Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Busy Youth: Clarifying my T&S comment

I made a comment in a T&S conversation last night, but comments are closed and I never got a chance to explain what I was thinking, and some of the comments left me feeling like people might misunderstand me.

The conversation was about Seminary and the busy-ness of youth with the many programs they have. I said, more in a musing mode:
I can’t help but wonder if the repetition in the youth programs is on purpose. If they weren’t busy with good church stuff, isn’t it likely that they’d be busy with other stuff that might not be as wholesome? I think getting youth together to strengthen each other often takes more than once a week. I dunno…I’m not at that stage yet, but I can’t help but think that it’s not redundancy without some intent.

Julie says:
It sounds like you don’t have much confidence in LDS families. I imagine some youth (like those in Adam’s ward) are better off at another YM/YW activity than at home, but others . . . I was thinking of Pres. Packer’s (and others) comments before Mark IV even posted them. Church leaders warn repeatedly that the church isn’t supposed to take the place of the primary unit: the family.

It's not that I don't have confidence in LDS families, it's just that youth are easily pulled into a variety of activities. If they are going to be socializing and busy, why not be doing it with youth in the Church who share their values? I'm NOT advocating useless activities, or overcramming to the point of trying to take over the family's role. This is something Elder Oaks also just talked about, and I think it's obvious that we still don't fully "get it" since our leaders keep repeating this counsel. But at the same time, our leaders haven't removed Seminary, or weekly activities, or BYC, or Scouts, or.... And so I trust that the problem isn't in the structure, its in the implementation.

I also was going off of something my sister has said. She has six children, and holds a busy leadership calling. She expressed to me how she was feeling that things were a bit crazy with all the different activities of all her children, many of them Church-related. In the penultimate Conference, she felt some perspective and felt that it was a good thing that our youth are kept busy with Church activities. There is so much that youth can get busy with that isn't as useful (again NOT to suggest that activities are more important than family; I'm saying something different).

Like I said in my comment, though, I am not at that stage yet, so all of what I said was sort of thinking out loud. I just wanted to be sure that people understood that I am not trying to say the Church should take over the family. That said, our leaders have acknowledged that:

We need both Church activities and family activities. If all families were complete and perfect, the Church could sponsor fewer activities. But in a world where many of our youth grow up in homes where one parent is missing, not a member, or otherwise inactive in gospel leadership, there is a special need for Church activities to fill in the gaps (Dallin H. Oaks, “Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church,” Liahona, Nov 2005, 24–27).

Again, though, his most recent Conference talk really came down hard on church activities that are not focused and purposeful. How we spend our time in our families and in the Church needs to be tightened.

I think Elder Oaks talks about both keeping Church activities tight but also the risk that is there if the Church were to reduce activity time.

Stake presidencies and bishoprics need to exercise their authority to weed out the excessive and ineffective busyness that is sometimes required of the members of their stakes or wards. Church programs should focus on what is best (most effective) in achieving their assigned purposes without unduly infringing on the time families need for their "divinely appointed duties."

But here is a caution for families. Suppose Church leaders reduce the time required by Church meetings and activities in order to increase the time available for families to be together. This will not achieve its intended purpose unless individual family members—especially parents—vigorously act to increase family togetherness and one-on-one time. Team sports and technology toys like video games and the Internet are already winning away the time of our children and youth. Surfing the Internet is not better than serving the Lord or strengthening the family. Some young men and women are skipping Church youth activities or cutting family time in order to participate in soccer leagues or to pursue various entertainments. Some young people are amusing themselves to death—spiritual death.

It cuts both ways. We need to be sure that Church activities count, but also that whatever time we don't spend involved with Church stuff is not spent on good-but-not-essential stuff. A hard balance all around, no?

1 comment:

Tigersue said...

Several years ago, they did drop the youth activities down to once a month, and they changed it back to weekly because they were loosing youth to inactivity. I do think there is balance, and I don't mind the business of the church youth programs. It is the addition of extra stuff. When I had my daughter in piano lessons, and viola lessons and swimteam, I about went nuts. We had to simplify not just for us but her too. We dropped Viola first, it was the most expensive as her teacher was increasing the fee.
Then last year I had to drop piano for both my kids. Now from that list my kids are not as busy as some. I don't know how parents do it that have kids in some kind of thing everyday, soccer, basketball, music lessons, gymnastics, dance, etc. When does it end. Not just the time away from home and giving kids the chance to be kids, but the financial strain as well.
It leaves me in constant confusion, and wondering if I am a terrible mom because I will not fund the activities that so many seem to think kids need now.