Someday, I plan on writing a ‘how-to’ book for serving in the Young Women organization. I served in the ward Young Women presidency just over 4.5 years. That’s a drop in the bucket really. There are some women who have served in the Young Women organization for over 20 years. Compared with them, I’d still be considered a rookie. A newbie. So what advice could I possibly have to offer?
The thing with me is I tend to learn by making mistakes. Those are my life lessons. And in the course of 4.5 years on the ward level and now 7 months on the stake level, I have some (and by some I mean a lot) of lessons to share. Some are doozies. For example, in my future book there will be a whole chapter devoted to camp. Every year for the past five years I have had many crash courses and lessons with Young Women Camp. Following this pattern, after the next few summers on a stake level, I will have plenty of advice to share. Just ask.
Nobody has asked my advice on bonding with the young women. Maybe it’s not important to other people? Perhaps it comes naturally to most. From the start, I knew I lacked many qualities that I viewed a leader should have. I knew I was going to have to work harder than most just to achieve a level of trust other leaders easily gain.
One of the first activities I planned was an overnight trip to a friend’s cabin. First of all, I don’t recommend going about this like I did. I later found out we broke several rules. But, our Bishop was just a few months older than me in his calling. We both learned as we went.
However, I do recommend taking a road trip. Take more than one. Take as many as your Bishop allows in a given year. There is no better way to bond with the young women than having a group in your car, chatting endlessly. Their guard is down and you find out about them. About their families. About their friends. About school. And all about the boys.
Of course, there should be a purpose to the trip. The destination will hopefully help their testimonies grow in some fashion. But if you want to get to know the young women pile in the car and go.
We live in a time when certain safeguards must be followed for protection. Follow the rules. Obtain the necessary paperwork and permission. Listen to the counsel of your Bishop. Do this the right way.
But do it.
Thinking way back, way, way back to when I was their age, I don’t remember the lessons on Sunday. The handouts have pretty much been tossed. For the most part I don’t remember the activities. But I do remember the trips. Or at least parts of them.
Today, I appreciate the fact the leaders took time away from their families to spend time with us. Teenage girls brimming with uncontrolled emotion. Our leaders removed us from our everyday lives and showed us a new world. For some of us, it was the first time we had ever visited Temple Square or a big city (I’m from Wyoming, so yes, Salt Lake is a big city).
I don’t remember all the details. I’m sure I’m confused on some of the events. But when I was called to serve as a leader I wanted to provide my young women with the same opportunities I had. I thought the destination was important (and some cases it is) but I didn’t realize the blessings that come from piling in the car and riding together for three hours.
So, if anyone asks my advice on how to bond or build relationships of trust with the young women they serve, I will respond with two words. Road trip.