7 Smart Habits of LDS Youth Leaders

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There’s no such thing as a perfect youth leader. But, if one existed, what would they look like? What kind of habits would they have? Taking some time to understand this will help you know what to work on. This journey in the gospel is one of constant self-improvement and our callings are meant to stretch us and help us to become more like the Savior. Here are some habits you can work on, while you are in that state of becoming.

Make Time to Develop Yourself

Our callings can be a big investment of time and resources. We need to have something to give. This is why it’s so important to start with yourself.  Taking time for prayer, scripture study, exercise, eating right and sleeping enough will help you have the strength you need to serve. I’ve been guilty of not taking good care of myself and I ended up unable to take care of anyone else for a time. It’s just not worth it to do that to yourself!

Want to read more about self-development? Read my posts  4 Things Effective Youth Leaders Do to Take Care of Themselves and The Shocking Truth about Goals and Leadership

Allow Others to Make Mistakes and Learn from Them

This one can be hard. It can be really hard to watch someone struggle through something that you can do quickly and easily. What happens when you or someone else aren’t there to do things for them?

We can wear ourselves out trying to be everywhere at once and to be all things to all people. There’s enough room in the Church and in the programs of the Church for imperfection.

Rather then stepping in and taking over, I suggest spending the energy on evaluating activities and events after the fact. This can really help people learn from their experiences

Be Generous with Praise

For awhile I had a very simple habit goal of taking 15 minutes every morning to write a short thank you note to someone who had done something meaningful for me. I was always very specific about what I was thanking them for. Very often, I wouldn’t hear much back, if anything. However, my secretary wrote back to me after I’d sent her a thank you note, letting me know that she hadn’t realized that what she’d done had made such a difference to me. I could tell that she felt validated and affirmed by what I had said to her.

Building people up will always have more power than even the best-worded constructive criticism.

Be Careful of Talking too Much

When I was serving as Young Women President and then was released and immediately called as second counselor. I served with a president who put a lot of weight on what I said. I began to become concerned that she was relying on my opinions of how things should be done too much. I also noticed that her first counselor was not sharing her thoughts and opinions. I was worried that my willingness to jump in and answer every question might be keeping us from truly counseling together.

So, I tried a little experiment. I picked a number and decided that I would only speak that number of times during our presidency meeting. I was hoping it would create a space for the first counselor to share her thoughts. I was thrilled when I saw her start to share more in our meetings.

It’s important to remember that in our councils, everyone should be encouraged to talk and share their opinions.

Build Consensus

As I said above, it’s really important to make meetings a place where everyone participating can be heard. I found that very often, the answer was in listening to everyone’s opinions and then deciding. This helps people feel heard and to align with a decision they may not even agree with.

Get more help with with how to counsel together by reading or listening to Counseling with Our Councils by M. Russell Ballard.

Focus on What’s Most Important

It can be really easy to lost focus on what is most important. Make sure you take the time to regularly review the objectives of the Young Women Program or the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood, depending on where your calling is. The bottom line is that we are helping the youth to draw closer to Christ. It can be very easy as we plan camps, youth conferences and other activities to forget the main reason we are doing them.

Be Wise with Your Time and Resources

From time to time, requests will come your way that you may decide are not right for you or your organization. You are not an unlimited resource, nor are the people who serve with you. It’s good to have the wisdom to know when and how to say no and to place limits on what you ask of others and yourself.

Want to know more about how to tell people no without completely letting them down? I absolutely love The Power of a Positive No by William Ury.

