A worldwide collective sigh of relief was almost audible Sunday as LDS teachers implemented the much-anticipated new curriculum for youth titled "Come, Follow Me."
For some, walking into a classroom of teens without the security of a printed manual was nerve-wracking. Personally, I was more concerned about whether I had trained myself well enough to know what was expected of me while also tailoring my preparation to the needs and personalities of my students.
I share the following in hopes that other teachers will also share their experiences and ideas in the comment section of this column on deseretnews.com.
Last week, I set up a new, private Facebook group to include all the members of our class. I also requested to be friends with the teens on my roll who have never attended on Sundays and only received one, very polite “No thank you.” I posted several “Come, Follow Me” video clips and promised to post something every Thursday to prepare for our Sunday lessons/conversations.
I read through many of the suggested resources for the monthly theme online and kept coming back to the comforting idea that I needed structure and a routine for our time together — boundaries for me as I prepared and topics that were predictable so students could prepare as well.
I woke up Sunday morning with a solid list that included seven categories: missionary stories, conference addresses, scripture references, "Preach My Gospel" presentations, “deep thoughts” to start conversations, assignments for students to post lesson-related spiritual thoughts to our Facebook group and heartfelt prayers that include weekly goals.
With the influx of a large group of 15-year-olds, my class size bulged and we sat almost knee-to-knee in a circle in my tiny corner room reminiscent of my old MTC days. Since President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement about lowering the age requirements for missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I decided to continue the tradition of teaching my Sunday School lessons with missionary preparation overtones.
After an opening prayer and some introductions to the new structure, I announced that each student would now be “companions” with the person sitting next to them for the next hour and would participate in tandem when it was their turn. I passed around my topic cards, and each companionship accepted the assignments with materials I provided and took a few minutes to prepare. During this time, I wrote on the chalkboard one of Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s deep thoughts on the topic of the Godhead and passed out “Sunday School journals” for them to copy the quote and then write any impressions or a sentence that began with “I believe ”
When all were sufficiently ready, we dissected Elder Maxwell’s challenging description of the role our Father in heaven plays in our everyday life. Some students offered ideas; others scribbled down thoughts; and it definitely graduated our discussion from primary passé to intellectually stimulating.
Then, I sat down, shut my mouth and let the students take over:
• Missionary stories — The first set of students shared the story told by Elder David A. Bednar in his “Tender Mercies” general conference address about a stake president who had a dream about one of the youths in his stake dressed and teaching as a missionary. The comments that followed included how important it is for each of us to realize that God knows who we are individually and how patriarchal blessings do just that. I promised to provide a missionary story each week, either from the suggested materials or from my own missionary journal, but encouraged them to bring a story if they wanted as well.
• Scripture references — The next companionship shared ideas they learned about the Godhead from four or five recommended scripture references with short and appropriate insights.
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