On Sunday afternoon, Elder Gong of the Twelve led an online Face to Face broadcast that was directed to parents, teachers, auxiliary leaders, and local leaders, as well as children and youth. So pretty much everyone in the Church. The topic was the new LDS youth program that kicks in starting January 2020, replacing Scouting for young men and redirecting the LDS program for young women. Let’s talk about it. I’ll just throw out some bullet points and invite further comment and discussion from readers.
It’s the next generation. There appears to be a lot of understandable concern among the senior leadership about doubts and faith crisis and keeping LDS youth active in the Church. It’s reasonable to think the content and focus of the new youth program responds to those concerns. This is a key part of their plan to address faith crisis, doubts, and youth retention in the upcoming post-Millennial generation, aka Gen Z.
It’s still not very clear what the new program is. It is church-supported and home-centered. Local units have a fair amount of choice in how to set up the new program. Individual youth have a lot of choice in what goals they want to pursue. But there wasn’t much additional detail in the broadcast and there doesn’t seem to be much additional detail at the Church website. I’m thinking youth leaders and local leaders are a little uncertain exactly what’s going to happen starting in January. My sense is that, at least for LDS young men, things will be a lot “churchier” than Scouting.
Let’s do service and let’s have activities. There will be service projects and there will be activities and youth are supposed to take the lead in identifying, organizing, and leading these projects and activities. Sounds good so far, as long as the youth step up and put some effort into planning all this, with some assistance and direction from adult leaders. The broadcast showed a group of LDS young women doing a rock climbing and rappelling activity, which sort of expands the range of activities the young women might do. Sounds good.
We’ve got an app for that. There are some online tools that will be made available to identify service projects and for youth to set goals and monitor progress. The broadcast referred to some in-house social media apps that LDS youth can use to chat with peers. That sounds like the right approach for smartphone-focused youth.
Thumbs up or thumbs down? I’m not pushing either way on this. With so much choice and control delegated to local units and the youth themselves individually, how things actually work in the boots-on-the-ground sense at the many wards and stakes in the Church will only become clear as we move into 2020. There are a lot of great LDS youth out there in our wards and stakes. I hope this new approach works well for them.