The Five Levels of Leadership: A Book Review


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The Five Levels of Leadership- A Book Review

The author, John Maxwell, walks the reader through the five levels of leadership and how to achieve each one.
Level one-Positional.  You’ve been appointed to a leadership position, but have no influence or relationships with those you lead. You have trouble getting people to follow you.
Level two– Permission. You’ve developed relationships with people, which means you have some influence over those you lead. People follow you because they want to.
Level three– Production. People follow you because of what you have done for the organization. Things get done and goals are reached.
Level four– People Development. You develop other leaders and empower others. People follow you because of what you have done for them.
Level five– Pinnacle. This is the hardest level to reach. When you’ve reached level 5, you develop leaders who develop other leaders. People follow you because of who you are and who you represent.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Leadership Skill Lessons (5 out of 5 stars)
Aside from the five levels, there are a few key points you should know from this book.
  1. You are at a different level of leadership with every person in your sphere of influence. r example: To a brand-new Beehive, you’re a level 1 leader. As you get to know her and build a relationship with her, you can move on to level two and on.
  2. Every time you move to a new position of leadership, you start at level one. If you move on to a new calling, you start out on level one with those in your care. However, it’s much easier to work your way up the levels once you’ve done it before.
  3. Level one leaders have the hardest time working with volunteers, young people and the highly educated. These three groups of people tend to be more independent.
  4. The five levels are building blocks, rather than rungs on a ladder. You have to maintain what you’ve accomplished on past levels to make progress.
LDS Youth Leader Lessons
We all start out at level one when called as a youth leader. This can make it very difficult to lead the youth, because we, most likely, don’t have relationships with any of them. No relationships=no influence. No influence means that the youth are less likely to follow you because they are in one of those more independent groups I mentioned above.
To truly be an effective youth leader, you need to work your way to level four. One of our responsibilities is to teach the youth leadership skills. We are developing future church leaders. It doesn’t get much more exciting than this!
This means that the faster you progress toward level 4, the more effective you will be as a youth leader. He provides homework assignments at the end of each level’s section to help you to progress to the next level.
Did you read The Five Levels of Leadership? What stood out to you? 

9 Ways to Serve the Youth in Your Ward or Branch

I think sometimes as leaders we can get stuck in seeing those we lead as serving us, rather than the other way around. If we truly want to lead by example, we need to serve them. This will teach them to serve others and will help them to be better class and quorum presidents, parents, leaders in other callings and to be good human beings. With that in mind, here are some ways we can serve them.

9 Ways to Serve the Youth in Your Ward or Branch

  1. Remember their birthdays. All this takes is a short phone call or text. Gifts are nice, but not necessary. I once worked with a building custodian who when out of his way to ask me how my birthday was. It meant a lot to me.
  2. Help them to learn how to handle mistakes. They will make mistakes all of they’re lives. What you teach them about this can make life easier for them.
  3. Find out when their special events are, like concerts and plays. Go to them. We had a couple of youth Sunday school teachers who were so good at this. They’ve since moved away and our youth really miss them!
  4. Spend time with them outside of Sunday lessons and activities. For some youth, we may be the only positive adult role model in their lives.
  5. When they have an idea for an activity, listen and find a way to make it happen.
  6. Ask them what they think.
  7. Visit them in their homes. We once visited a young woman who was so excited that we had scheduled a time just to see her. Thinking about how happy she was to have us in her home just for her still makes me smile.
  8. Send them mail. Handwritten letters and post cards are a rarity today.
  9. Pay them a sincere and specific compliment. I did this once with a young woman and she mentioned it 6 months later in a lesson I taught about spiritual gifts. I had no idea it had meant that much to her.

What are your favorite ways to serve the youth? 

