Getting everyone involved
Do you sometimes have poor turnout at young men activities? Do the young men seem disengaged and uninterested, even when they do show up? How can you get greater participation? Sometimes a leader might think that a costly, extravagant activity in a distant location is more likely to attract the young men. In reality, however, experience has shown that the best way to get young men to participate in activities is to involve them in the planning and carrying out of activities.
This can begin with something as simple as finding out what the young men are interested in. As quorum leaders sit in council together, they can plan activities that are based on those. Then, they can reach out to each quorum member — as well as friends of other faiths — and invite them to help carry out the activities. This will be key to the successful implementation of the new activity program for young men 14 to 18 years of age.
It may seem easier for an adviser to plan and carry out activities himself. But there are many advantages to involving the young men. For example, when quorum leaders and their advisers are sensitive to the needs and interests of each young man and his family circumstances, understanding and quorum unity increase.
Following in Handbook 2 that “most activities should be simple and have little or no cost” and that “long-distance travel is discouraged” (13.2.8, 13.6.24) help the young men see that it’s possible to have fun in their own community, without spending a lot of money. And involving the young men in planning and carrying out activities gives advisers excellent opportunities to “be with them,” “connect them with heaven,” and “let them lead.”
Identify needs and interests
Here are some ideas to help you identify needs and interests of young men:
1. Listen to them! Get to know the young men. Talk to them. And remember that listening with the heart is often more important than listening with our ears or reading what is on paper.
2. In a ward council meeting, ask council members about the needs and interests of young men in the ward. Pay particular attention to the sisters in the council — many of them are mothers of young men (see Handbook 2, 4.5.2).
3. Aaronic Priesthood quorum leaders could identify the needs and interests of their quorum members. The Talent and Interest Survey found on LDS.org could help them gather this information.
4. Conduct a parent survey, in which parents of the young men are given the opportunity to identify the needs and interests that they consider important to their sons. This survey must be conducted under the direction of the bishopric and can be administered by the ward Young Men presidency.
5. In a bishopric youth committee meeting, the bishop or one of his counselors could ask the members of the committee to make a list of their needs and interests. The committee may also review or discuss lists of needs and interests that have been received from ward council, Aaronic Priesthood quorum leaders, and parents. The committee should pay special attention to activities that involve the young women (see Handbook 2, 18.2.9).
Use local resources
Once you’ve identifed needs and interests, the next step is to match them with local resources that can meet those needs and interests. An inventory of possible resources may be very useful to help quorum leaders plan activities. You might consider compiling lists of:
• Members in the ward who have special skills, talents or professional experience.
• Equipment that members are willing to allow the youth to use, such as canoes, boats, fishing equipment, sports equipment and camping equipment.
• Nearby physical facilities, such as national and state parks, water sports venues, campgrounds, and businesses or industries where ward members work.
Stake leaders may consider developing these lists at a stake level to provide greater resources to all the youth of the stake.
Above all, keep in mind that what matters most is “building young men with strong testimonies in the Lord Jesus Christ, helping them magnify their priesthood duties and preparing to fulfill their divine roles” (lds.org/ymactivities).