Fall is here, next year’s Ward Calendars are being put together. Sure, the YM/YW will get the basics on it, but how about doing a little deep planning.
In November 2007 we we held a ward youth planning retreat, setting specific activities for the entire 2008.
To make it feel a little different (“retreat”) , we held the session away from the church, in a large conference room at a members’ business.
We led off with a team-building game. The Bishop then went through some goals for the year, and we had a brainstorming session where the kids choose the activities that met the goals we set out. We then put them on the calendar. We left with all joint activities planned.
- Before the event, leaders debated whether to invite just presidencies, or all youth. Since we have a medium sized program there are just a few youth who do not hold leadership callings, we didn’t want exclude just a few, so we invited all youth.
- To lead the team building game we used a member who does corporate training. Ask around, there is probably someone in your ward or stake who would does it professionaly.
- We provided food and worked over lunch
- We went for a professional atmosphere, sitting them at tables, with notepads and water bottles.
- We held it right after a Stake Volleyball game, so it was a jump-start to getting the kids out.
- Follow-up in a Quorum meeting making assignments for the year for Sacrament duties, lessons, etc.
One of our favorite annual activities is the Halloween Party. Our Young Men traditionally do a Halloween Skit for the Primary kids. It isn’t tough to do, it just takes a little preparation, which can be done at Mutual nights. Just come up with a few outlandish, gross, messy, silly bits, then gather the kids around. It really is fun. Note – if a few adults are disgusted, you have done a good show!
Here are some pics from last year’s show. We temporarily installed a zip-line in the gym, and the host slid in on a cable. We put a fish in a blender, then all the YM drank the protein drink (or did we pull a sleight-of-hand switcheroo.. and they were really drinking a milkshake??). We also blindfolded a good sister and sent her fishing into a bowl for candy treats, but slipped a few mice in there to keep things interesting. And of course we poured slime on the head of some “unsuspecting” adults
How to do it: (more…)
Here is a great end-of-summer Mutual Activity, the classic slip-&-slide.
When I was in California I saw a great one at a Stake Pioneer Day Celebration. It was about 45 feet long, and ran down a perfect grassy slope. As you can see in the picture, it was awesome! The Young Men were all over it. I have done a slip-&-slide with my kids, but never thought of it for a Mutual Activity.
At the Sons of Liberty Encampment they built the greatest Slip & slide ever. It was actually more like a temporary waterslide. Check out the video here (click on the “2008 water slide madness video” link)
I am guessing the Church risk management folks may not approve, but that is part of the appeal isn’t it.
Suitable for: Quorum or Whole Mutual.
Equipment: Need a water source & hose and a big sheet of plastic.
Cost: $10 for a large plastic sheet.
Prep time: half hour to get supplies before-hand, but I would make building it part of the activity.
- A gentle slope on grass is best, for obvious reasons steer clear of pavement
- Put a bit of diluted dish soap in a spray bottle, and coat the plastic for some really good sliding.
- The grass will look trashed when you are done, but it will bounce back quickly.
- Look for a way to secure the top of the plastic sheet, usually with stakes that can be pounded down below the surface they they will not injure the sliders.
Here is a very different idea for a Mutual, or Stake Activity — stage a mini-TED conference.
A TED conference is described on TED.com:
The annual conference brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).
The basic idea is that you have really fascinating people give short talks on something they are passionate about. We first did it on a Mutual night using:
- an artist who helped design the SLC Winter Olympic Medals, he spoke about design and form.
- a cheesemaster
- an artist talked about Picasso, her area of expertise.
We spent our budget on cheese and fruit, which became our refreshments after cheesemaster told us the fascinating history of Cheese and taught us how to properly eat the different kinds of cheese.
The event turned out great, It is impossible not to enjoy a good speaker talking about their passion for a short time (We limited speeches to 12 minutes.)
A short time later our ward was in charge of a Stake Youth Activity, so we decided to do it again on a bigger scale. We used the same speakers, but searched the stake for a few more. We found a musician who spoke on music through the ages, and a former actor who did a presentation on pick-up lines from Shakespeare’s plays.
After the talks, we gathered in the gym and ate the cheese and fruit and had a chocolate fountain. We had kids play classical music on piano and string instruments for background music, and had one of our artists demonstrating sketching of portraits. We also had artwork on the wall, and a “where’s Waldo” type game where they had to look for things in the art.
It was very successful, the kids liked it more than I thought they would. One of the amazing things is that it was a “calm” evening. Most stake youth events are a bit rowdy, which is great, everyone is having fun, but it was nice to have a different type of atmosphere for a change.
Suitable for: Whole Mutual or Stake Youth.
Equipment:: If the groups are of any size at all you need to a mike & PA for each speaker. Also you will need multiple laptops/projectors, as most speakers like to use powerpoints.
Cost: In our case we (over)spent our budget on cheese. Gouda and Port Salut are not cheap!
Prep time: This takes weeks of planning for a ward event, much longer for a Stake.
- This is all about the speakers, you need to work every angle to find out who is a great speaker and has interesting passions in your Stake/area. People like that LOVE to be asked to speak.
- If you break into groups, assign a youth to lead each group, assign one person to keep time and ring the bell for passing time.
- Timing is crucial during the event, you have to set out a realistic schedule, then stick to it.
- We called it “Arts, Beats and Eats”, which is easier to market to the kids than “TED conference” You could call it whatever you want though
- We may do it again, this time we would make sure to include at least one speaker on a Gospel topic, there is always someone around who has studied an interesting & faith promoting topic. Mormon History in your town or area would be great if you had a dynamic speaker.
- For the ward event we just kept the group together for the presentations, but for the Stake event, we split the kids into 5 groups and rotated them, every 14 minutes (12 for each talk, 2 for passing time.
