We held our 6-month planning and leadership meeting this morning. I am not sure where I got the idea for holding this event before General Conference, but that has turned out to be a great choice. It’s a day free of other church meetings, and since we are in the Eastern time zone, General Conference doesn’t begin for us until noon, which frees up the morning for YW.
We invite all three young women class presidencies, their secretaries, the bishopric member over YW, all YW leaders, and our secretary to this meeting. We meet in someone’s home and have breakfast together first thing at 9am. Today we had leadership training on conducting (bishopric member), planning activities (first counselor), and why we attend mutual (second counselor). All of the training was really good this time, especially the training by the second counselor, who was able to use some of Sister Oscarson’s quotes from the general conference yesterday to teach young women they have something to offer when they attend activities.
When that was done, I spent a few minutes reviewing what the girls had learned from the leadership training they had just received. Then I took about 10 minutes going over the calendar, and I told the young women we’d get back together at the end of the hour to vote on whether they wanted to do a campout in November over Veteran’s Day since they were out of school (yes), did they want to split into classes for the Christmas party (no), did they want to do the same service project — caroling at the senior citizens center (yes), did they want to combine with Activity Day Girls for a special girls-only activity since YM were going to be absent (yes — cupcake wars), and I went over which dates they’d need to calendar for our planning.
The above took right at an hour, and we got down to planning. We split into groups by class. Each group gets a printed copy of the calendar, a list of suggested themes by month that relate to Come Follow Me, and everyone has a laptop. Using the activities planner at LDS.org/youth/activities, we are able to plan and write down basic-level assignments so that we only need to confirm everything when we hold presidency meetings during the next 5 months. All of those activities are calendared for the bishopric to view and approve. Parents can also see the full calendar and know exactly what Young Women are doing at every activity, which makes family calendar planning easier.
At 11:10, we came back together to vote, go over some plans for New Beginnings, and to wrap up. I love this activity. It’s 2.5 hours long, but it makes life so much easier for us all during the next 6 months. We are able to spend our time during presidency meeting ministering instead of administering — asking who can we help instead of what are we going to do. It’s fun to see the girls come up with an idea and send an envoy to another class or classes to invite them to participate. We don’t bother with having Joint activities on a certain week of the month, but we allow YW to plan those activities as they feel the need or interest. I especially like that the older girls are reaching out to combine with the Beehives without the other class. It’s so nice to see them mentoring one another.
My secretary is out of commission right now, so I spent several hours this week printing calendars, printing up the CFM grid, updating the birthday calendar, and comparing dates and conflicts with the school calendar. Before the activity starts we have all the dates marked where we will not hold mutual, and if we know we will block out a certain date for an activity (like New Beginnings, or a temple trip, or the Christmas party) those are entered ahead of time. It takes a fair amount of preparation, but once it’s over, I can breathe easily for the next 6 months.
This is the third time we’ve held this planning meeting this way. It’s gone so well that Young Men have followed suit and are doing the same with their quorums as well. The girls really love the high energy planning session, and leaders love it, too. It’s a win all the way around.
One thing I particularly loved was hearing the girls who attended the service project last year tell the other young women how great it was. Every. Single. Leader. bailed on me within the 24 hours before that activity began, and I was pretty stressed. There had been a mixup with the young woman scheduling it and the scheduler at the facility, and I had to go in the week before in person to verify everything. We probably had only 12 young women there, but it worked out so well. The people were so welcoming — they passed out candy canes to the girls, and asked lots of questions about them as they performed. I introduced them and let the older people make song requests from the lyric sheets I printed out. We served treats, and for the last 10-15 minutes, we sent the girls out to the tables to sit and visit with the adults in the room. The girls LOVED it. They loved it enough to want to do it again, and would love to see it a tradition. I can tell the girls 100 times that they will have a great time, but it doesn’t count as much as even one time hearing it from a peer. I feel confident we will have a good turnout this year for the project.
Another activity I’m particularly impressed with is the President’s Day activity the Laurels invented. They are going to assign members of the class to do a 5 minute presentation on a president of the General YW program, and invite our stake young women’s presidency to come so they can get to know them as well. I love it — women leaders learning from/about other women leaders.
In other news, Young Men pushed a calendar change through last month, where we cut out one ward council per month and cleared up the first Sunday for presidency meetings. We voted to try that for a while (assuming we can find space in the building to meet), and hold all our class presidency meetings immediately after church as well.