Only a few months into the Children and Youth program, the COVID-19 pandemic halted in-person gatherings around the world, forcing parents, leaders and quorum and class presidencies to adapt meetings and activities.
Now, as COVID-19 restrictions subside in many areas, general Church leaders are encouraging parents and leaders to reintegrate activities where appropriate and reinforce other aspects of the Children and Youth program.
“We know this program will bless the lives of children and youth who participate,” said President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, during a broadcast on Sunday, June 6. “Its purpose, like all Church programs and resources, is to help us draw closer to the Savior so that we may return to our Heavenly Father and receive eternal life.”
Parents and leaders “are playing a vital role” in supporting youth and children in their efforts to gather Israel, said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“Even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, you have taught the gospel in your homes and through technology. You have found inspired ways to help children and youth participate in virtual or socially-distanced service and activities. And you have ministered to the children and youth, inspiring them to set goals to grow more like Christ during this unique time,” Elder Cook said.
Recognizing that this hasn’t been easy and many parents and leaders still have questions about the Children and Youth program, President Ballard said, “We’d like to show how the Children and Youth program can be a resource to help the rising generation become bound to the Savior.”
During the one-hour presentation, titled “Supporting Children and Youth: A Broadcast for Parents and Leaders,” President Ballard, Elder Cook and general organization leaders provided suggestions to parents, leaders and quorum and class presidencies for reengaging in the Children and Youth program following a pandemic year. They also emphasized the importance of seeking personal revelation to guide their service.
Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace, Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham, Primary General President Camille N. Johnson, Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon and Young Men General President Steven J. Lund led four segments of the broadcast — for parents, Primary leaders, adult youth leaders, and quorum and class presidencies — with practical application for the gospel learning, service and activities, and personal development areas of the Children and Youth program.
“Through gospel learning, service and activities, and personal development, children and youth help themselves and others take those steps towards making and keeping covenants,” President Ballard said. “They’re participating in the gathering of Israel.”
“Your role is essential,” President Russell M. Nelson told parents in a Sept. 29, 2019, Children and Youth broadcast. “Please build strong relationships with your children and youth. Leaders at Church can help, but these are your children. No one can have a greater influence on their success than you.”
Emphasizing President Nelson’s counsel, President Bingham said, “You are critical in helping your children and youth build faith in Jesus Christ and become more like Him.”
President Pace said that as life begins to return to normal in some areas of the world, “we hope your home-centered efforts will continue.”
President Bingham and President Pace offered the following suggestions to help parents support their children in following the Savior:
Gospel learning: “Many of you are already studying the gospel as a family — keep going,” President Bingham said. “Even when it seems no one is listening, or children complain or argue … keep going. Your children are listening and watching, and the peace and blessings will come.”
Gospel learning doesn’t always have to take place in formal sit-down lessons, President Pace said. “Everyday life provides many opportunities for informal teaching moments.” He also encouraged parents to help children make personal scripture study a priority.
Service and activities: “The most impactful activities are often family based,” President Bingham said. And they don’t have to be large-scale or elaborate, President Pace added. “Consider involving your children in the planning process.” Service and activity ideas can be found on the Children and Youth website and JustServe.org.
Personal development: More than setting goals to fulfill a requirement, personal development is the process of seeking revelation. Developing this skill will help children “have confidence that they are becoming who the Lord wants them to become,” President Bingham said.
President Pace said: “That confidence can only come if these are your children’s goals and not your goals. Your children will need a guiding hand and support, but allow them the agency to improve, learn and grow in ways that they feel are best.”
For Primary leaders
The Children and Youth program “points our children to heaven,” said President Johnson, and it “encourages children and youth to involve the Lord in their daily efforts, whether they be spiritual, social, physical or intellectual.”
She explained the role Primary leaders play in helping children “engage with heaven” and outlined some suggestions:
Gospel learning: The past year has shown that there are many ways to teach about the Savior and minister to children outside of our formal Sunday classes, she said. “As we come out of the pandemic, we hope you Primary leaders will continue to seek inspiration and find creative ways to help children feel the Savior’s love and learn His gospel.”
Primary leaders can also help children learn to receive and recognize personal revelation. “Brothers and sisters, are you pointing it out?” President Johnson asked. “Are you helping these dear children recognize the warm, comforting, sure manifestations of the Spirit? … These children need to know how to engage heaven and recognize when it’s happening.”
Service and activities: Where safe and authorized, start holding in-person activities at least monthly, President Johnson said. “If it’s not safe to meet in-person, please consider activities you can do with children virtually or that you can provide them to do individually at home. Look for ways you can keep them serving and learning.”
Personal development: Encourage children to work on their goals, and talk with them and their parents about ways to help them in their development, she said. “Please give special attention to those without support at home.”
For adult youth leaders
President Cordon and President Lund echoed President Nelson’s emphasis to “let the young people lead.”
“They aren’t just the future leaders of the Church — they are leaders right now,” President Lund said. “Our prophets and apostles know that they can do it. The Savior knows that they can do it. And we know that they can do it, because they have you to mentor them, to guide them. …
“Your task is not to help the program succeed. Your task is actually to help these young leaders succeed. And if they succeed, then the program succeeds, and you’ll succeed too.”
Adult youth leaders can mentor quorum and class presidencies by helping them understand the Savior is the center; inviting them to get to know those they serve; showing them resources on the Children and Youth website for meetings, lessons and activities; and encouraging delegation and offering assistance, President Cordon and President Lund explained.
President Cordon and President Lund offered additional ideas for supporting the youth:
Gospel learning: “Often lessons will be taught by an adult leader and a youth together, but this will depend on the needs of the class or quorum and the capacity of the youth to teach,” President Lund said. “And don’t forget to encourage seminary.”
Service and activities: President Cordon said, “Teach presidencies how to plan and implement activities based on the needs of the youth. Encourage them to consider activities and service in four areas we learn about in Luke 2:52.”
Personal development: Be a “constant cheerleader” as youth set and work on their goals, President Lund said. “Reach out and counsel with parents about their children’s needs and the ways that you might offer support.”
For quorum and class presidencies
A call to a quorum or class presidency may seem overwhelming, President Lund told the youth, but “remember that you really have just one thing to do: Help the people in your quorum or class to come unto Christ and stay on His covenant path.”
President Lund and President Cordon suggested the following to help youth magnify their callings:
Gospel learning: Quorum and class presidencies should plan and conduct their Sunday meetings, President Lund said. President Cordon reminded: “The most important thing as you plan and teach these lessons is to help the members of your class or quorum feel the Spirit and see how the gospel applies to their daily lives.”
Service and activities: When planning and carrying out service and activities, consider the needs and interests of those in the quorum or class, President Cordon said. Ideas and inspiration will come while looking to the Lord. “These activities matter to Him because you are helping gather His sons and daughters,” she said.
Personal development: Pray for quorum and class members and serve them, President Cordon said. “Encourage them in their goals and offer to help. Maybe you can help them think of ideas or plan something that the whole class can do as a goal.”
President Ballard and Elder Cook concluded the broadcast with a video of encouragement and testimony from Church leaders during past Children and Youth events.
“We’re also grateful for all of you,” President Ballard said, “especially you young quorum and class presidencies, and all that you do to help the youth and the children of the Church build their faith in Jesus Christ and follow His covenant path.”
Elder Cook added: “Our desire today is that you will feel empowered and supported in your efforts to strengthen the rising generation.”