The new Children and Youth program got off to a rocky start. It was introduced at the end of 2019. But just a few months later, the world shut down due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Thankfully, God’s work continued, and now children and youth all over the world are participating in this program.
Today, when I speak to teenagers and adults in the Church and ask, “What is the Children and Youth Program?” they typically answer, “Goal setting.” Then I smile and say, “That’s just a small part.”
Three Important Components
This inspired program is not only about goal setting. The program has three components: gospel learning, service and activities, and personal development.
The first component is gospel learning. As young people attend seminary, they are doing the youth program. As they engage with Come Follow Me, they are doing the youth program.
The youth program used to be seen as separate from other Church efforts. Now, it is combined with them. As young people pay tithing and hold a temple recommend, they are learning the gospel and doing the youth program.
The second component is service and activities. As young people attend Young Women or Aaronic Priesthood camps, they are doing the youth program. As they attend youth conferences, they are doing the youth program.
As they lead out in planning and carrying out these camps and conferences, as they participate in other service opportunities and activities throughout the year, they are doing the youth program.
Finally, the third component is personal development. This is where goal setting fits in. But it is not goal setting for the sake of goal getting. I once asked a young man, “What is your physical goal?” He said, “Breathe.” I guess he can write it down and check it off, but personal development is more than a checklist.
Boys used to look at a Scout book and say, “What do they want me to do?” Girls would look at a Personal Progress book and say, “What do they want me to do?” Now young people are expected to look to God and say, “What do you want me to do?”
As they do this, young people are learning to seek and act upon personal revelation. They will find that God expects them to set goals that will stretch them beyond just breathing. As they work toward those goals, they will learn to exercise faith in Jesus Christ.
Becoming More Like Jesus
The Children and Youth program is more than goal setting. It is striving to become more like Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives. If that is too much to remember, just say, “Jesus.” A few years ago, people would have said the youth program was scouting for boys and Personal Progress for girls. I hope young people today will say, “Jesus.”
No one has ever left the Church because he or she didn’t get a pin or medallion. But young people struggle when they have not connected with Christ deeply and meaningfully.
Deep and meaningful connection is the purpose of the Children and Youth program. Staying on the covenant path is not difficult for those who understand they are not walking it toward Christ, but with Him.
I recently read a book by a self-proclaimed atheist who talked about how the universe is conspiring for our good and how our goal should be to become one with the universe. He said we are children of the universe with stardust within us. I am sure he meant to be uplifting and encouraging, but to me it seemed empty. The universe cannot love us the way a Heavenly Father can. A big bang cannot help us the way a big brother named Jesus Christ can.
Realizing Our True Potential
Each week young women across the Church recite, “I am a beloved daughter of Heavenly Parents with a divine nature and eternal destiny.” Aaronic Priesthood holders say, “I am a beloved son of God, and He has a work for me to do.”
These words change the way young people view themselves and those around them. This knowledge sinks deep and influences how they see their identity and purpose. It teaches them to depend on Jesus Christ to realize their true potential.
And that’s the Children and Youth Program.