It is possible that I am a genius

So remember how last week we were talking about the singles scene (aka suckfest)? Well I have possibly come up with a brilliant new idea. I got an email from a lovely Stake Relief Society President who was very interested in our discussion. In her stake she works with the Young Single Adult and the Single Adult committees. They're worried because the single folk are dropping out like flies and they aren't sure how to best meet their needs and keep them involved.

So her question is this: "What would work? I'm curious what your readership would say about what activities they would be interested in. Any clues?"

I responded that this is a tricky, tricky thing. First of all, you're frequently looking at a group made up of diverse ages, interests, and life situation. It's hard to plan something that will appeal to everyone. And I think sometimes the emphasis becomes wrapped up in getting people to support the programs rather than using programs to support people. We usually measure success by numbers, so if something is well-attended then that must mean it's successful, but if it's not then it isn't. I don't know that this is necessarily true. It might be better to have 20 people who really got something out of an activity than 100 people who feel like they just wasted an evening.

Which is where I had my brain wave. I think it would be smart to look at the new Home, Family & Personal Enrichment program as a useful model for singles activities.

(For those who just went, "The what now?" this is a program within the women's organization in the church. They used to have monthly activities based on the idea of "enrichment" but a couple of years ago they revamped it. They scrapped the monthly activities in favor of quarterly activities to free up people's time, and asked the ward Relief Societies to plan activities based on shared interest and actual needs of the sister. This seems, to me, to work best when the Relief Society leadership let the sisters decide what groups they want to form. So if there are ladies who would like to have a book group? Great, do that. Dinner groups? Great. Women who want to go to the temple together or exercise together or learn how to bow-hunt together? Fabulous. Figure it out, decide who the contact person will be, and we'll announce it on Sunday.)

Why couldn't we do something like that as singles, on either a ward or stake level? That way not everyone has to go to everything, but if there are interests that several people share then they could get something together and publicize it. You'd be doing the kinds of things you would do anyway, but this way you could open it up to others who are interested. And it would be a good way to explore new interests and learn new skills.The shy folk might be more willing to come out if it's going to be a smaller, less intimidating group. You'd get to know people better in smaller groups that get together on a regular basis. It wouldn't be too difficult to manage and publicize, possibly through email lists, phone texts, or a wiki. It wouldn't require administration or funding.

So. What do you think about something like that? And/Or, to answer my friend's question, what are the sorts of activities that you would show up for?


miranda said... [reply]

I didn't go to Enrichment before the change, and I don't go now.

In my last ward there was a brief period of time in which I enjoyed the monthly "book club" group meeting, just after the new program was introduced. Then I moved. When I suggested a book club in my new ward, I was told that there was no interest, and most of the groups were craft and hobby oriented.

I think it would probably work to try and form groups like that with singles, for those who want to go. But not everyone is interested in church activities, and it seems a little silly to try and force involvement. I enjoy my Visiting Teaching, and really don't feel the need to go to Enrichment activities.

Anonymous said... [reply]

I think that's a good idea. I am one who isn't uber-crafty (or remotely crafty) and probably makes it to one enrichment a year maybe, and that's so I can get cookies at the Christmas cookie exchange.

HOWEVER. When they made that change, i suggested a game night and they did it and it was fun and it got me to enrichment. So yeah. I also like the idea of having different people be the contact person, instead of having just one person be in charge of everything.

Scully said... [reply]

I think that is a great suggestion. I never went to Enrichment until I got involved with my ward's book group. Especially because at some level the activities are self-determining. You won't show up and be forced to participate in activities you don't enjoy. There is the issue that Miranda brought up, what if there isn't an interest that meets your needs, but I think that is less likely to happen if there is a larger group, like at a stake level for single adults.

My one suggestion isn't constructive at all, but if perhaps the people in charge of planning would stop having the focus being "Get These People Paired Up And Married Off" and more about fostering an atmosphere of inclusion, that would be helpful. Because what turns me off faster than anything is the implication that somehow participating in live foosball games or surprise service scavenger hunts will somehow throw me in the path of my one and only eternal companion, who I might miss out on if I don't participate. Especially considering I have been a YSA for over a decade. I know exactly how those activities play out. I hate them, am miserable, and become a wallflower while I watch annoying/panicking/desperate girls behaving accordingly and the outnumbered males enjoy the attention. But I'm not bitter, I promise.

