Tag Archive: YW LEADERS



The question for this week’s RANDOM QUESTION THURSDAY comes from a very good-looking individual- ME! :)

Since the young women that we serve are always maturing (new Beehives come in from Primary, Laurels graduate, etc) we are bound to have new situations come up that we haven’t dealt with before – even if we’re seasoned YW leaders.

For example, we have a YW in our ward who has some special needs, but is very enthusiastic about Personal Progress. She has recently become frusterated in her recent attempts to “pass off” Value Experiences that she simply didn’t understand. This was a new situation for me.

As a presidency, we decided that we needed to work with her closely to achieve these goals, but also adapt the program to her ability level. But how would we do that? 

The “Adapting to Individual and Local Needs” section of the Personal Progress book says
“Value experiences and value projects may be adapted according to personal or local circumstances, interests, and needs with prior approval of parents and leaders . When making any changes or exceptions for one person, leaders should consider the effect those changes may have on other young women . After careful consideration by parents and leaders, adaptations may be made to meet the needs of young women with disabilities or educational limitations, to meet cultural or individual needs, or to allow young women who are not members to participate”

But how exactly were we going to do that?

I am on the Personal Progress site (a section of lds.org found HERE) regularly, but until recently I hadn’t noticed that under the “Get Started” section of the site, on the left side of the page, there is a category labeled,  Personal Progress for Those with Special Needs” (if you click on the title in red here, the pdf version will open for you). This is a printable version of Personal Progress that has been generally adapted for general special needs. The same type and number of Value Experiences and Value Projects are still required, but the Value Experiences and the suggested Value Projects have been somewhat simplified.

This would be a valuable resource for many girls, but I still felt that in our particular situation, it wasn’t adapted enough for this certain YW’s abilities and needs. This resource could be used as-is for many girls, but certainly will not be appropriate for everyone. There is really no way that they could make a specific pre-made program that would fit every situation. There are as many different social, emotional, and educational ability levels as there are girls who have what we generically call “special needs”

Our particular situation required a much greater level of simplification, so I’d like to share with you what we have done. Again, what we have done may or may not be appropriate for a special-needs girl who you are working with. The young woman that I am working with has severe limitations. What I have done certainly would not be appropriate for most girls. You may be surprised at how much we have simplified the program, but it was the result of much thought and consultation about one specific girl’s particular abilities and maturity level. As a Presidency, we have agree that this is an appropriate level to challenge this particular girl, yet still making passing off Value Experiences and Value Projects attainable for her.

I purchased two 3-ring binders. They are identical, except that one was pink (for her) and one was blue.

PINK NOTEBOOK: This is the notebook that this YW will take home with her to work on. I made a cover page that I inserted in the front with the YW’s name and “Personal Progress” in large letters. I also used a sharpie marker to write her name and “Personal Progress” on the outside edge of the notebook (to help the family identify the notebook in case the cover page was removed and/or lost). On the inner cover, I also wrote the following (in sharpie marker) “when you have finished your assignment*, bring all your papers and this notebook back to one of the yw leaders during church or mutual”. This YW has received several Personal Progress books, but has lost them all. We hope that this notebook will be more difficult to misplace. We are asking her to bring the WHOLE notebook with her, so that a new “assignment” can be entered when the completed one is removed.

BLUE NOTEBOOK: This is the notebook that we will keep in the YW closet at church. I wrote her name and “Personal Progress” on this notebook as well, but I also added the words “YW Leaders Notebook” and “Please leave in the YW closet”. We will keep  her tracking sheet, completed “assignments”, and a few future “assignments” in this notebook.  The main purpose of this 2nd notebook is partly to prevent the loss of all of her work if her pink notebook is misplaced or lost, but also so that any YW leader can sign-off her work and give her the next “assignment” when she is ready.

*We’re referring to the Value Experiences as “assignments” in this case because of the confusion the new lingo was causing her.

“ASSIGNMENTS”/VALUE EXPERIENCES:  Using the Personal Progress for those with Special Needs” as a guide, I typed up ONE Value Experience at a time, each one on its own page. We felt that having multiple options listed on the same page was part of the confusion for her. For each page I made, I made sure that the Value Category and the # of the Value Experience are clearly shown at the top, to make it easier for us as leaders to identify/mark off the completed Value Experience when she completes an “assignment”. We will give her these 1-Value Experience “assignments” to her one at a time. 

To give an example of how I have modified a Value Experience/”Assignment”, here are all three versions of the Faith Value Experience #2:

FAITH VALUE EXPERIENCE #2 (standard version)
“Discover the principles of faith taught by the mothers of Helaman’s stripling warriors. Read Alma 56:45–48 and 57:21. Review what “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” says about a mother’s role. With a mother, grandmother, or leader, discuss the qualities a woman needs in order to teach children to have faith and to base their decisions on gospel truths. How can these principles help you in your life today and help you prepare to be a faithful woman, wife, and mother? Record your thoughts and feelings in your journal”

“Discover the principles of faith taught by the mothers of Helaman’s stripling warriors. Listen to or read Alma 56:45–48, or listen to, read, or watch “Helaman and the 2,000 Young Warriors” (Book of Mormon Stories, chapter 34). Complete the online puzzle “Two Thousand Young Warriors.” Have your mother, grandmother, or leader share her testimony or a faith-promoting story. Write your thoughts and feelings in your journal. For example, “My mother, grandmother, or leader has taught me ___________.” 

