When I was in Young Women, I adored my leaders. They were awesome. I learned a ton. But one of the things that impacted me most where the spiritual things they taught me.
It wasn’t too long ago that I was faced with making a decision that had 2 good options. It’s hard enough to make good decisions, but even harder when you’re picking between two good options and have to base your choice on the long term benefits rather than just right and wrong.
I found myself hearing the voice of one of my YW leaders – this was something she said often – “make choices based on the possible outcomes, as well as on the immediate results.” She was always reminding us that our choices today directly affected the paths we’d be walking in the years to come. My young self thought she was just being spiritual, today I’m so grateful for the wisdom that she shared with me then.
When I think back on that sister and all of my other leaders, I can see that they were constantly working to keep all of us girls focused on gospel principles with both our minds and our hearts.
I think as youth leaders, one of the goals we’re striving to reach, is to help our youth remember so that when it really counts, they’ll know what they should do right?
So how do we keep things front and center?
Here are 3 ways I remember my YW leaders doing it, and they all still work today.
Say it in Context – It might be the easier thing to recite the theme and to say it frequently. And that isn’t a bad option, but I know it made the most impact when my leaders pushed gospel principles in context. They were involved in the happenings of our lives. It will probably take some extra thought and a lot of prayer, but if we’re listening, we’ll be prompted to say the things they need in a context they can understand.
Take just a few minutes and think about each of your Young Women. What extracurricular activities is she involved in? Who is she friends with? What might she be struggling with or spending a lot of time thinking about or working on? (Pondering and prayer will set up you up for success if you’re struggling with how to connect with your girls on the monthly themes in context with their lives.)
Say it with Love – I can only imagine that there were times when our leaders were less than happy with us. Like when we all zoned out during a lesson they prepared a ton for, or when we didn’t show up to the activity or service project, or when we were being ridiculous grudge-holders and were all jammed in a suburban on our way to girls camp.
But I never once heard a leader not speak with love. It seems simple, but I know much better now. No matter how much you love someone (kids), there are moments that you’d like to opt out. In those moments where opting out may be the case, look with celestial eyes at your girls. How does Heavenly Father see them?
As a leader, I think we need to always make 2 statements. The first is to state the principle taught by the monthly theme. It’s a rule, so it doesn’t have to be warm and fuzzy. And then I think the follow up needs to start with “I love you…”, “I believe that you…”, “I know that you…”. (I know it’s easier to use “we” so that no one feels singled out and in group settings that works. But these statement of love are incredibly effective one on one – I grew up with a mother that did the rule/love follow-up and it works!)
Each monthly theme may present challenges for some girls while it jives with the lives of others. Our world today is full of messages and media, but very few come with a follow-up and a follow-up of love and confidence does even more good. Even correct principles, as hard or as harsh as they might sound, can sound a little bit softer and more achievable when someone votes for you with love.
Supportive reminders – I have a box full of Young Women handouts and notes. I should have thrown it away years ago, but I justified that it might come in handy someday. I’ve used a few of the handout ideas, but they’re becoming a little outdated. Truth is, each of those handouts reminds me of the leaders who made them, lessons I learned, and my experience as a Young Women. But creating handouts and sending texts or emails takes time, and sometimes its just more important to love the girls than it is to make something pretty.
Grab some cute notecards, take a few minutes to text your girls to wish them luck the day of a test, big event or even just to say that you love them.
And if you’re wanting to focus more on monthly themes, consider using my monthly theme cards. You can pick up September’s monthly theme card for free here. (There’s some great info on how to print them without breaking the bank and how you can get more free ones! (If you want an older set of cards for free, check out this post. They’re all in one place!)