Do You Want to Make a Difference? Let Youth Lead

Contributed By Young Men General Presidency and Board

  • 21 June 2017

Aaronic Priesthood holders need to have opportunities to develop leadership skills. Young Men advisers or bishopric members don’t just teach leadership skills; they exemplify the skill and practices with the young men until the skill becomes a strength.

Article Highlights

  • For young men to learn leadership, they need opportunities to practice it.
  • Explain, demonstrate, and practice leadership skills with the young men through role play.

“Teach our youth at every opportunity; teach them how to prepare an agenda, how to conduct meetings with dignity and warmth, how to rescue the one, how to prepare and give an inspired lesson, and how to receive revelation.” —Tad R. Callister, Sunday School General President

While speaking with adult leaders and advisers of young men, the question is often asked: “What does this statement mean to you: ‘Let them lead’?”

Most answers are pretty standard and tend to say, “Step back and let them take over” or “They hold priesthood keys; they can do it” and of course, “Shadow leadership” or “Give them the assignment, and if they fail, well, they will learn from it.”

As we visit quorums all over the Church, we see that the success of actually having the young men lead has proven to be much more difficult and less commonly practiced.

Leading and teaching through practice

Perhaps leaders of young men could consider an additional perspective. Doctrine and Covenants 84:106 says, “And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit [speaking of adult advisers], let him take with him him that is weak [quorum presidency], that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also.” Several important principles are taught in this scripture. There is a lead trainer, the adviser or bishopric member, who doesn’t just teach leadership skills but also exemplifies the skill and practices with the young man until the skill becomes a strength.

This same principle is taught very effectively in the mission field. It is called the “training model.” The mission president is considered to be the lead trainer. He teaches verbally a doctrine or skill he wants the missionaries to learn. He then demonstrates the skill in a role-play experience. He will invite the missionaries to practice what he demonstrated and then provide evaluation. The missionaries will continue to practice the skill until they become proficient at it (see Proverbs 22:6).

This practice of developing skills is conducted in every training meeting a missionary will attend. Additionally, when a missionary is role playing, he keeps in mind an actual investigator he is working with, and the miracle is that the missionary will receive impressions about the needs of that individual. This training model can occur at home with a parent, in a quorum presidency meeting, and during interviews with bishopric members (see Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 8.3.1).

Let every man learn his duty

Mark Pendleton, a member of the Young Men general board, recently attended a priests quorum meeting and observed the following:

“In attendance were six priests and the bishop. The first assistant took the lead, read from an agenda, spoke of their service assignments from the bishop, added final details regarding their weekday activity, and then, before turning some time over to the bishop for the lesson, provided training regarding their priesthood duties (see D&C 107:85–87).

“He spoke specifically of their responsibility to bless the sacrament and the sacred nature of this ordinance for the members of the ward, including the importance of how they presented themselves and spoke. He introduced a brand-new priest who was going to be given the opportunity to offer one of the sacrament prayers this same day. He invited each priest to share his feeling about the ordinance and how he felt the first time he offered the prayer. The assistant then invited all to kneel and he read the blessing on the bread.

“With this example, he asked the new priest to offer the blessing on the water. I felt as though I was kneeling on sacred ground. There was a powerful and sweet brotherhood between them all. The bishop expressed his deep gratitude for these men and closed with his testimony. Of course, I had to stay for sacrament meeting.

“I was reminded of a scripture: ‘Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence’ (D&C 107:99). I asked the bishop if he and I could speak for a moment afterward. I had to know what he was doing. The bishop understood fully the power of training and preparation. Each of the quorums in the ward was holding regular presidency meetings, and similar training was provided weekly for these presidencies. The young men were being well trained in their responsibilities and the sacredness of their callings. What was even more interesting to me was that just six months earlier the adult leaders were taking the lead and planning everything for the young men.”

Teaching at every opportunity

Brother Tad R. Callister, Sunday School General President, has said: “We can raise the bar and vision for these young men, and they will respond.

“You leaders lift these deacons quorum presidents best when you let them lead out and you step back from the spotlight. You have magnified your calling best not when you give a great lesson, but when you help them give a great lesson, not when you rescue the one, but when you help them do so.

“There is an old saying: do not die with your music still in you. In like manner, I would say to you adult leaders, do not get released with your leadership skills still in you. Teach our youth at every opportunity; teach them how to prepare an agenda, how to conduct meetings with dignity and warmth, how to rescue the one, how to prepare and give an inspired lesson, and how to receive revelation. This will be the measure of your success—the legacy of leadership and spirituality you leave ingrained in the hearts and minds of these young men. …

“Then [they] will have become the youth of the noble birthright” (“The Power of the Priesthood in the Boy,” Ensign, May 2013, 54).