In a perfect world, teenaged members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would plan mutual activities months in advance, text reminders to class members and invite their non-LDS friends to join them. The teenagers would arrive early and always have an especially good turnout for service projects.
But in the pursuit of that ideal, youth leaders often find themselves in a pinch. If you find yourself without a planned activity just hours before it begins, try one from this list of 15 meaningful last-minute Mutual activities.
(For more ideas — both last-minute and more planning-intensive — and for more details about many of the activities below, visit the Church’s youth activities website. And as always, follow the counsel of local priesthood leaders and Handbook 2 to keep youth safe in all activities you plan.)
This activity takes little preparation because the details are determined on the spur of the moment. Divide into groups (if you have a lot of youth) and determine which groups will cover which parts of the ward. Then knock on doors and ask ward members how you can help them. Have each group track what they do and meet back at the church to compare lists—they might provide ideas for future activities and service opportunities. While the youth are providing service, one leader can sneak away for refreshments.
This activity is especially meaningful if the youth in your ward are given opportunities to teach on Sundays. Gather copies of Teaching: No Greater Call and Preach My Gospel and bring them to the activity. Divide the youth into small groups and assign each group a specific skill from these resources to study and present to the group.
Daily scripture study is an important aspect of missionary work, and with many of today’s youth serving missions straight out of high school, it’s never too soon to learn and practice effective study habits. Prepare copies of Preach My Gospel and General Conference addresses relating to scripture study. Review suggestions with the group, then put the youth in “companionships” to practice what they’ve learned.
4. Follow through on Sunday commitments
Mutual activities are great resources for reinforcing principles taught on Sunday. If you find yourself without a plan for a midweek activity, look back at the previous Sunday’s lessons. Did the teacher issue a challenge for the youth to prepare names for the temple, serve others, work on Personal Progress or Duty to God, study the scriptures or anything else? Use the time allotted for your activity to follow through on those commitments.
If you have a couple of hours before the activity, call a few of the youth from your ward and assign them to write down some questions they have been asked about their faith. Prepare some questions yourself, focusing specifically on questions investigators might ask missionaries. When everyone is gathered, put the questions in a bowl and mix them up. Then invite each person to come to the front and answer a question on the spot. Repeat until the questions are gone, then review resources in Preach My Gospel that relate to answering gospel questions.
6. Sing hymns and primary songs
If you’re really crunched for time—as in, everyone’s at the church with nothing to do—use the resources that are already in the room with you. Invite someone to play hymns and primary songs while everyone else sings. These songs invite the spirit and strengthen testimonies. Invite each young person to choose their favorite song. This helps the youth get to know each other and share their testimonies in simple ways.
7. Visit temple grounds or a Visitors Center
If you live near a Visitors Center, take the youth for a tour. The doctrines taught there will likely be familiar to them, but being in close proximity to a temple or other Church history site invites the Holy Ghost and will allow them to learn in new ways. Watch any available videos and encourage the youth to ask the missionaries questions. If you don’t live near a Visitors Center, visit your local temple grounds. Invite the youth to walk around reverently and notice the feelings they have when they’re near the temple. If things are going well, you might hold a brief testimony meeting before heading home.
8. Write thank-you notes
Every ward and branch in the Church is run by volunteers. In each congregation—no matter how big or how small—people sacrifice to serve Church members. Gather supplies for writing thank-you notes and provide a list of names of ward and stake leaders for youth to write to. Think of everyone who serves the youth in any way, including everyone from the bishop and stake president to the ward organist and building coordinators. This will help the youth better appreciate the experiences they have on Sunday and look forward to future Church service.
9. Nature walk
If the weather is pleasant, take the youth for a walk around your neighborhood or, even better, along a nearby nature trail. Fresh air and exercise is good for everyone, and sometimes a less structured activity like this allows the youth to socialize more with each other. Finish with a game of Ultimate Frisbee and refreshments at the park.
Make copies of page 126 of Preach My Gospel and invite the youth to complete the activity. Then divide the youth into several groups and assign each one a different attribute of Christ to study together. Because you don’t have a lot of time to plan, it will be up to the youth to find scriptures and read from Preach My Gospel—and that’s a good thing! Before everyone leaves, make sure they set both short- and long-term goals for developing Christlike attributes, especially those they feel the greatest need to improve.
11. One-hour Film Festival
This activity works best if the youth have smartphones and if you’re comfortable with using audio/visual equipment. If you have the necessary equipment, divide the youth into a few large groups and assign them a topic for a video—perhaps a gospel topic from Come, Follow Me or For the Strength of Youth. Give the youth one hour to create a video, then show them at the end of the hour. If you have time, bring some popcorn to eat while the films play.
12. Clean the church
Some good, old-fashioned work is good for everyone. Use the cleaning supplies already available in your building’s custodial closet and put the youth to work cleaning the church. Even if someone is scheduled to clean the building that week, the youth can help make the process faster and can deep-clean parts of the church that may not be cleaned routinely (like the wood on the pulpit or between organ pedals).
13. Mutual activity planning night
Sometimes youth don’t plan activities simply because they haven’t made the time. If everyone shows up for an activity and none is planned, use the time as a brainstorming session. Invite all class and quorum members to contribute ideas and vote on their favorites. If they use the time well, the youth can plan enough activities for an entire year.
14. Visit less-active class or quorum members
Sometimes an unscheduled visit is the best way to contact less-active class and quorum members. Use the time set aside for Mutual activities to seek out those who haven’t come to church or activities in a while. If you have some time beforehand, prepare a small gift to bring with you. This is a great way to show love to less-active church members and helps prepare youth for a lifetime of Church service.
This activity is similar to the service scavenger hunt but focuses more on small, meaningful acts than on large group efforts. After the youth have returned to the church building and reported their success, leaders can share a few scriptures on service and bear testimony of the importance of keeping baptismal covenants.