Personal inspiration anchors the Church’s Children and Youth program in 2022.
It is not a series of checklists. It’s not a line-item of requirements. Rather, the worldwide program offers daily opportunities for young people to prayerfully discover their own path of discipleship.
“It starts with revelation,” said Young Men General President Steven J. Lund. “The Children and Youth program allows young people and parents and quorum and class leaders to seek the powers of heaven in guiding them on what they should do week-to-week.”
Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon acknowledged that to some, “the Children and Youth program is challenging because it is different. We’re changing a culture. We’re used to checklists. …
“But the recipe now is really to figure out, especially on the personal development side, ‘What is it that I need to do to move forward? How do I incorporate the Lord in my life?’ and then the opportunity to help them learn how to connect with heaven and receive revelation.”
Local youth advisers helping execute the program, added President Lund, should focus their planning on a central question: “What do our young people need?”
In January, wards and branches across the Church begin their third year of the Children and Youth program. The Young Women and Young Men general presidencies recently discussed with the Church News how youth, children, their families and their leaders can make the most of it this year.
Be engaged in the work of salvation and exaltation
As the Young Men and Young Women general presidencies meet with youth and adult leaders worldwide, they often get asked: “What is the Children and Youth program?”
“It is a tool for the youth and the children to be actively engaged in the work of salvation and exaltation,” President Cordon explained. And how do they do that? “By living the gospel of Jesus Christ, caring for those in need, sharing the gospel, and uniting families for eternity.”
The Children and Youth program’s three areas of focus — gospel learning, service and activities, and personal development — help strengthen the rising generation’s faith in Jesus Christ as they are actively involved in His work.
As a young man participates in “Come, Follow Me” with his family, he is doing the Children and Youth program. As a young woman cares for a sister she ministers to, she’s doing the Children and Youth program. As a class or quorum presidency counsels together about Sunday lessons, they’re doing the Children and Youth program.
“They’re doing a lot better than they think they are,” President Cordon said.
The boys and girls need each other, added President Lund. “They are engaged in the work of salvation together … and they have each other’s backs.”
Sister Michelle D. Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, said the Children and Youth program is all about seeking revelation and building relationships — first and foremost with the Savior.
Rather than relying on a manual to know what to do, the Children and Youth program encourages young people to ask: “What does God want me to do?”
“It’s intentional discipleship, and it’s not complicated,” Sister Craig said.
President Lund said a key indicator of a person’s likelihood of sustained Church activity is the strength of his or her relationships with their youth leaders in the ward or branch.
His counsel to youth leaders is simple: “Be with the youth. Direct them to heaven. And then let them lead, under your nurturing care. … They will discover that the adults love them and care about them.”
Sister Rebecca L. Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, offered similar counsel: “If you really want to know how to reach them, communicate with them or make a lesson better, get them involved. You just ask them. … When they know you’re listening, they’ll engage.”
As leaders, Sister Craig said, “our love for them is not dependent on how they identify or maybe what they’re doing. We love them. That’s our job. … We help them to see in themselves who they really are, their identity and their purpose, and that there’s a place for them and that they belong.”
Let the youth lead
Brother Ahmad Corbitt, first counselor in the Young Men general presidency, said there is power in quorums and class presidencies meeting weekly. Such gatherings don’t have to last long. Consistency is key.
“As they meet weekly and talk about the members of their classes and quorums, they can trust that the Lord will direct them,” he said. “The Lord will inspire them to know what to do and how to help. They will come to learn how to trust in the Lord more fully.”
The youth, he added, need to understand that they have the ability and authority to serve. “Everything points to successful service.”
Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency, said it is essential that youth leaders allow the young people they serve to lead themselves. Trust that the Lord will guide His youth.
“The youth will have a better experience if we allow them to step up to the plate,” he said.
Adult advisers and quorum leaders can trust that the Lord has called the youth to lead and direct their respective quorums and classes. They need to be allowed to grow and develop.
Brother Corbitt said youth leaders are analogous to training wheels on a bicycle. Like sturdy training wheels, they can help young people stay safe and upright until they can “manage the bicycle” themselves. Those are magical moments for leaders and youth alike.
Power is also found when Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes work, plan and minister together. The program works best when it’s all hands on deck.
Participate in FSY
Well-planned, Church-centered outdoor activities, camps and youth conferences are held every summer and make a positive difference. They will provide youth with priceless opportunities to step away from their electronic devices, learn new skills, connect with fellow Latter-day Saints and deepen trust in adult advisers.
However, in 2022 many young people in North America will have the opportunity to participate in a For the Strength of Youth conference for the first time. The conferences have been held internationally for many years with great success. Finally, after two years of being canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the week-long conferences will be held at university campuses across the United States and Canada.
For the Strength of Youth conferences will include outdoor games, dances and talent shows but also devotionals, scripture study, classes and testimony meetings. Young people will build relationships with others including their YSA counselors who oversee groups of young men and women. The activities are designed to allow young people to connect with the Lord and build their trust in Him.
“I’m very excited about these conferences,” said President Lund. “The results will be grand.”
FSY allows for youth to build relationships and establish new habits in ways that are simply not possible on Sundays alone, said Brother Wilcox.
“You build those relationships when you’re talking, learning and laughing and playing together. That’s when young people realize that there is more to life than, say, video games.
“They realize there is a difference between ‘artificial’ versus ‘real’.”
Brother Corbitt said the FSY activities will also provide normal and natural opportunities to invite fellow young people who may not be Latter-day Saints to join in the fellowship and adventure.
“They too will feel the influence of the Holy Ghost,” he said.
Legions of young single adults will be enlisted to help with the upcoming FSY conferences. Their efforts will uplift all involved and they will become positive role models for the youth.