- Quirky and diverse topics work the best.
- Make the speakers very organic to your area, don’t try to find someone to speak about cheese because it worked for us, ask everyone you know and find the best speakers in your area. Build from there.
I love hearing about successful Youth Events, here is a great report on the well respected Mormanity.org . Some great ideas in here, including staging a Book of Mormon Battle, and how to get Wisconsin girls.
I am going to share the Altoids trick with the Young Men in my ward.
Here is a really fun outside activity. It is impossible to resist laughing and having a great time as a white cloud envelopes you, trails of white streak the sky, and all your friends and adult leaders look ridiculous covered in flour.
It is pretty simple, it is capture the flag with ammo!
The flour bombs are actually a handful of flour inside a “nylon” stocking. Each kid starts with a couple of bombs, and is free to pick up used bombs from the ground. Players can go anywhere on the field, when you get tagged with flour you are out. Line teams up on opposing sidelines, place their flags near their sideline. Teams defend their flag, while trying to capture the other team’s flag and return it to their sideline. If you get tagged while carrying the flag, you drop it. Games go quickly, kids are not out very long. I guarantee everyone will love this messy game.
Suitable for: Large quorum or any combined activity.
Equipment:Flour bombs, Markers for field boundries, 2 flags, ref stuff, jerseys or pennies.
Cost: couple bucks for for flour, scam the nylons from a shoestore.
Prep time: Medium, collect flour and nylons, takes 45 minutes to assemble a couple of dozen bombs.
* Have an adult referee, get a striped shirt & whistle. This will quickly be chaotic, you will need the whistle.
* Make sure referee is your most outgoing, self assured borderline obnoxious adult. They will need to shout down the Priests, it won’t do to have a timid soul in that role.
* When reffing remember the goal is to make sure everyone is having fun, be quick to change rules as you go to alter the game so everyone is having fun (throttle strong players, help weaker ones.) If the game is at an impasse, bring a couple of players back from elimination to get it back on track.
* ID teams with jerseys, borrow from ward basketball team.
* After each round, pick up the flour bombs and re-use, they are good for multiple rounds.
* You can collect old nylons from ward members, but it is much easier to stop in a womens shoe store and talk them out of a few dozen of those little footie nylons that they have available to put over bare feet when trying shoes on.
* Obviously this is an outside game, and does not work in the rain, so have an indoor backup plan.
* Mark off a defined field of play, otherwise it is just a prolonged chase around the building. Adjust the size of the field between rounds to get the best quality of play.
* Get word out to wear old clothes.
Note: I got this idea from a book that I can not find right now, so I can not give proper credit. It was something like “Ward Activities for Dummies” or something like that. If someone knows the book, let me know so I can give proper credit.
Last summer we had the greatest high adventure trip that I can imagine. We went backpacking Isle Royale. It was a big trip, so this year the overlords have us on a short leash. That leads to the problem: how to get the boys interested in a less awesome trip this summer. When one boy was overheard saying that they were not interested in a “nature walk” we knew we had a problem.
Simply “talking up” the trip was marginally effective, so we came up with a different idea. We put up a billboard in the hallway in the church building. Actually, it was a bulletin board hyping the trip. We used pictures, maps and descriptions of where we are going. The boys walked past it every time they were in the building. It did rev up interest.
One tip — There were not a lot of good pictures of the trail available from traditional sources, so we used Flickr. Which was a goldmine. We made sure to give proper credit.
It is quite a scene in our ward: the second the organized Mutual activities are over the kids are sprinting down the hall to get to the gym. Once inside a joyous noise erupts. Kids gather in groups chatting loudly, some just hang out, spontaneous games of tag, touch football, half-court basketball, murderball (modified dodgeball), lightning and many other forms of childhood PLAY break out.
That is right, it is the rare state of modern childhood called PLAY.
Personally, it is my favorite time at Mutual. In this era of over-scheduled, hyper-achieving, stressed out kids, I take great pleasure in seeing them participate in unstructured playtime. I strongly suspect for some of the kids, it may be the only non-planned, non-overly-supervised activity in their week. There is a lot of smiles and unbridled childhood joy in that 20 minutes.
Sure, there have been a few injuries, little kids get mowed over by a big kid chasing a ball. We have even had a broken arm. No shocker there, kids being kids sometimes get hurt. The inevitable calls to shut down the gym-time followed. More than a few minutes in BYC Meeting have been spent discussing it. It is obvious by my first paragraphs where I stand. I place high value on fostering childhood exuberance, and I staunchly defend the open-source play structure that has developed. I am rarely inflexible in any church problem solving, but I strongly feel the need to defend this free time. In the end I say to a parent who does not want their child in that field of mutual combatants, they should pull them out, but don’t ruin it for the entire group.
BTW, most adults gravitate to the gym as well, so there is ample oversite, but so far, cross my fingers, not an un-needed heavy hand of adult direction.
Please note – I have learned in my years in the YM presidency that structure and organization during the actual Mutual activity is critical, and means the difference between success or failure in every activity.
We are always looking for new mutual activities, here is one we just discovered, and the boys really like it.
Hooverball is basically playing volleyball with a 6 pound medicine ball. You catch it, then toss it back over the net. it is very strenuous, and is a great way for the boys to burn off some of their aggression and energy. It is also very playable when you have a mix of good… and not-so-good athletes. For Deacons you may want to use a 4 pound ball, the 6 pound ball worked well with our Teachers and Priests.
The game is named after President Hoover, who played it to keep in shape when he was in the White House.
Learning this game (or any new sport) is an option in the Duty to God Requirements. Tip- print out the rules and put a sheet in each boys hand when you go over them.
The game is explained very well with simple rules here
Short video of some really strong guys the game (not our YM )