at the ward level
but that Ward Council has taken its place in that regard. I explained
that one of the main reasons this was done back in November 2010 was
that the Church leadership recognized that men had been the only voices
in the lead council for too long and that we had sucked at listening to
the women and ensuring they had an equal voice in the top council in the
ward. I told them as they get older and are involved in Ward Councils
(and other leadership meetings) to remember that the women's input is
supposed to be part of any decision that impacts the ward as a whole -
and to insist that their voices be heard.
3) I talked very
briefly about how the Church leadership has been stressing lately a new
model of presiding - particularly that I have heard multiple references
lately to "co-presiding" in the home and that single mothers are being
recognized as the presiders in their homes, even if they have sons who
hold the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood. In a home with a single
parent, she presides - not a son, not the Bishop, not a Home Teacher,
not any man. She presides. Period. I also stressed that, at the class
level, the youth presidencies preside in the YM/YW organization, not
the adult leaders and advisers. When it comes to the final decisions
about what should happen in those organizations, they shouldn't give up
that right and responsibility - that they need to take ownership and
I really enjoyed this lesson, and it
illustrated how much our youth can contribute if we let them -
especially since most of them had not been in attendance last week and
had not had time to think about what they would suggest for our
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