Monday, May 5, 2014

If You Ever Serve in a Young Single Adult Ward....

I have had two different homes over the past 3 years. The above picture shows one of two different church buildings that reside on the same lot. Each building has 2 different Chapels, Relief Society Rooms, Gymnasiums, 4 Bishop offices, and a variety of classrooms.  This was my first 'home' beginning 3 years ago.

This became my second 'home' during the 2nd year of our service. This is the James E Talmage building on the campus of Brigham Young University (Provo).

In my second home, I was greeted weekly by Kung Fu Panda at the front door!

Inside this room, the Auditorium was transformed into a Chapel for Sacrament Meeting.  Then, it transformed again into a Classroom.  Everyone loved the cushy seats and Multi-media facilities.  One of my favorite Sunday School lessons was a "Family Feud" type of game that was put up on the big screen. Everyone loved that lesson!

Toward the end of my service opportunity, we again returned home to this beautiful building with this fabulous backdrop.

Each Semester started with new members of our Young Single Adult Ward providing their information.  We did it with a 'high tech' option using Google.

Then, new members were asked to write their name and apartment number on the glass of a frame.  They held these frames in front of them as their picture was taken for the Ward Directory (or Ward Menu depending upon who you were talking to).  I had the opportunity to take the photos, crop and enhance the photos (everyone wanted to look good you know) and publish our cyber Ward Directory/Menu for everyone in the ward.

There were lots of 'Fun and Games" from Sponge Volley ball, a giant Slip-N-Slide etc...

As well as taking on new challenges a few hundred feet above the ground.....

To providing needed service for others.

One common theme was food....

and food...

and more food....

Oh, and more food (Break the Fast).

If you are wondering where I am going, I am offering a very public "Thank you" to all of the Young Single Adults that we have had the opportunity that we have had to serve with them over the past 3 years.  Yesterday was a bitter-sweet day. My husband and I were released from serving with these incredible individuals. As it turned out, the Chorister did not arrive in time to lead the music in Sacrament Meeting.  I decided to pinch-hit.  Little did I know that the closing hymn was "God be with you 'til we meet again".  Let's just say I did a lot of smiling with tears streaming down my face as these tremendous young people sang this hymn with us.  I cried for 3 hours straight as I received hugs and "thank you's" from so many.  

So, today as I reflect on the tremendous opportunity I have had, I have decided to offer advice and suggestions to others who are called to serve with and blessed by these tremendous individuals. 

The Little Red Hen's suggestions for Sisters called to serve in a Young Single Adult Ward:

