John Shaw is an IT professional in the healthcare industry, married with four daughters. He has served as a seminary and gospel doctrine teacher, though the last couple of decades he’s spent most his service as a clerk in branches, wards and a stake or two. He loves everything about the Church and church culture.
An all-too-common conversation happens around the dinner table every Sunday after Church:
Parent: Hey Kids, what did you learn in Sunday School?
Kid: Um, we learned about Joseph Smith, or something like that.
Parent: OK, what about Young Women’s?
Kid: The same thing… we watched the same video and talked about the same things, why do we even have both classes?
At this point in the Come, Follow Me lesson program many of us have settled into a groove, not really satisfied with the duplication of effort, but not knowing what to do about it. We accept the status quo and miss out impacting the lives of our youth in so many beneficial ways!
For over three decades the curriculum used in Young Women and Young Men third hour classes remained the same. As the General Auxiliary presidencies visited with the saints they were continually met with requests to update the curriculum and modernize the teaching environment. At nearly the same time Church Media services started producing monthly Mormon Messages adopting a style of teaching more appropriate for particularly a younger audience growing used to technology and living in a world of YouTube, Instagram and SnapChat. The combination provided a powerful, new adaptive curriculum that allows teachers, leaders, and youth to interact while learning as they never had before.
So, how can we revisit this program and take advantage of technology, the curriculum, and the adaptive structure of the lessons? How do we revitalize Come, Follow Me? Let me make some suggestions. When Come, Follow Me came out I was serving with a Stake Presidency. We assessed the new program and oversaw its introduction into the wards and branches in the stake. When I read through the curriculum the first thing that struck me was how it seemed Sunday School and the Youth topics were the same and that it would take strategy from the different organizations to ensure minimal duplication between the two youth classes. I thought about how I’d like to see it work for my own daughter and noticed that while the topics did seem very similar, there were subtle differences. As I read through each month, comparing Sunday School to Young Women/Men topics, I saw a pattern emerge. Sunday School topical questions largely contained words like LEARN/TEACH/UNDERSTAND, while the youth classes contained KNOW/WHY/HOW. As I pondered what I would do if I were a Bishop, I saw those overlapping ideas start to form a Venn diagram:
NOTE*** For areas of the church outside large Mormon population locations seminary teachers are called from wards to teach rather than attending with full-time employed CES instructors. The remainder of this article assumes the Seminary teacher participation only for those ‘called’ seminary teachers.
Sunday School (and to a considerable extent Seminary – more on that later) then becomes a place to focus on LEARN/TEACH/UNDERSTAND, as the doctrine is defined, and gospel principles associated with each doctrine are brought detailed, our youth will have succeeded in ‘first seek to obtain my word’. Young Women and Young Men classes now become the place where we take what we LEARNED/UNDERSTOOD and transform it into our daily lives. The How, the Why then becomes the KNOW.
A quick note about Personal Progress and Duty to God – The curriculum includes areas in both programs that relate to the topic of the month, proving that correlation between the programs is the goal of the Church. Look for this phrase, included in the CFM manuals, as you consider your topics each month:
The following activities/sections from Personal Progress/the Duty to God book relate to the lessons in this unit
Now that we have adopted a strategy to keep lessons from overlapping between Sunday School and Young Women/Men how do we coordinate that effort? This was another VENN diagram that came to mind:
From the Frequently Asked Questions of Come, Follow Me
How do I know what the needs of the youth are?
To understand the needs of the youth, listen to them as they make comments and ask questions in class. Take an interest in their lives. Counsel with parents, leaders, and other teachers. Most important, seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Adapt your teaching to be responsive to the Spirit and the needs and interests of the youth.
How should teachers coordinate their efforts?
Helping youth become converted requires the combined efforts of all teachers of youth (Aaronic Priesthood, Young Women, Sunday School, and seminary). They should counsel together about the needs of the youth and let these conversations help determine what to teach. Teachers may decide to coordinate their weekly lessons to maximize their effectiveness for each youth and each class. They may also coordinate to share teaching ideas and techniques.
Come, Follow Me was designed to have leaders and teachers communicating regularly about the youth they are teaching. When one leader might be struggling with reaching a certain young woman in their class, maybe the Sunday School teacher or the Seminary teacher have had experiences getting through. Maybe a Bishopric counselor has had the opportunity to interview that same young woman. We have an amazing opportunity with even a quick conversation in helping each other more effectively reach our youth.
This coordinating effort, I believe, was largely ineffective as it was rolled out, but it seems the church anticipated this and provided the perfect solution- Teacher Council Training. Why not take one of these meetings and divide into the age groups as exemplified in the above Venn diagram and spend 10-15 minutes coordinating the coming month, and then working on reaching those that might be struggling or where leaders might be struggling to reach individuals.
By taking a council approach to the Come, Follow Me curriculum, the youth can build line upon line without feeling bored or repetitive.