How to Organize a Youth Family History Class or Event

Contributed By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer

  • 20 August 2014

When helping youth with family history work, be patient and work with each youth as an individual. Don't underestimate them, advises Hannah Allan, a BYU Family History and Genealogy graduate.

Article Highlights

  • Sister Allan broke down the class into three areas for working with youth doing family history: tips for leaders, tips for youth, and tips for hosting a family history event.
  • When youth or adults showcase some of their family history work, it can create a powerful manifestation of the spirit of Elijah, she said.

“Family history work is not just another ward basketball game. Family history work is not just another campout. Family history is part of the youth program, and it is the work of salvation.” —Hannah Allan, BYU Family History and Genealogy graduate 

PROVO, UTAH

How to organize a youth family history class or special event was the topic Hannah Allan discussed at the conference on family history and genealogy at BYU on July 30.

Sister Allan, a BYU Family History and Genealogy graduate and a genealogist in Portland, Oregon, said, “I love to dabble in all things to do with genealogy.”

Speaking from her own experiences, Sister Allan broke down the class into three areas for working with youth doing family history: tips for leaders, tips for youth, and tips for hosting a family history event.

To begin, Sister Allan spoke about a couple of efforts in her home ward to involve youth in family history work that didn’t work out so well, and she wanted to discuss why.

“Several leaders from my stake met to plan ‘The Elijah Project,’” Sister Allan said. “The goal of the project was to get youth to take names to the temple. To kick things off, they asked me to speak at a fireside and also invited some youth to speak. After the fireside, that was it. What could have been done better?”

Involve the youth in planning and let them lead, Sister Allan said. Don’t underestimate the youth. Leaders have to trust them. To make her point, Sister Allan quoted Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who said, “Invite the young people to act. You have to be there, but you have to get out of the way. You have to provide direction, without taking over” (“Let Them Act,” youth video, LDS.org).

For leaders thinking about calling youth to family history positions, Sister Allan suggested not calling inactive youth who do not come to church. “Help ward and stake leaders understand the importance of calling youth who are enthusiastic,” she said. “Call excited and active youth first and then have them reach out to those who are less active and create enthusiasm in them. … Use the talents of the youth and apply them to family history.”

A few final tips that Sister Allan mentioned for working with youth are not to pressure them but to invite them to participate in family history work. Make it personal and fun, including using food, games, technology, and photos, she said.

Help ward and stake leaders understand this is more than just another event, commitment, or checklist.

Involve the youth in planning family history classes or events. Let them lead!

For leaders, Sister Allan shared another personal experience. She was asked to lead a family history activity with a group of deacons and Beehives. Sister Allan reached out to the organizer to ask what she should specifically cover at the activity. She never heard back. At the activity, the youth leader got up and told the youth that Sister Allan was going to help each of them find a name to take to the temple that night. “Leaders need to understand that it takes time to try and find a name to take to the temple,” said Sister Allan.

Sister Allan shared another quote from Elder Bednar, who said, “So what are you doing when you do family history? It’s not just another one of those things on the checklist. This is the work of salvation. And as they do that work, that’s an expression of faith. It opens their heart for that spirit to be able to get in and touch them. It will be inviting them to do something, to listen, to look, to act” (“Help Others to Come Back to Church,” youth video, LDS.org).

A tip for adult family history consultants in the ward to help involve youth family history consultants is if someone calls needing help, let them know you will be bringing a youth family history consultant along to help. That can break the ice with new youth family history consultants, said Sister Allan.

More tips for leaders are to show love and connect with the youth. Be good examples by doing family history work yourself. “Remember that you are working with individuals,” said Sister Allan. “You can be a model to the masses, but to go to the higher levels of influence, you have to work with individuals.”

When it comes time to put together a family history class or event, keep it personable, said Sister Allan. She quoted Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from this past general conference, who said, “Our young people are excited to learn about the lives of family members—where they came from and how they lived. Many have had their hearts turned to the fathers. They love the stories and photos, and they have the technological expertise to scan and upload these stories and photos to Family Tree and connect source documents with ancestors to preserve these for all time.”

At a hands-on event or class, make sure there are enough computers for everyone and that each person knows their login information, said Sister Allan. “Being involved in the spirit of Elijah [which is a manifestation of the Hoy Spirit] doesn’t mean spending hours at ancestry.com or sitting doing indexing. Get youth involved in what they want to do. Maybe it means they find out some of Grandma’s best recipes and make them for a class. Maybe it means bonding with family members who are still living. The spirit of Elijah isn’t just dealing with our dead ancestors. The spirit of Elijah is family,” she said.

Another way Sister Allan suggested youth can get excited about family history work is to hold a family history event where members of the ward show what they have already done. When youth or adults showcase some of their family history work, it can create a powerful manifestation of the spirit of Elijah, she said.

“Family history work is not just another ward basketball game,” said Sister Allan. “Family history work is not just another campout. Family history is part of the youth program, and it is the work of salvation. If you have youth leaders that don’t understand that, let them know that this work is going to help the youth build testimonies of Christ. This is not only for the salvation for the dead but also to help youth read their scriptures more, to pray and get on their knees, to go to the temple more. This is the work of salvation.”