  • You need to carry an Apron in your car:  I am not kidding.  You need an Apron as there is food at nearly every turn.  You will have the opportunity to provide meals and snacks for Family Home Evening, Break-the-Fast (each month), Barbecues, Camping Trips, Repelling Activities, Relief Society Weekday Meetings, and even Ward Council.  Don't be overwhelmed by this, just enjoy the journey. These YSA's traditionally don't eat a balanced diet or cook for themselves. They will express their appreciation and thanks for everything you do here. The hugs are 'payment' enough in my view.
  • Learn to cook for a crowd:  I won't lie, this was overwhelming for me initially.  If you don't know where to turn, you really do have options. Check with trusted friends and family.  Often, I used Google and Pinterest to find new ideas of things to try.  You can even do a search for "Cooking for a Crowd" and find a lot of options. I learned that I can make a large Cheesecake in a Flat sheet cookie pan, make 'perfect' pie crust, make a variety of salads (pasta and fresh), make pulled pork in a Roaster Oven, and more.  I have learned to make a boatload of rolls using my bread machine to mix my dough.  Oh, and always have zip-loc type bags ready at all meals/snacks that you offer. These fun people are always game to take any left-overs with them!  I once learned that a YSA young  man ate a Queso-Blanco cheese ball and crackers from my home for a week as he didn't have time to go shopping.  I wish this was an exception....but it really isn't for some:)
  • Learn to be Digital!  These folks are 'wired'.  They really don't know what it is like 'not' to be near a cellphone or computer. It has been part of their entire life.  I have learned to use Powerpoint and video when I taught classes. They are very attentive and you will have increased participation. As you might expect, there is constant change in a YSA ward.  I learned how to have orientation information, presentations, and the 'handbook' with highlighted information on my IPAD.  I have had to pull them out to help the newly-called Sisters learn what their responsibilities (at a moment's notice) as the Stake Leaders may not have a chance to orient them for up to a month due to scheduling.  I also provided training at Relief Society Presidency Meetings and answered questions using my digital media. The Church has tremendous materials for our use, and these young folks respond very well to it.  I have never received as many texts as much in my life as I have been by these good young folks.  Some of the texts were pretty funny as well.
  • Be Flexible:  Things do not always go as planned.  Be ready to jump in at a moment's notice. This is not the time to be shy!  Give encouragement where it is needed as well as praise.  This is often the first real opportunity for some of these young folks to serve out from under the umbrella of their parents. There will be meetings as early as 6:30 a.m. and as late at 10:30 p.m. (please know these times are the exceptions).  But early and late do occur. The reason being is because this is when these good folks are available.  
  • Take notes:  I am not kidding, not only will you need them, but others will as well.  I opened one note on my IPAD and took notes for Ward Council. I kept the same note and just added on to the top of it during each meeting. When someone had a question about something that happened previously, I had the answer!
  • Take pictures!:  I am so glad I did this.  The reason being that after the first 2 years, our ward was dissolved to make way for the second MTC.  At the 'end of the semester' party, I had enough photos to make a video that included everyone and so many of the memories we had made together. Just know that we didn't have enough tissues at the end of the video.
  • Be friendly!:  Remember how stressful it was to go to a new ward as a Young Single Adult?  Now times it by 170-200 people and you can get an idea of how tenuous it can be for these young people.  Extend your hand and introduce yourself...over and over again. Also ask for their patience as you learn their names.  I tried to use Mnemonic devices to associate something unique about each YSA to their name. I was not totally successful with everyone, but this memory technique took me a long way. It was easy for these YSA's to know who I I was the token "Old Lady of the Ward".  I was traditionally the only 'mature Sister', in church on Sunday.
  • Chances are that you will need to be ready to help serve at Stake Functions:  The Stake Leadership is full of wonderful people who are trying to do a whole lot for a tremendous number of people.  Even the best-laid plans need a little help.  I often dropped into the kitchen (with my apron!) and asked what they needed.  I was never turned away.
  • Bring a pair of 'sensible shoes':  When you are cooking and serving in High can take its toll on your feet and back.  I often had my 'dressy' Sketchers (which were flats) in my bag and would change into them while I was working in the Kitchen. When it came time to go to the Dinner or Chapel, I would change back into my High Heels and stash my Sketchers.
  • Learn how to safely transport food:  This may seem simple, but it is so important.  In my case, (and also in the case of so many others), you are traveling to serve these tremendous YSA's.  I traveled 30 minutes each way.  I have learned how to pack a cooler, how to use a Hay Box to transport hot food and how to time things to be ready at the right time. It takes a little planning but has great rewards.
  • Be ready to be a shoulder to lean on: Some of these young people are faced with oppressing challenges.  These have ranged from the death of a parent, loss of a sibling, loss of a scholarship, having to be relocated back to their country of origin, job loss, not being accepted into the program you were hoping to have as a major, and certainly broken-hearts.  Listening is such a needed service and has been something that I have had to consciously work on as well as to develop a deeper sense of patience. I have always needed more patience and probably still need more.  One thing is for certain, I have learned how to be more patient while serving in this calling.
  • Be ready to be lifted:  When friends and family members have asked me what my experience is like, I cannot say enough positive things.  I have had the opportunity to be more 'fully utilized' in my service.  Often, in traditional wards, I have been serving through music (which is very honorable)  In this ward, I have had the opportunity to be a 'jacklyn-of-all-trades' and I love it.  If your experience is like mine, you are lifted and blessed each time you interact and serve with the beautiful young people.
So, to the members of the Young Single Adult Wards that we have had the opportunity to serve with, I want to offer my sincere and deep appreciation.  My life has been greatly blessed due to my association with all of you.  I have gained new friends and watched so many of go on to greater things.  It is my hope that I can watch you continue on your trajectory towards you goals in your personal and professional lives.  Thank you for being such a positive light for me personally.

"'Til me meet again"

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