Jenny said... [reply]

I know it's hard for some people sometimes, but if there is something you want to do or be a part of or have an interest in, you really need to push it through and make it happen.

I think it would be cool to do a summery BBQ one during the summer months.

And then dinner group. Dinner groups are the best. And that would be a fun coed thing.

I have tons of ideas, but I am not in a singles ward and I talked to you forever about this.

I really like the idea that you incorporate what you already like to do with other people, so you can help expose them to cool stuff and find out who has similar intrests as you.

Nem, you need to teach people how to make booties, but that's not really going to be an SA activity, I'm thinking.

And I think all the people who watch American Idol can get together and watch it and make a bracket and crap that way they don't have to feel guilty for sitting at home and being anti social. You're killing two birds with one stone.

abby said... [reply]

The question I have for the lady asking the question is what are your singles dynamics? Are you in Utah? Are you in a place with a large singles ward population? Are you in place where there isn't a lot singles? Each ward is different and each place is different. It may be good to have an open discussion about the activities with the singles. The best activities are not pressured, varied, and allow people to talk. It's also about motivating people into thinking something is cool.

I lived in a place with a small population of singles. We had a very successful institute program for most of the time I lived there. We had Friday night institute where we had a dinner after. We would hang out after institute or go to someone's house to watch movies. Sometimes, we had really fun dances. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and I met some of my best friends there. The program fell off after the dinners ended, the dances were ALL THE TIME and they took the Latino group away from us. It wasn't quite as fun and people dropped like flies.

I now belong to a large singles ward with several other singles wards surrounding us. There are more than enough activities and private parties to the point where there are too many. They cut it down a lot, but now they are huge multi ward activities. I am kind of shy and I have a hard time having conversations in big groups.
I think the best activities are in groups where there is no pressure for us to play cheesey games, but those that want to play them can.

We had a multi-ward activity that demonstrates the good and the bad. We had a chili cook off contest. We went into several rooms tried chili and voted. I actually met people because I had a conversation starter like "Have you tried this white bean chili" After the tasting, they had one of the worst comedy groups I have ever seen perform for us. It was painful. They discouraged us from speaking to each other and people started leaving in droves. Umm...aren't we supposed to speak to each other at singles activities?

I also like activities where they have several different things to do for people....like playing games, karaoke or just having a place for people to chill. There are people who just don't like to participate in cheesey games like do you love your neighbor.

FHE also satisfies some of the activities niche. It's typically less well attended but small groups work for some people. It also is driven by a spiritual thought and you learn more about that side of people. It also takes less time.

I'm sure other people have better ideas but those are my impressions.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Thanks, Abby! To answer your question, this is a stake in Maryland. So I'm guessing there are no singles wards, just singles who attend family wards.

jeri said... [reply]

Jenny, the American Idol craft group... I'm dying.

I'm actually on the Enrichment board, and when they revamped the program our leader just embraced change and ran with it. So we have a different mini class each month. Like:

Dutch oven cooking
Food storage for dummies
Service exchange (like a white elephant gift exchange of services)
Personal fitness (learn to do yoga or play softball or something)

We had some that were fun, some that were learning, some that were service oriented (we made quilts for Humanitarian aid). This year we have some more good ones planned. E-mail me if you are interested.

Jenny said... [reply]

Jeri, so help me if you are mocking me I will drink that Izzie drink I have in my fridge reserved for you.

AmandaStretch said... [reply]

Abby - My comment about the 9 activities in 7 days was directly related to the same area of which you speak. After everything I've heard, I'm glad I missed the chili event, though at the moment I can't remember why I wasn't there.

Nemesis - As I was reading your post, I was thinking the same thing, that the Enrichment model is the way to go. However, my ward sucks at Enrichment, so I doubt it would translate to our activities world. For us, we have no clear quarterly Enrichment, or Enrichment at all, and then suddenly there are 4 Enrichment activities coming up, and I can't attend any of them.

