5 ways to lead LDS youth without taking over

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Thousands of young women and their leaders attend the 2013 Young Women Meeting at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. (Photo courtesy LDS Church)

Thousands of young women and their leaders attend the 2013 Young Women Meeting at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. (Photo courtesy LDS Church)

A calling to serve in the Young Women, Young Men, Scouting or the single adults organization can be daunting. Some youth don’t pay attention, a few might act irresponsibly and sometimes you may wonder if anyone is listening to a heartfelt lesson. Now that’s a conundrum.

Nonetheless, strong leaders of youth are essential in the LDS Church. And the best youth leaders know they must delegate assignments and leadership tasks to youth. Carefree teenagers can become responsible adults through leadership and training.

Here are five ways to help youth take responsibility.

1. Build trust

“First thing, build trust with them. Let them know you care and you are there to help,” said Mark Grant, who has been a Scoutmaster for 20 years, currently with the Cedar Hills 3rd Ward. Building trust helps youth feel as though they can come to leaders for help. Plus, in a trusting relationship, the youth respect adult leaders and don’t want to disappoint them.

2. Be what you want them to be

Grant suggests modeling, as well as teaching, young people. A leader needs to be a strong communicator who serves more than anyone else in the group and adapts when needed. He also suggests keeping perspective and realizing the activity is for the youth, not the adults, and remaining positive.

[pullquote]“Leaders may be inclined to conduct, provide the music, or pray at a youth fireside or other meeting, but they should be ‘shadow leaders,’ overseeing the youth who perform these functions.” —President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, The First Presidency[/pullquote]

“Leaders may be inclined to conduct, provide the music, or pray at a youth fireside or other meeting, but they should be ‘shadow leaders,’ overseeing the youth who perform these functions,” said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, in the June 2008 Ensign article “Tending the Flock: Teaching Leadership Skills to Youth.

“Having opportunities to teach — even simple ones such as bearing testimony, giving a thought on a scripture, or standing up for gospel principles in small discussions — are essential for young people,” Uchtdorf said. “Teaching is the essence of leadership.”

3. Set clear expectations and teach leadership skills

 “Youth should be taught what is expected and then be expected to follow through,” said Robyn Rhoton, the Alpine North Stake Young Women president. “Adult leaders should consistently follow up as the youth are completing assignments, but they should not step in and do assignments. This means that adult leaders need to realize that sometimes a leadership principle to be taught is more important than a ‘perfect activity.’”

Rhoton suggests the leadership lessons “Leading in the Savior’s Way” on the church’s website are an effective way to teach leadership skills. These lessons cover a range of topics including organization (preparing agendas and planning activities) to gospel principles (ministering and loving the people you serve).

In “Tending the Flock: Teaching Leadership Skills to Youth,Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “It’s not uncommon for adult leaders to assume responsibility that actually belongs to the youth.”  Ballard advises leaders to bring issues before their youth council and ask, “What are we going to do, how are we going to do it and who’s going to do what?”

4. Let them lead

With the new youth curriculum, “Come, Follow Me,” the youth and leaders have direct access to learning leadership skills.

“I love the new youth curriculum ‘Come, Follow Me,’” said Becky Saxey, Young Women president of the Alpine 1st Ward.  “I love how it has so much more participation from the class, which teaches them they are part of the class discussion not just there to be entertained. I love that the young women are teaching more. They are learning to teach and how to bring the spirit into the class.”

In addition, it helps give youth more opportunities to share and lead discussions.

“Along with planning, conducting, and carrying out the activities, the youth leaders also lead ‘reflections.’ This gives everyone a chance to comment on how the activity pertains to the gospel and can help them in their lives,” said Karen Holbrook, Stake Young Women president of the Cedar Hills Utah Stake.

“These experiences are all giving the youth confidence in themselves, training on how to be a leader, and lessons on being responsible and following through.”

5. Love them

When it comes to any leadership position, a true leader will let those they are serving know they care.

“Just love them,” said Mija Garlick, who is one of the “ward moms” for BYU’s 167th single adult ward. She employs this old tried-and-true adage every day along with her other favorite, “They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Grant adds, “No matter what happens, make sure the youth leaders understand they did a good job and you appreciate the work they put in.”

For more suggestions and guidance, visit these sites:

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