Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Sunday School Lesson Recap: Councils - Men and Women with Equal Voices

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.

First, 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.

4) 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 problem.

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:

1) 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 issues:

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:

1) 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.

2) 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 accountability.

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 discussion.


Anonymous said...

Hi Papa D,

I haven't visited you for awhile and it is nice to come and see you and your diligence on this blog. I have been back at church in the last year and I'm leading the music in sacrament, which is a nice assignment for me. I've been welcomed back with much love. I love to see the work that you are doing with the youth being aware of any possible bias you might have and being a voice to the marginalized in a way that is productive, not destructive. Thank you for your post. Rhonda deLorme, Canada. I sign out with my name because sometimes I can't post this message unless I click on anonymous. I'm fine with sharing who I am. Cheers!

Papa D said...

Thank you, Rhonda. I really appreciate your comment - and I am happy you are back at church and doing something you enjoy.