What parent of teens has not heard the question, “Why do I have to go to Mutual tonight?” This is often followed by “I don’t think I’ll get that much out of it!” The question is really a very good one that provides an opportunity for all of us — youth, parents and leaders — to understand the purpose not just of Mutual activity night but of many meetings we attend at Church.
A good place to start with our youth is to ask them some questions. “Are there reasons you can attend besides what you will get out of it? Do you know of anyone there who might be lonely, who is going through some hard challenges and needs a friend, or who feels like they don’t belong? Are there opportunities for you to serve, help, support, encourage and lift others at your activity?”
Sitting down with your children and having a meaningful discussion about what they can contribute to the meetings might increase their understanding about why we gather together as ward families and congregations.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke of why the Lord chooses to use a church to carry out His work. He taught, “A major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another in the ‘strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.’ ” He goes on to say, “This religion is not concerned only with self; rather, we are all called to serve. We are the eyes, hands, head, [and] feet ... of Christ” (“Why the Church,” Ensign and Liahona, Oct. 2015).
Even youth with no specific callings in their ward can remember that they can keep the covenants they made when they were baptized if they will “bear one another’s burdens, ... mourn with those that mourn, ... and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8-9) as they attend Mutual. It is true that we attend our Church meetings each week because we need to participate in the ordinances, learn doctrine and be inspired, but an equally important reason is that as a ward family and as disciples of the Savior Jesus Christ, we watch out for one another, encourage each other and find ways to serve one another.
President James E. Faust taught this same principle when he said that “many of us try to consume happiness rather than generate it” (“Our Search for Happiness,” Ensign, Oct. 2000). Our youth occasionally need to be reminded that they are not just receivers and takers of what is offered at church, but they can and need to be givers and suppliers. They may be just the person who can reach out and touch the life of a peer or give encouragement to a friend who is struggling.
A well-known adage, often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, says that a person who is wrapped up in himself makes a very small package. On the other hand, youth who attend every activity night and class looking for ways to serve, be a friend and lift others cast large shadows which influence and bless more lives than they could imagine.
When it comes to planning activities with our youth, leaders might also want to think about both how the activities are planned and the kinds of activities which are being offered. A steady diet of sports for the young men, or crafts and spa nights for the young women, or superficial entertainment for all, could contribute to the question, “why do I need to go to mutual?” Involving the youth leaders in the planning and decisions of what will happen and encouraging them to ask the right questions as they plan will result in amazing miracles.
Encourage your youth leaders to ask questions like, “What are the needs of our class or quorum members? Whose life do we want to influence? What challenges are my class members facing?” As they identify the needs of their peers they can then be taught the process of seeking inspiration on how to best meet those needs using the weekday activities and even the Sunday lessons.
When adult leaders take over all the planning and execution of activities, they are denying their youth opportunities to lead, learn, and grow as they are guided by the Spirit. Youth will be less invested and less interested in activities which are planned and run completely by adults. Let your youth lead!
The key to successful Mutual activities and more engaging Sunday classes is youth and adult leaders working hand in hand to find ways to strengthen and engage every member of their classes and quorums.
President Thomas S. Monson has taught, “If we are observant and aware, and if we act on the promptings which come to us, we can accomplish much good” (“Three Goals to Guide You,” Ensign and Liahona, Oct. 2007). What a glorious principle to get into the hearts of our youth! There is much more to being in attendance at Mutual each week than being entertained.
Each young member of the Church has the potential and ability to be observant, seek for inspiration, and then reach out to others to befriend the lonely, lift those who are struggling, and make a difference in someone’s life. Why do I have to go to Mutual? Because someone there needs me!
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