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Utah ward holds ‘Strive To Be’ evening to help motivate youth with personal development

The activity helped parents and leaders support youth in seeking personal revelation as they set goals that will bring them closer to the Savior

Wards are encouraged to hold a meeting with youth and parents to help motivate youth in their personal development, according to ChurchofJesusChrist.org .

In mid-February, a Latter-day Saint ward in Syracuse, Utah, called its evening “Strive To Be” and gathered parents and local leaders to support and celebrate the progress of young men and young women as they participate in the Children and Youth program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The evening activity was organized by the Rock Creek Ward of the Syracuse Utah West Stake on Feb. 16, 2023. Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency, was excited when he heard about the initiative.

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“Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that we are not supposed to talk to youth about their goals. That is not the case,” he said. “Some goals might be too personal for youth to share, and that is fine, but discussing, sharing and following up on goals will help the youth. This activity is an example of some youth and leaders moving in a good direction.”

The results were better than expected. The youth now have a greater vision of what they want to accomplish, and parents and leaders have a better understanding of how to support and mentor them, said Bishop Spencer Davis.

“We had a great turnout. The youth were engaged and coming up with lots of ideas. Some, in typical fashion, were goofy, but a lot were really good. I think it helps them understand that ‘Hey, these are my goals,’” the bishop said. “I think the biggest thing is trying to cultivate support and communication at home with the parents. That’s what we have been focusing on.”

Young men and young women in the Rock Creek Ward of the Syracuse Utah West Stake participate in a “Strive to Be” evening.
Young men and young women in the Rock Creek Ward of the Syracuse Utah West Stake participate in a “Strive To Be” evening on Feb. 16, 2023. The activity was designed to help motivate the youth to set goals and work on their personal development as part of the Church’s Children and Youth program. | Amy Nielsen

Brother Wilcox was pleased to see the goals coming from the youth — not being imposed on them. Goals provide an opportunity for youth to seek and receive personal revelation.

“It is an opportunity to turn to God and the Savior for strength and help as they strive to know, strive to do and strive to become more like Them,” Brother Wilcox said. “An evening like this is a great opportunity for leaders and parents to teach youth how.”

What is ‘Strive To Be’?

Strive To Be” is a phrase associated with the Church’s Children and Youth program. It can mean strive to be better, strive to become more like Christ, Brother Wilcox said.

“I love that they have chosen that name as a label for the evening they had and for what they are doing. It clearly allows everyone involved to know what the purpose is,” he said. “It is a good model for others to follow.”

After much discussion and months of planning, the activity started with Bishop Davis showing two short videos from ChurchofJesusChrist.org and bearing his testimony about the value of setting goals.

Following the bishop’s remarks, the youth rotated through four tables — spiritual, social, physical and intellectual — one for each area of growth. With leaders standing by for support, the young people discussed the why of setting goals in each category before brainstorming ideas and recording individual goals.

The activity concluded with the leaders encouraging the youth to share their goals with their families and find ways to work on them together. If they wished, they could also share their goals with friends and adult leaders.

Young men and young women in the Rock Creek Ward of the Syracuse Utah West Stake participate in a “Strive to Be” evening.
Young men and young women in the Rock Creek Ward of the Syracuse Utah West Stake participate in a “Strive To Be” evening on Feb. 16, 2023. The activity was designed to help motivate the youth to set goals and work on their personal development as part of the Church’s Children and Youth program. | Amy Nielsen

Quorum and class presidencies were invited to consider setting similar goals with their quorums or classes.

An important key was letting the young people be involved in the planning and execution of the activity. It was one of those activities that parents and leaders hope will reach each youth, said Amy Nielsen, who serves as the Young Women president in the Rock Creek Ward.

“Once they take ownership, they are going to soar,” Nielsen said. “I felt the spirit while the youth were planning it with Bishop Davis. I felt the spirit guiding me while facilitating each group. I saw many of the youth engaged in the activity, socializing and participating. Then after, we put our trust in the youth to continue in the process at home, hoping and praying that they take every opportunity to strive to be like our Savior.” 

Reaction from youth

Considering the different goal categories helped Dasha Cordon to think about her life and future in different ways. The 18-year-old, who serves as secretary in her class presidency, set goals to finish reading the Book of Mormon and do more physical fitness.

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One of the videos they watched featured teenage soccer phenom Olivia Moultrie, a Latter-day Saint who plays professional soccer. Her story impressed Cordon.

“It was inspiring to see that she worked so hard to accomplish things but also had other goals outside of soccer,” she said. “It was just inspiring.”

Penn Davis, 14, first counselor in his teachers quorum presidency, is a member of his high school track and field team. For his physical goal, he wants to run the mile in 5 minutes and 20 seconds.

For his intellectual goal, he wants to develop his talent for playing the trumpet.

His social goal?

“Me and a bunch of the guys from my quorum decided it was time for us to figure out how to talk to girls,” he said. “So we are going to work on that.”

Rock Creek Ward’s next ‘Strive To Be’

The Rock Creek Ward is planning a second “Strive To Be” evening in fall when parents, young men and young women can celebrate goal achievements and spotlight growth and progress. The ward hopes to recognize all those who completed one or more personal goals from the Children and Youth program.

Brother Wilcox hopes more wards will consider doing something similar to encourage youth in their personal development.

“In the Children and Youth program, youth are not working for rewards or prizes. Church leaders hope youth will discover internal motivations for wanting to improve their lives and become more like the Savior,” Brother Wilcox said. “At the same time, all youth need celebrations, recognition and positive reinforcement. An evening like this paves the way for a later meeting in which youth can be celebrated and their efforts can be appreciated.”

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