“Learn about Helaman’s stripling warriors and their mothers by completing the 4 parts of this assignment:
  1. Read the scripture Alma 56:45-48 (in the Book of Mormon).
  2. Color the puzzle picture in your notebook*
  3. Ask an adult woman (who is a relative or a Young Womens leader) to tell you about a time in their life when they learned about faith.
  4. Draw a picture on this page about what you have learned

 (*”We Do Not Doubt” dot to dot puzzle I found here, printed and placed in the notebook with her assignment)

You  may notice that I did not include online resources such as videos and online games that were suggested, this is simply because this particular girl doesn’t have internet access. Otherwise, they would be great to use!

Typing up (and providing additional adaptation) each Value Experience was time-consuming, so I only did a few Value Experiences ahead the first time. We will need to make sure we always have the next one ready for her, because we won’t be sure how long it will take her to complete each “assignment”

Of course, we will be providing support and help as needed, but I tried to simplify it to the point that she should be able to complete the assignments with little or no help. Ideally, parents would be able to provide assistance with Personal Progress, but that isn’t always possible in every scenario.

Another idea that people have suggested is assigning a YW mentor (another YW who has completed Personal Progress) to work with her. That is a fantastic idea! However, in this particular situation, we have a sister who is called as a YW Leader specifically to work with her, so we feel like having this YW leader and the Beehive leader work with her is the best fit. As with everything else, this will depend on her needs and abilities.

I hope that this gives you a starting place to consider adapting the Personal Progress program for girls in your care who are differently abled. 

Sunday Lessons = Boost Testimony of Christ

Sunday Lessons = Boost Testimony of Christ

One of my readers has suggested that I write about teaching lessons for girls of all different backgrounds. I was intrigued by this idea – I wondered what she meant. Like, less-active girls? Part-member families?….I’ve thought about it a lot. 

If your ward is like mine, you’ve got a wide range of backgrounds in your young women organization. When you boil it down, I feel that no matter what the background or circumstance, all of the young women need the same thing. They need a testimony of Jesus Christ and his gospel. This is what prompts them to keep the standards, repent, study the scriptures, pray, want to attend lessons and activities, be missionaries, etc. I feel that this is the root of a lot of the struggles our young women are facing, regardless of their background and family situation. 

If they don’t have a testimony of Jesus Christ and his restored Church, why would they want to do any of the things we’re trying to teach them to do?

I made a list of some of the different situations/backgrounds that our young women might have. This includes young women who may show up on any given Sunday, who may not necessarily be on your attendance sheet. I’m sure there are many more scenarios, but these are the ones I’m familiar with (not necessarily about girls in my particular ward):
  • Part-member family (one or more parent is a non-member)
  • Less-active (not attending class and/or activities as much as she should be, may have a calling but usually does not do it)
  • Inactive (not active in the church in any way – not attending church/activities)
  • Non-member (not a member of the church, perhaps visiting with a friend or relative)
  • Unbaptized member (active in the church, but unable to be baptized for some reason)
  • Investigator (meeting with the full-time missionaries to learn more/prepare for baptism)
  • Recently Re-activated (used to be inactive, has recently become active or less-active and may not have a large gospel knowledge background)
  • New Convert (baptized after age 8, did not grow up in the church, possibly never attended Primary)
  • Disgruntled (upset about church policy and/or gospel doctrine and/or leadership decisions)
  • “Over it” (thinks she is too mature, too cool, too whatever to listen or participate)
  • Forced to attend class/activities (don’t want to be there, but parents make attendance non-optional)
  • Paid to attend class/activities (don’t want to be there, but parents bribe them to attend)
  • No testimony
  • Weak testimony
  • Not sure if she has a testimony or not
  • Thinks the standards are ‘old fashioned’/rules should be bent to fit her preferences
  • Has no intention of keeping the standards, but lies about it so her parents don’t find out
  • No home support (parents may be inactive or non-member, but do not provide support like rides, help with personal progress, etc)
  • Speaks a different language
  • Special needs (physical)
  • Special needs (mental or developmental)
  • Special needs (emotional)
  • Special needs (abuse victim)
  • New Beehives (less familiar with the program, may be unsure of higher level concepts in lessons)
  • “Hermoine Granger” (totally “gets” it, bears testimony at every opportunity, raised hand to answer every question, volunteers for everything, may be labeled a “goody-goody”)
You’ll probably recognize most of these situations in your own ward. Of course, these situations I’ve listed might not apply to everyone and many girls will fall under multiple categories. Its usually not helpful to label people, because we are all complex individuals, but it is important to be aware of the situations our young women are dealing with so that we can be of the most help to them.

