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Raising generations: the church’s changing youth program

That includes an effort in Utah to sew 5 million masks. (Courtesy Church Newsroom)

SALT LAKE CITY — When The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ended its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America early last year, many members were curious about what youth program would take its place. Then, Elder Gerrit W. Gong announced the church created its own child and youth program members ages 7-18 all over the globe could participate in.

President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Russell M. Nelson stated it was time “for a new approach designed to help today’s children and youth throughout the world,” in a special broadcast speech in 2019.

The new child and youth programs are meant to provide unique opportunities for families to work together and set goals and to help one another achieve them.

President M. Russell Ballard, a member of the church’s Quorum of the 12 Apostles, said the purpose of the new program is “to strengthen the rising generations’ faith in Jesus Christ and help children, youth, and their families progress along the covenant path as they meet life’s challenges.”

The parent role

The new youth program gives parents greater responsibility and the opportunity to provide their own experience, members tell KSL.

KSL NewsRadio host Maria Shilaos spoke with Simon Greathead, a parent of four and a professor at BYU. Simon has two boys and two girls. He shared his perspective on adapting to the programs.

“The changes have been positive for our family. It has slowed down the number of activities and requirements our son has to do. It has made things much more simple for our family. It’s also helped out [our] pocketbook,” said Greathead.

However, Greathead did point out some obstacles. The new programs aren’t as structured as the Boy Scouts were. Parents and kids have to work together to build their own routines.

“A lot of families are trying to wrap their arms around how to begin to program and maintain the program. Playing catch-up with a program that’s been around for over 100 years,” Greathead mentioned.

The church’s previous programs also provided a way for youth to connect with their peers. With the transition to the new programs, social interaction with other kids happens less.

“The campouts, the hikes, a lot of those skills have been opened up for new opportunities,” said Greathead. “I don’t know if we are experiencing the full social effect of the LDS program.”

The impact of the new youth program

Greathead told Shilaos the new program has been a gift for his family. Specifically, Greathead referenced his oldest son Luke, who is just around the age to begin participating in Young Men activities.

“We often overlook our children, whether that be with school events, sports events, church events… this really has given us the opportunity to re-evaluate with Luke where he spends his time,” said Greathead.

Greathead said the new program allows him to help guide his kids in developing themselves how they see fit instead of within a prebuilt structure.

“With the new program Luke now has the opportunity to focus on things he personally wants to develop,” Greathead said.

Greathead mentioned the new program has allowed shifting of reasonability — instead of the young men accomplishing their Scouts program, the family can build goals together and work more cohesively. He does point out that it’s going to be a while before his family adapts to a structured plan as robust as the Scouts.

“It’s going to take time, but I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to personalize my son’s and daughter’s personal growth,” said Greathead “I see the light at the end of the tunnel–it’s brighter, but it’s just going to take some time.”

The benefits of the new program

Motivational speaker Ganel-Lyn Condie had influence over developing the youth programs. She believes instead of youth looking forward to one big event to practice spiritually, having a more localized approach would benefit youth more.

She also believes having an at-home approach provides the necessary tools for parents to have tough conversations with their kids.

“The youth of today want to talk about LGBT, addiction, mental health. They don’t want to brush over,” said Condie.

“I love these changes. I think they’re exciting and uncomfortable,” Condie continued.

Condie also said it will take some time before families and youth really get in the swing of things. But Condie leaves members with an important reminder: “all of these changes can seem a little disruptive at times, but I think we can start to see the wisdom in that everything is pointing us back to Christ.”

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