Ask Angela: New YSA boundaries are a struggle — everyone is 21, and I am 30, and it's really discouraging
I've been in a YSA ward way too long that I feel I have outgrown it. I am a 30-year-old professional, but I feel like I don't know where to fit in right now. I moved to Utah a year ago, and the ward I moved into was full of professionals, but since they changed the wards around, my ward got really small and young.
I am fine being single, I enjoy dating still, but it's just getting harder to meet someone around my age. I've thought about going to a family ward, but the area I live in is one of those "newlywed, nearly dead" wards. I just don't know what to do. Can you help me with this situation?
— Rachel, Salt Lake City
If you can, I would do everything you can to put your worries about the age gap aside, at least for a few months, and focus on getting settled into your new ward.
I know that's easier said than done, but it's the best advice I can give on the matter. I've talked to a lot of young single adults who have recently gone through the whole boundary change, and the age gap in the wards seems to be a common complaint.
But you're in your ward to serve, worship, teach and fellowship with the other people there, regardless of age, gender, race, cultural background, etc., and you can still do those things even though you're older than many of the people in your ward. Sometimes I've found myself overly concerned with the social aspect of things at church, and when that is my focus it makes me feel self-conscious and almost like I didn't get the real benefits from my Sunday meetings. You may have felt these feelings too.
With that said, having a successful dating life is a goal for most people our age, and the great thing is, you are not restricted to your ward when it comes to dating. In fact, I've heard people say stuff like, "I never date in my ward cause if it gets messy then it'll be awkward." I don't like this reasoning (that's a different discussion for a different day), but there is a kernel of truth in it in that you don't have to limit your dating options exclusively to your assigned ward.
So, the solution? There are a million things I could write about, but I'm going to focus on one activity for you to try, and it's called The Dinner Party. It's less-formally known as having dinner with friends. Ha ha.
We took your question to a young woman named Erin Elton, the executive producer of the popular series "The Mormon Bachelorette." Much of the work she does on this program is trying to get two complete strangers to have a meaningful experience with one another.
She comments, "I have personally seen the effectiveness of smaller group activities. Sometimes larger stake or even ward gatherings can feel intimidating. The large quantities of people can make it difficult to get to know any one person in a meaningful way. Dinner parties, however, have become a staple for me and the people with whom I work. There's time to talk, time to ask questions, time to observe and to make real connections with other people. I suggest this activity to anyone who is feeling frustrated with the dating process."
Since speaking to her, I've attended two dinner parties, and she's right, they've been a blast. No, I've not gotten married yet, but dating opportunities have increased and new friendships have been made.
So Rachel, to sum this all up:
1. If you feel like the dating opportunities in your ward are slim pickings, shift your energy from worrying to service, from worrying to reaching out, from worrying to worshipping fervently, etc. Read Mosiah 18:23-25. We're so lucky to have this day!
2. Dating does not have to be restricted to the guys in your ward. Focus on smaller group activities where there are people you know (this makes it easier to relax and be yourself) mixed in with people you don't know (a chance to build a connection with someone new).
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