10.30.2006

I love it when things are all about me

This last weekend was our stake conference, and Dad came home from the priesthood leadership session on Saturday afternoon with news. The word from Salt Lake is that this year one of the main focuses for the Church is going to be the Young Single Adults. Specifically it's going to be about finding them, re-activating them, and retaining them. The numbers say that of all the members aged 18-30 only about 30% are active. It's the most at-risk age bracket in the Church.

This, to me, makes sense. It's easy to fall through the cracks when you're away from home for the first time and trying to figure things out. Plus that's just a generally turbulent time--we've got school and jobs and relationships and growing up and all kinds of stuff. And it's likely the most nomadic time we'll ever have. With all that moving around, it's even easier to drop off when the wards you move to don't make you feel included and welcomed and needed.

Example: I moved to Loughborough last year as a university student and attended a family ward. After some initial standoffishness, the ward members made friends with me. I got a calling (working with the nursery kids). I got home teachers and visiting teachers. I was asked to speak in Church. I felt like I belonged there and I was sad to leave.

However, a friend of mine moved into a different ward in the same stake. Her experience was not good. No one tried to befriend her. She never got a calling even though she asked for one. I don't know if she ever got home teachers or visiting teachers. It was a 45-minute walk to church each week. She said when people talked to her it was usually to ask when she was leaving. She could so easily have stopped going, and it's possible that no one would have noticed.

Luckily, she was not a brand-new 18-yr-old away from home for the first time. She was older and had a strong testimony, and church attendance was important to her even if the other members ignored her. Plus she was only going to be there for a year. But what if she had been a brand-new 18-yr-old away from home for the first time? What if she had been feeling lonely and homesick and shaky in her testimony? Do you think she would actually stick that out for three years of college? I don't think so. She would be out of there--and if no one cared enough to go after her she might never come back.

So yes, that kind of junk needs to stop. We are worth being welcomed and fellowshipped and it's not fair to write off students or young single people as "temporary" members of the ward. Instead people need to recognize that by ignoring and failing us they are damaging the future of the Church. I hope my friend's experience is the exception rather than the rule, but that doesn't make it any less of a serious problem.

I'm encouraged to see that the Church's stated focus is on finding, reactivating and retaining the YSAs rather than just telling us to get married. Again. Some more. Yes, marriage is important and it needs to be emphasized, but if the YSAs start to feel like they don't belong unless they're married then they won't stay. I think the Church recognizes that and is trying to move the focus on what members have to offer as individuals, rather than trying to lump everyone into categories.

Dad said they also announced that no new singles wards or branches will be created. The ones that exist will stay, but that's it. I wonder if this is the beginning of the end of singles wards. That wouldn't bother me too much, actually. I don't think they could get rid of them in places like BYU or other universities where there is a huge LDS student population, but in other areas they could.

I guess my final thought here is that I'm glad to be a part of a Church that thinks about these things. The basic doctrines won't ever change, but the Church actively looks for ways to adapt to the needs of a rapidly-growing membership, of whom single people of all ages and circumstances make up a rapidly-growing segment.

There you have it.

8 comments:

Scully said... [reply]

Huzzah! Sometimes there is so much focus on family in the church that singles are left on the periphery.g

Saxon said... [reply]

thats nothing. the ward I ended up in at uni told us that unless we paid £2 petrol money each way to and from church (£4 in total) they would not organise for anyone to come and collect us and run us into church each sunday. What made it worst was the guy picked up two elderly sisters as well as me and another student, so he was making more then four times in petrol money then what it actually cost him in petrol! I know four pounds might not sound like a lot but it is when you only have a budget of £20 per week!

it got better a month before the end of our course after the leadership in some areas changed and the new leaders started to make a effort but by then it was too late.

I can understand how easy it is for some people to fall away if their not supported. Hopefully this will change!

Anonymous said... [reply]

I don't think YSA branches will be abolished. In the area I come from I wouldn't know any members my age if not for the branch. Also, It is important to keep after the singles when they move around. Slipping through the cracks is easier than it sounds.

Kelly said... [reply]

Amen, sister! You know how I feel about the singles wards. Let's hear it for no singles wards after about age 24. That makes sense to me at least.

Mary said... [reply]

What a well-written piece. My feelings match yours completely. And I'm very excited to see that the leadership of the Church is responding to member needs in this way. I think this shows Elder Holland was dead on in his talk last conference. The brethren are aware and on it.

Nemesis said... [reply]

I'm sure this is unecessary and all, but I would like to re-emphasize something here just in case anyone is worried that I'm running around misquoting them and wreaking havoc.

Absolutely all I know about this is what I heard from my dad. And the only things he said are

1)the stated focus on YSAs for next year
2)the scary stats about inactive YSAs
3)the halt on newly-created singles units.

Any words beyond that are strictly my own thoughts and speculations. You will note that I did NOT say that we're getting rid of all singles wards. I said I wonder if that might happen in the future, but that's all I said.

My hands = clean.

So did anyone hear about how they're going to start doing arranged marriages for singles? I'm pretty sure it was one of the 12 who said it.

Panini said... [reply]

Ya. that's great--especially since they're not concentrating on the marriage aspect. Like that family commerical that fits so well for singles (according to my old bishop): "Family, it's it ABOUT TIME?"
:)

Fraggle said... [reply]

My first month or two in Loughborough were a pretty tenuous affair as I recall. Other than being mobbed on the first sunday by some ysa who knew some other ysa from my home ward, no-one really talked to me, and if they did, it would be the exact same conversation each week (including asking what my name was!).

One day I decided that people *were* gonna know my name by the end of the day dagnammit! And so I made a better effort myself.

My placement year in Coventry was worse (no calling, no home teaching assignment, heck, no home teachers!).

As for singles wards, I don't know much about them, but a friend of mine currently has a problem where it takes him 2 hours to get to his assigned singles ward. The nearest 'normal' ward is 20 mins away. He'd personally prefer to go to the family ward ('cause that's what he's used to) but the Bishop there (as he reports it) told him he had to go to the singles ward.

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