Many experiences recorded in the scriptures make clear that God has confidence in the spiritual abilities of young people. Samuel was just a boy when he heard the Lord’s voice in the temple. Mormon was only 10 years old when he demonstrated the spiritual gifts that qualified him for his sacred mission. Joseph Smith was 14 when he was trusted with the revelation that initiated the Restoration. And the Savior Himself was 12 when He was found in the temple, teaching and engaging in His Father’s work. If you are a teacher of youth, you have the opportunity to help them fulfill the great work that Heavenly Father has prepared them to do.
The Lord has given parents the primary responsibility for teaching their children. Therefore, as you strive to teach youth in the Savior’s way, your efforts should support the efforts of parents. Share with parents of youth what you are teaching. Counsel with them to learn about the needs of the young people in your class and the best ways to help meet those needs. You could communicate with parents through regular emails or text messages, or you may want to meet with them from time to time.
Do what you can to strengthen the relationships between youth and their parents. Young people may sometimes feel most comfortable coming to you when they need advice, but as much as possible, encourage them to also seek counsel from the most important teachers in their lives—their parents.
Question to ponder. What are some appropriate ways in which I could work together with the parents of the youth I teach?
See also the teaching demonstration in the video “Strengthen Our Families” (LDS.org).
Set High Expectations, and Patiently Help the Youth Fulfill Them
In some ways, teaching youth is different from teaching adults. Youth often have less experience with the gospel and may feel less comfortable making comments in class. They may have short attention spans and require a greater variety of teaching methods, such as object lessons, real-life stories, and visual aids. Some youth are still learning what is acceptable in class and may try to push the limits of good behavior. Sometimes they are unsure of their beliefs and unsure of themselves.
However, youth also have the potential to do remarkable things in the Lord’s service. Elder David A. Bednar said: “I believe this generation of youth is more immersed in the scriptures, more deeply acquainted with the words of the prophets, and more prone to turn to the revelations for answers than any previous generation.”1 And President J. Reuben Clark Jr. shared similar confidence in the youth: “The youth of the Church are hungry for things of the Spirit; they are eager to learn the gospel, and they want it straight, undiluted.”2
If the youth sense that you trust them, their confidence in their divine potential will grow, and they will surprise you with what they can accomplish. Lovingly communicate that you know they can be responsible for their own learning and committed to keeping the Lord’s standards. Help them see a vision of what Heavenly Father knows they can become.
Of course, youth still have a lot to learn—just as we all do. Follow the Savior’s example by continuing to love and encourage them, patiently working with them, and never giving up on them.
Questions to ponder. What expectations do I have for the youth I teach? How do I express my confidence in them?
See also “Love Those You Teach” in this resource.
Give Youth Opportunities to Teach Each Other
Youth teach each other all the time—they share experiences, help a friend understand a gospel principle, or set an example through their actions. Give them many opportunities to teach each other in class, for they often learn best from each other and from the experience of teaching. When you invite youth to teach, take the time to help them prepare appropriately. Share with them some of the principles in this resource, and explain what you do to prepare to teach. Consider this pattern: explain a principle that you want them to understand, demonstrate how to apply it, let them practice it, evaluate their efforts, and give them a chance to practice again.
In this way you will be helping the youth not just for one lesson but for a lifetime of teaching the gospel in the Savior’s way.
Question to ponder. Who in my class would benefit from an opportunity to teach? How can I help him or her to have a positive experience?
Scriptural example. As I read Luke 2:40–52, what does the Spirit teach me about the youth in my class?
See also the video “Let Us Teach” (LDS.org).
Help Youth Develop Spiritual Self-Reliance
To survive spiritually in these perilous times and to fulfill the Lord’s mission for them, the youth you teach will need their own reserves of faith and testimony. They will need to know how to find strength during their trials and answers to their questions. They will not be able to rely on you or their parents.
As you teach, rather than simply imparting information, help the youth discover gospel truths for themselves in the scriptures and the words of the prophets. When they have questions, sometimes it is better to teach them how to find answers themselves, rather than answering the questions right away. For example, you could show them how to use the study aids in the scriptures or the Gospel Topics section of LDS.org. You could also share how you have sought and received personal revelation. Encourage them to develop a habit of daily prayer and meaningful scripture study. Through your words and example, teach them about the pure joy that comes from learning and living the gospel.
Questions to ponder. Do the youth I teach know what to do when they have questions or concerns about the gospel? How can I help them be more spiritually self-reliant?
Make Good Use of Technology
If the youth you teach have their own electronic devices, remember that these devices don’t have to be a distraction—they can actually be tools to enhance learning. Encourage the youth to look up scriptures and other Church resources on these devices in order to answer questions. You can also send messages and links to the youth during the week to help them prepare for upcoming lessons.
For the Discussion Leader
Share and counsel together. Begin by inviting teachers to share recent teaching experiences and ask questions related to teaching.
Learn together. Invite teachers to discuss one or more of the ideas in this section. Do not try to cover everything in one meeting.
Practice. Invite teachers to role-play helping young people discover truth for themselves in the scriptures. How would they inspire the youth to find truth without giving them all the answers? What counsel or advice can teachers give each other?
Prepare. Decide together on a topic for the next meeting, and invite teachers to prepare.
David A. Bednar, “A Reservoir of Living Water” (Church Educational System fireside for young adults, Feb. 4, 2007), 2, LDS.org.
J. Reuben Clark Jr., The Charted Course of the Church in Education, rev. ed. (1994), 3; see also lds.org/bc/content/ldsorg/manual/seminary/32709_000.pdf, p. 3.