What I like is knowing that certain activities will always happen at certain times. Ward temple night is always the second Friday of the month, and while I can't always go, I make an effort to be available then. If the AI Craft Enrichment group was every Wednesday, then I would know to calendar it in advance (at least mentally) and then make the choice to go or not. Hearing on Sunday that we're going sailing on Friday, as the first Enrichment activity I've heard of in month, doesn't give me much time to plan.

Does that make sense?

Nemesis said... [reply]

No, that makes loads of sense, amandastretch. In all honesty, my ward's Enrichment program isn't strong, either. But I know it COULD be. I'm thinking that for activities, this might be something best done at a stake level, perhaps.

Sherry said... [reply]

By the end of the third paragraph, I was thinking that doing activities in the new Enrichment style could definitely work. And then I learned that it was your idea too.

I think it's a great idea.

Of course, I am the type of person who will go to pretty much any activity because I like to be around people. I hardly ever missed FHE in my singles wards, even if I thought the activity would be ridiculously boring.

I'm not crafty, and I don't even like crafty things, really- just not my decorating style- but I still mostly always went to Enrichment.

I think you're right, though. Singles wards could really benefit from activities committees basing the activities on small groups rather than for the masses.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

Is it bad that I think the AI group is actually a really good idea? Or a "Office" group or a "CSI" group or whatever. If people have a problem with the shows being less than G-rated, then don't have it be official. But I know plenty of people who have made loads of friends (and even some lasting relationships, gasp) by just getting together to watch Lost or whatever.

I agree that you shouldn't force involvement, and maybe have a larger "singles activity" every quarter that is actually fun and low-key, not over-planned and boring and only meant to pair people off. But organizing trips to go rock climbing, or to the temple, or to have dinner groups or TV groups... that's the way to go, in my opinion. Once people actually like hanging out together and The Awkward is eliminated, activities will start coming together on their own.

Janssen said... [reply]

When I was in a singles ward at BYU, I only went to FHE when it sounded like it would be a DANG good time (because, frankly, going for the sake of going wasn't going to get me an A on an essay I didn't write). And I only went to some ward activities if 1) there were going to be people I liked there and 2) the activity itself sounded fun.

I would be all for the kinds of groups you're suggesting. Especially if they weren't crafty. Especially if there was food.

Melanie said... [reply]

I think the enrichment model is a pretty good one. I also think it's a good idea to rotate who is in charge of brainstorming and planning the activities. If you have one or two people who dominate on an activities committee things can get monotonous. I know that brings up issues about people following through and really pulling their weight, but most people rise to a challenge.

It's also good to think about what people do when they get together for a non-church activity. Sometimes I things get too structured. I'm quite over my youth conference days. Quit with the EFY get-to-know you games (not that I'm dissing EFY, it's great when you're 14-18) and just let us chat . . .while munching on good food.

Anonymous said... [reply]

The HFPE idea IS genius. It's amazing who gets involved and what options you get when anyone can be the group leader.

What worked well for us... our singles ward had two guys that would get groups together to go do fun stuff like group tickets to the theater or a family-friendly comedy club or dinner out. The one requirement was that you weren't allowed to go if you were seriously dating someone. Being ultra-single suddenly became the desired status. I liked the idea so much I married one of them. :)

erin said... [reply]

I'm in a dinner group. If you can form it with fun people, it's even better than just the fact that you get structured meals every week.

Friends also have a weekly game night, and that seems to be a fun activity that people like too.

Suzie1 said... [reply]

Ugh, singles activities. Here's my beef with singles activities: they always revolve around some crap sport that they decide to do clear out in the boonies and they *must* be opened with an equally stupid getting-to-know-you game.

No. No. No.

I love the idea of The Office night--or any TV show that everybody likes for that matter. Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Karaoke Revolution, bowling, air hockey, skee ball, board games, pool (as in billiards)... All brilliant.

When I was in school, the girls from my apartment and our guy friends from another apartment used to have a cultural night once a month. We'd decorate the apartment and fix food from that country. Then we would watch a movie that fit the theme as well--Braveheart for Scottish night, Amélie for French night, The Three Amigos for Mexican night (I know, I know...). Anyway, that was pretty fun and totally low pressure.

