Yes, I understand that many of my readers don't care about this stuff because it doesn't impact them directly - yet. Gonna do it anyway.
Yesterday I posted a link to a talk by Victor L. Brown which I hope you read. If you didn't, then consider your wrist digitally slapped, and go back and read it. (Standing, arms crossed, tapping foot, looking repeatedly at watch...) Thank you. Let's move forward.
Alright. If you just can't bring yourself to read it, I will paste one paragraph to help you get the basic idea.
"A self-serving diet of entertainment fails because it aims in the wrong direction. Instead of setting out to accomplish the work of the ministry which the Lord has assigned to the Aaronic Priesthood quorums, this approach largely ignores service and personal sacrifice and seeks to compete in a worldly way for the attention of our youth. When this happens, the youth may begin to think that the Church exists to indulge their whims and wishes and that they should evaluate the Church by the yardstick of self-indulgence. And if they think this way, they may find the world’s enticements more daring and exciting than any we can properly provide. Then, because we have imitated the world, we lose them to the world." Victor L. Brown
Yes, it is more difficult to provide a youth program that actually elevates and challenges the youth to grow. It takes much more preparation, prayer, and vision. If you try and compete with the world, you will lose, because the world doesn't play fair.
HOWEVER, if you are one of those leaders who feel that Mutual is little more than glorified playtime, or you are just too darn busy, I have created a list of a dozen activities that will ensure that your youth are not gaining anything of real substance at Mutual.
• Basketball (Volleyball, Dodgeball, Ultimate Frisbee, Softball, etc.)
• Team Sports Night: Basketball
• Individual Sports NIght: One-on-One Basketball Tournament
• Eraser Football
• Career Night: Preparing for Your Inevitable Career in Professional Sports: Managing Your Endorsements and Entourage
• Halo Party
• Fantasy Football League Draft Night
• Man vs. Food Pizza NIght
• Famous Quotes from the Holy Grail and Napoleon Dynamite
• Sick Skateboard Tricks
• Create Your Personal "I'm a Mormon" video with auto-tune and beatbox effects
• Planning Meeting*
• Safe Tanning Night
• Life Choices: Justin Bieber or Taylor Lautner? (Choice and Accountability)
• Hair & Makeup Night: Helping You Look Less Like You (Individual Worth)
• Current Affairs: Quotes from Lady Gaga & Snooki (Knowledge)
• Design Your Own DWTS Outfit
• Pajama Party/Movie Night
• Photography: Pursed Lips and Gang Sign Techniques
• Dance Class (Leave your modesty at home)
• Clean Out Your FB Friends Night
• How to Convince Your Parents That He Is Not Your "Boyfriend"
• Planning Meeting*
* Planning meeting? What? Honestly, we all know that a "Planning Meeting" is code for "We didn't have anything planned, and want to dump our job on you kids". What a waste of an evening. That's why each group has leaders and a presidency - so that the program can be planned off-line, and not waste a precious Mutual night sitting around while the kids come up with activities that belong on these lists.
For those parents and leaders who really "get" what Bishop Brown was talking about, take a look at the lists above. If you see any of your youth activities on these lists, know that your youth are probably being cheated. Plain and simple, and maybe hard to swallow. There is a leap of faith required when you decided to provide a program of meaningful activities. But I promise you that the kids will still attend. They will sense the value, and be drawn towards it.
One last thought: Just because "we've always done it that way" doesn't meant that it is the right way.
NOTE: Please read the comments. "Chris" wrote out a dialogue that should be read - and explains how sometimes seemingly ridiculous activities can, and do, make sense.
Youth Leadership: Our Quorum President Couldn't Lead the Way Out of a Cardboard Box.