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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Building Better Youth Discussions, Mini-Classes, Workshops, Etc.

by Shawn Tucker:

In my calling in the Stake Young Men program, it seems like we are constantly trying to come up with ideas for mini-classes or workshops. Youth conferences typically have some sort of instructional time, class, or workshop, and many other stake activities also have them. This is in addition to firesides and Bishop’s youth discussions. Below is a list of principles I’ve developed that seem to make these successful. These principles are followed by a list of possible class or workshops topics. If you have more, please add them in the comments.

  • Youth generally prefer workshops and engaging activities to lectures. Of course a talented presenter can be excellent, but, taking a page from TED talks, I believe that no presentation should last more than 18 minutes.

  • Youth generally appreciate genuinely open-ended workshops and discussion. Presenters or workshop directors with knowledge, skill, and confidence sufficient to make a workshop genuinely open-ended and truly engaging are often the most successful. Presentations which only have the appearance of being open-ended but which have leading, “fishing,” or manipulative questions should be avoided.

  • Youth generally listen to other youth much more attentively than to adults. Panels that feature other youth or younger people, like recently returned missionaries or young single adults, can be very effective. Youth also seem to appreciate a variety of speakers.

  • Whenever possible, give youth a list of possible topics, let them select what interests them, have them brainstorm presenters or workshop facilitators, ask them to invite those people to present or facilitate, and have the youth conduct (open, introduce, close) the class or workshop.


Church Doctrine & Policy
  • What is the truth about early Mormon polygamy?
  • Are Women Second Class Citizens in the Church?
  • If the Gospel is so important, why do so many people seem perfectly happy without it?
  • Science and Religion (if this is taught by a “faithful” scientist, this can be particularly effective.)
  • What does it mean to say that this is the only true and living church?
  • Answering Difficult non-Member Questions (polygamy, temple rituals, Book of Mormon historicity)

Standards and Struggles
  • What is “going too far” sexually before marriage?
  • How can you use your body and your sexuality to bless your life and the lives of others? (A very, very wise person (my daughter!) told me that no youth would ever attend a class with that title but they might be really, really interested, so you might just want to call it “Agency.” Oh, and that made me laugh!)
  • What are Issues I need to discuss with a Bishop?
  • Working with Friends/Family member with Same-Sex Attraction
  • Helping a Friend with a Pornography Problem
  • Helping a Friend with a Word of Wisdom Problem
  • What will happen to my inactive parent/sibling/uncle/cousin/etc.?
  • Encouraging Wonder: Honoring and Using Questions and Doubts to Strengthen One’s Faith

Establishing a Gospel Life
  • When is the best time to serve a mission? (Perhaps a panel with missionaries who served at 19, 22, later to help youth see that they have options)
  • Getting the Most out of Doing Baptisms for the Dead
  • Maintaining Faith in a Church run by imperfect leaders
  • Life Lessons for Young Adulthood (living with roommates, going to a YSA ward, being in Elder’s Quorum or Relief Society—Perhaps a panel with some YSAs)
  • Working with Friends with Different Standards (Panel of older youths talking about experiences with friends and friendships)
  • Practical Tips for Getting Answers to Prayers
  • Practical Tips for Doing Missionary Work Now
  • Making BIG Decisions and Following the Spirit (schools, jobs, marriage)
  • What To Do when God Does the Unexpected (Dealing with trials that come as a surprise)
  • Satan’s Two Great Lies—“Sin is No Big Deal” and “You Could Never be Forgiven for That!”
  • The Proper Care and Nuture of a Testimony

Interpersonal interactions
  • Beyond Going to a Movie: 100+ Creative Date Ideas
  • Realistic Marriage Expectations
  • Realistic Mission Life Expectations (including companions)
  • The Importance of IRL (In Real Life) Interpersonal Relationships
  • Making Romantic Feelings Work for You
  • How to Raise Better Parents (Strategies for working with parents) (this could also be a panel of older youth)
  • Cherishing and Building your Longest Life Relationships—with Your Siblings
  • What to do when I feel like I don’t fit it (maybe even at Church)

  • What college might be best for me? (Panel with people from different schools—small, large, private, state, church, etc.)
  • I Didn’t Know You Could Study That! (Panel with people who study things that youth might not think of but that is very cool like anthropology or sociology)

Personal Enrichment & Living an Abundant Life
  • Practical Tips for Better Church Talks
  • What Tools Can Therapy Give Me? (Perhaps a panel with therapists talking about what therapy can and cannot offer)
  • Strategies for dealing with procrastination
  • Becoming more Creative
  • Balancing Life’s Demands
  • Reaching out to Friends You are worried about
  • How to Avoid Unnecessary Drama
  • How to Respectfully Challenge Authority
  • Basic Self-Defense
  • Basic Car Maintenance
  • No-pology, I’m sorry, and a genuine apology
  • Managing money—preparing for living independently and the rest of my life
  • 15 Awesome Books You’ve (probably) Never Heard of (and just might Love!)
  • 15 Awesome Movies You’ve (probably) Never Heard of (and just might Love!)
  • 15 Pieces of Art You (probably) Don’t know about (and just might Love!)
  • 15 Pieces of Music You (probably) Haven’t Heard (and just might Love!)
  • Poets and Poems You Will Want in Your Life!
  • Everyday Sexism and Racism: Tips to make the world a Safer place for everyone
  • Surviving Divorce
  • Tips to make yourself addiction resistant
  • Lessons I learned from studying Buddhism
  • Lessons I learned from studying Islam
  • Lessons I learned from studying the Apostasy
  • Lessons I learned from studying Church History
  • Lessons I learned from studying _____
  • Groovy—Making Habits Work for You (habits are like grooves)
  • The Blessings of Failure (Panel Discussion)
  • Social Media Pitfalls and Great Possibilities
  • Teen Self-Care
  • Making Peace with Your Inner Critic
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Shawn Tucker grew up with amazing parents and five younger, wonderful siblings. He served as a missionary in Chile during the Plebiscite and the first post-dictatorship election. After his mission, he attended BYU, where he married ... you guessed it ... his wife. They both graduated, with Shawn earning a BA in Humanities. Fearing that his BA in Humanities, which is essentially a degree in Jeopardy, would not be sufficient, Shawn completed graduate work in the same ... stuff ... at Florida State University. He currently teaches at Elon University in North Carolina. He and ... you guessed it ... his wife have four great children. Twitter: @MoTabEnquirer. Website:
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gifImage credit: Saint Joseph (used with permission).

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