And I think that's the key. LOW PRESSURE! Keep it simple, close to home(like, ten minutes at the farthest), and under an hour. If people decide to let it go longer, cool, but nobody's going to commit three hours of their life to touch football.

Anonymous said... [reply]

My Singles ward in Utah County just got invited to an activity with the family ward in our stake. ( a lot of the bishops are in that ward, and their wifes are active in the RS in the fam ward...) They are having a TON of different classes offered on a week day night, at different times. So you can come and go as you please, adn attend the classes that only YOU want to attend. They vary from "crock pot ideas" meh, to " how to help/deal with your family member who has a substance abuse problem" to "dealing with low self esteem..." I could go on, there are about 25 different classes, all somehow taught by pros in the area ( at least the ones about self image, substance abuse, etc..) the rest covered by those who felt they could teach those topics.. ( crock pot class...) I think this is a FABULOUS idea. I am so thrilled they invited the single sisters to attend. There are so many classes I want to attend, and others that I could care less about ( the family ones..) The variety is amazing, and I cannot wait...
I think something like that would be fabulous in a singles ward. Hard to plan; yes, but worth it? I think so.

i i eee said... [reply]

Nem, I meant to leave a comment when I first read it -it's brilliant.

And I have to also say...this is admitting the pride in me, but having a simple activity such as watching AI together, or having a book group, we can say, "hey, I like that show!" or "I like discussing books!" Instead of saying, "I desperately need a man! Throw me in some lame activity so I can possibly meet one!" It's nice having the focus on something else, instead of trying so hard to not look like a woman who is going to one of those things with the desperate hope of meeting her Eternal Companion, or EC. Because if I go to an activity where I have to play dodgeball...that really equals DESPERATE.

Obviously, I'm against desperation. Only because my last relationship was motivated by my desperation. And it's probably the worst motive for a relationship. At least for me.

Mona said... [reply]

Your post is timely as I've been thinking about why my attendance and enthusiasm for attending single activities has waned.

Outside of church activities, I am treated like an adult and it is assumed that I like to do adult things. However, at church activities, it must be assumed that I enjoy kissing rugby, Do You Love Your Neighbor?, multi-stake dances, and human foosball. I like none of these things. I didn't like them at age 14; I don't like them 15 years later.

The "motivating" reason that I may find my eternal companion at one of these activities actually serves as a de-motivator. If the Lord knows me well enough, He will not "send" my EC to a dance to meet me. Besides, I don't want to marry someone who thinks stake dances are the epitome of a good time.

One of the largest attended activities I have been to in quite a while was service-oriented. Why was this event so well attended? I believe it was because the activity was purposeful and meaningful. In addition, the very act of service provided everyone with common ground for discussion.

We all like to feel safe in social situations. Small groups, similar interests, a common task all equate to "safe" situations.

I just heard someone mention that smaller wards have higher percentages of marriages. Bigger may not always mean better.

So moral of this LONG comment: I like your idea. I'll be interested to hear if it works for this woman's stake.

Heidi said... [reply]

(Sorry to just jump in here. I've blog-stalked your for a while. Once upon a time we were neighbors.)
Thank you for making me feel like I'm not crazy to hate making yet ANOTHER FHE video for the ward film festival. I'm done! It was fine 10 years ago, but it's lost its glow now.
I think the interest groups idea is brilliant. I'm shy. When I go to large group functions I end up talking to the 6 people I already know. And, I'm tired of feeling guilty if I don't want to do a scavenger hunt or make-a-cardboard-car "drive-in" movie.
Getting together to watch "The Office" would be the ideal activity. No pressure, easy planning, and you automatically have a conversation topic.

Anonymous said... [reply]

actually we did this in our ward in CA. as an example we had the "diners club". it was not a required activity, just a group of people that wanted to eat good food at new restaurants (about once a month...granted you can do this in the greater LA area and constantly have lots of options). we would anounce to the ward when we were going, where we were going and the approximate cost. if it was an expensive place we would give a few weeks heads up to save $$ if you were interested. other activities included a settlers night (board gamw), hot tub nights, hiking trips, etc. all it requires is a core group of 4-5 that really want to do something and then making sure everyone knows it is an open invitation.

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