All the teenagers in the Waxahachie Ward, Dallas Texas Stake, are always talking about FUN. In every activity, in every class or quorum presidency meeting, in every bishop’s youth council meeting, the subject is always FUN.
But that’s fun with a capital F.U.N.—Focus Upon Needs. In other words, every single activity, whether it’s a service project, a campout, a sport activity, or a party, is planned around meeting the needs of someone in their group.
“I think FUN is pretty neat,” says Lacy Giles, Laurel president. “I’ll get out a sheet of paper, and we’ll list all the Laurels. We’ll go through the list and write what they like to do and all kinds of ideas. We plan our activities around them. It’s really helped them come out more.”
The Laurel class discovered that one of their less-active members had an unusual doll collection. For one activity night, they all brought their favorite collections.
Another member of their class was working on her Laurel project. Since her cultural background was Spanish, she wanted to teach the youth of the ward Spanish dancing. She planned the activity, learned dances from her parents and her aunts and uncles, then came and taught the girls of the ward. It was a great success. “We had fun dancing with her,” says Jenny Rencher, Laurel class secretary.
This emphasis on FUN has given direction to the class and quorum presidency meetings. Here’s how the deacons quorum plans activities for their group.
Mark Jones, 13, is the president. “There are six in our quorum. We’re working on some guys who don’t come at all. We plan certain campouts that we think people will enjoy from their personalities. We planned one for this guy, and he came. He’s starting to come more. He’s a good guy.”
Of course, trying to come up with an idea to help one person might leave several others wishing for something different. What do these deacons do?
“When you plan something, and something goes wrong really quickly, you have to change your plans,” says Mark.
“And reschedule and reschedule,” adds Royden Jeffries, second counselor.
“And remodel it and make it fit again,” continues Mark.
“There’s no trying to please everyone in the quorum,” concludes Jay Venable, first counselor.
The big thing an observer notices is that this deacons quorum presidency, and all the other quorum and class presidencies in the ward, function—and function well. They hold regular monthly meetings. They have their leadership manuals in hand, an agenda for the meeting drawn up, and their adviser present. With a ward as spread out as theirs, the presidencies choose to meet just before or after a weekly activity or on Sundays, whichever works the best for that particular presidency. All the presidencies come together in Bishopric Youth Council. But by that time, all the activities are planned. It’s just a matter of making assignments.
Take the month’s Young Women–Young Men combined activity, for example. The activity is a special-needs night. They are going to learn what it’s like to be restricted to a wheelchair or find out how handicapped accessible their building is. They are also going to have someone give demonstrations on how it feels to be blind or deaf. But this isn’t just a nice activity. The youth are learning what some of their own ward members are going through. The mother of two of the young men is confined to a wheelchair. It would help if some of their friends knew what they could do to help her on occasion. The other youth of the ward need to learn in what ways she struggles.
One young woman’s grandfather is blind. She will demonstrate how to be an effective guide. Another ward member is hearing impaired. A young woman is planning to demonstrate some of the things that restrict this sister because of her deafness. The activity is a good one, but it is even better because it meets the needs of several of the youth and ward members.
In youth council, the group in charge has divided the work for the activity night into six assignments. One group quickly volunteers to round up some wheelchairs. Another offers to bring refreshments. Another offers to do the publicity. Soon the last assignment, cleanup, needs to be made. Again, it goes to the deacons. Everyone starts to laugh. The deacons haven’t learned how to speak up quickly enough on assignments and usually wait too long and get stuck with cleanup. But they are good-natured about it. It’s a job they know how to do well.
Spreading out the work, or delegating, is one of the biggest leadership skills the Waxahachie Ward youth presidencies have learned. “Being a president,” says Lacy Giles, “I’ve learned to be organized and delegate. Delegation is the most important thing I’ve learned. It makes things work more smoothly. Everyone gets involved and has a lot more fun instead of you just running the whole show and being all stressed out. I’ve figured out how to break it down into smaller jobs.
“The first thing our Young Women president, Sister Clark, asks when we have activities to plan is, Who do you feel would do this well? Who do you think would make the best out of this? Who would be helped by leading this activity, or conducting it, or whatever? She has helped me learn to delegate.”
Being involved is a great way to help someone feel part of things. Michael South, the first assistant in the priests quorum, explains, “When someone is in a presidency, it really helps them to be more active in the quorum.” In Michael’s quorum just about everybody has the opportunity for leadership. They have divided up their responsibilities and placed someone at the head of each committee. For example, they have committees set up with a quorum member in charge for temple assignments, for camping, for sports, for priesthood assignments, for service projects, etc. Virtually every member of the quorum is involved in committee responsibilities.
One item that is always on the agenda of every class or quorum presidency every month is the members they don’t see very often or at all. The deacons only have a couple of members they don’t see regularly. In the presidency meeting, Mark Jones asks, “Have any of you seen Francisco?”
Royden answers, “No, it was like two weeks ago.”
Mark says, “I’ll talk to the bishop about it. I think he has a ride problem.”
Royden then brings up a project he’s trying to work out. Their ward is so spread out that it requires long distance to call from one area to another. Royden is trying to figure out just who can make calls to whom without using long distance.
“It’s like the food chain,” explains Royden. The others look at him blankly.
“It’s like there’s one big predator,” continues Royden, “that eats something that eats something else, and so on.”
The light dawns. “Oh,” says Jay, “like a phone web. That’s a good idea.” And they are soon figuring out a plan to contact the other quorum members without running up phone bills.
The leadership abilities that some of the youth have learned serving in the ward have lapped over into other areas of their lives. For Michelle Clark, the things she learned in Young Women presidencies prepared her to lead her school. Although just a junior, Michelle was elected student council president (the same as student body president). Her ability to organize and focus on the needs of the students carried her campaign.
Chances for leadership come up often. Each teen, even if he or she isn’t serving in a presidency, has an opportunity to be in charge of an event or a committee. The Waxahachie Ward youth know how to have a good time, but more importantly they concentrate on the individual.
After all, thinking of others really is the only way to have FUN.
Having a phone line with an answering machine devoted to youth activities has worked well in the Apple Valley Ward of the Salt Lake Butler Stake. A member of the Young Men presidency had an extra phone line and the answering machine in his house. He arranged for the youth to record their announcements on it. The class presidencies take turns updating the information on the answering machine each week. Now when youth or their parents need to know what’s going on, where the young people are meeting, what time, and what to bring, it’s all on the youth “hot” line.
The young people in the Heughs Canyon Ward of the Salt Lake Cottonwood Stake know where to find a great BLT. (That’s Bishop Leadership Training and also a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.) When the class and quorum presidencies meet with the bishopric for leadership training and planning, they have the tradition of also serving bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches, with each presidency volunteering to bring different ingredients plus paper plates and something to drink.
The Waxahachie Ward had another great idea. They took pictures of each age group. Then one of them with access to a computer scanned in the pictures and produced their own personalized covers for their For the Strength of Youth booklets. Now when they see their own pictures on the cover, it reminds them that the advice inside is meant for them.