We may place a lot of focus on helping the girls who need the extra support or are struggling, but even the girls who already have a testimony (or the beginnings of one) will need to be strengthened to keep their testimony going through all they have to face in their teenage lives. Many times the “goody-goody” is the outcast, even among her fellow youth in the church. 

Just like adults, every single one of the girls I’ve worked with could use some testimony-strengthening. Specifically their testimony of Christ- who is the center of everything we believe and do.

How do we do this?

My personal “mantras” for teaching any Sunday lesson:
  1. No matter what the assigned topic, Jesus Christ is the topic.
  2. Prepare/teach a lesson as if it were the last one they are going to hear (because sometimes it is).
Let me elaborate.
I am a convert to the church (the only member on my side of the family) and a returned missionary. So I think (and hope) that I’m pretty missionary minded. When I prepare a talk or a lesson, I recognize that there will probably be at least one investigator or non-member visitor in the congregation that day. I plan for that. I try to think about what I would say if one of my own family members were there. Would I “phone it in” with my preparations and just ‘wing it’ or read a Conference talk word for word if I knew that they would be there? I would try harder to have the spirit and teach from the heart, and bear an honest testimony thats for sure. 

But what do we bear testimony of? And what if our topic is something potentially awkward to a visitor or less-active member, like tithing? 

I would never want a visitor or investigator to come to church for the first time and hear a talk that I gave and go home thinking, “My pastor was right – they aren’t Christian. The speakers spent the whole time talking about home teaching, and didn’t even mention Christ”
Even if I am assigned the topic “Tithing,” I still consider Jesus Christ to be the primary focus of that talk….Why do we pay tithing? (to show obedience to Christ, to become more like Christ, to teach us sacrifice like he has sacrificed for us, etc). You don’t have to talk about Christ the entire time, but if Christ is the head of our Church and the center of our lives, should be at the core of all we do and teach.
I use this exact same concept for young women Sunday class lessons.
2 Nephi 25:26 “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins”
Are we teaching, preaching, and testifying of Christ, every chance we get? Do we talk about him every single Sunday? If we want the young women to understand that they can look to him, we need to make his name and teachings a presence in our lessons. The girls need this – no matter what background or situation they come from. The investigator, the disgruntled young woman, the girl who is only sitting there because her parents are “making” her, the Hermoine Granger – every one of them. Some girls (many) are not getting this at home. Even if they are, its not something you can reinforce too much.
In our ward, we don’t have advisors, so the presidency members teach the Sunday lessons. I’ve had experienced some situations when I’m teaching a lesson and I know that it is likely to be one of the last lessons one of the girls will hear (or maybe even the last). As the girls grow older, they want to make their own decisions and create their own identity. They start to question why they have to keep all of these ‘rules’ and begin to realize that its getting harder and harder for their parents to force them to come to church. 
I think to myself- what can I say, what can I do to help this girl? What will she remember about this lesson? Will she say that she’s not accountable because she was never taught the correct principles? Will she say that she didn’t know whether I had a testimony or not? Even if she doesn’t have one – I need her to know that I DO.

Several years ago we had a teenage girl join the church. One Sunday, her mother (a Catholic) unexpectedly attended church with her and she was invited to YW class. I was teaching all of the girls that particular day, and the lesson was about a very sensitive topic that I knew was a point of concern for her. I only had 1 hour notice that the mother would be attending class with us. I was panicking a little. Not because I didn’t know what to say, but because I had already geared the lesson toward active girls who are familiar with the concept, so I needed to make some changes to my plan. I tried to think of how to explain the concepts to everyone – but especially to the mother of this recent convert. I tried to explain the doctrine and my feelings about them. I bore my testimony. I tried to say everything I would want someone to say if my own parents had been present.

This is how we should approach teaching the young women every time…. not just special occasions or with special visitors – every time. Because they need it and because it might be the last time they bother to show up. I don’t mean to sound negative, but its not uncommon for young women who used to be active to suddenly refuse to participate in young women. Their reasons may vary from “its dumb” to “I just don’t believe in the doctrine.” As a leader who cares for and stressed out over how to help the young women in our ward, it hurts.

I feel that focusing on Christ and bearing our honest testimony are two of the most important things we can do to help these girls.
I am totally on board with the “Come Follow Me” youth curriculum, so please don’t misunderstand. Our emphasis has gone from preparing an old-fashioned “speech” lesson to trying to create an interactive experience for the youth to develop their own testimony through discussion, experiencing teaching, etc. Although I try very hard to follow that model and it has been very successful, I always try to keep the focus on Christ and still always try to end with my heartfelt testimony. I never want anyone to leave the class without knowing that I know.