What to Do When Your Youth Leaders Aren’t Engaged: A Reader’s Question

Thank you to everyone who is taking my survey, so far. I appreciate you taking the time to let me know more about you as leaders. You can still take my survey, by clicking the link in my sidebar. It’s only 4 questions long and will take about 5 minutes. Today, I wanted to focus on a concern one of my survey takers shared with me. Here’s her question:
How do you empower the girls and help them learn leadership skills when they won’t attend meetings? Or follow through on assignments?
These are both good questions, and ones that most of us experience as adult leaders of youth. I’m going to assume that this is about class presidency members, rather than young women who don’t have a class leadership calling.  I’ll start with the second half of the question.
How do you teach leadership skills when they won’t follow through?
First of all, this is tough and frustrating. We all spend a lot of time, love and nurturing on the youth we work with. We try to help them by using our experience to teach them and sometimes they ignore it. Ugh! Bottom line, let them experience the failure of not following through. They will learn much faster when it’s a situation where they let down their peers. There might even be some positive peer pressure that takes place as fellow youth let each other know that the person who failed let them down. Peer-to-peer accountability has more influence than the accountability they experience with an adult leader. You can read more about that here.
We also have an important role as the adult adviser. 


First, when this lack of follow through happens, how are we handling it? Are we jumping in and doing it for them? Do we get angry and treat them with a complete lack of grace, rather than helping them learn from their mistakes? What we do as their adviser teaches them how to handle responsibility, for better or worse. We set the stage, limits and boundaries for what they can do. If we are engaging in either or both behaviors, we will see a lack of follow through for two reasons.
  • One, they will decide that they don’t need to complete the assignment because someone else will do it for them. They don’t feel needed. Ouch, right!?
  • Two, they will develop a fear of disappointing you and an overall fear of failure. They may begin to think “Why should I keep trying when she just gets angry with me for not doing it right?” If you are looking for some tips for how to handle failure, I recommend my posts on handling failure and on how to support a youth leader during an activity.
Another thing to consider as adult leaders is how the assignments are made and what kind of follow up we are doing to help them be successful with the assignment. Are the adults making the assignments, or are they being made by class or quorum presidency members? Adults can make assignments and things will get done.  Having a youth make the assignment will have more influence and increase the likelihood of completion. First of all, one of their peers is demonstrating trust in them by asking them to do something. Second of all, it’s harder to let down one of your peers, compared to your adult leader.
As for follow up, I strongly recommend follow up between when the assignment is made to and when it’s complete. We are dealing with individuals who are in the process of growing up. They need lots of practice and the youth programs can be a good safe place for them to practice. We have the power to make it that way as the adult leaders. The follow up can be done by a class or quorum presidency member or an adult adviser. Beehives and deacons need a lot more “scaffolding” from their adult leaders than Laurels and Priests. If you’d like to read more about how I follow up with my youth to help them be successful, you can read my post here.

What Do You Do When Youth Won't Follow Through or Attend Meetings_

Now, on to the first question…
How do you empower the girls and help them learn leadership skills when they won’t attend meetings?
My simple answer to this question is, you don’t. If they’re not showing up, you’re trying to solve a different problem. It would be good to understand what’s preventing them from being there. Are they voting with their feet? Or are they experiencing some obstacles that keep them from coming? How could you change the environment in your meetings or activities that would help them feel a desire to come? Are you empowering them to lead the meetings? Or do you chair them?
I’ve been guilty of chairing meetings that should have been youth-led. It’s not a good thing for us to do. If you need help releasing control to a class or quorum president, I recommend checking out my posts on helping youth chair meetings and another about helping them write their own agendas.
If it’s an issue where they are experiencing some obstacles with coming, I see a couple possible solutions. First, make sure you’re working with them on meeting times and it’s when they’re available. Second, move forward without them. For a time, my Laurel class president was unavailable for meetings because her family went through a crisis that lasted for several months. I worked with her to have one of her counselors chair meetings in her place and we cleared all decisions with her, after the fact. Sometimes we need to shift our expectations to make things work. If it’s a counselor, and the president is still available to meet, you could hold the meeting without them or reschedule for a time when they can be there.
If it’s a recurring problem, and it sounds like it might be. It might be good to back up and work on connecting with them and getting other girls to connect with them. They’re inability to show up may be a sign that they’re just not ready to learn leadership skills. Take a look at my posts about connecting with youth, signs of disengaged youth, or reaching out to disengaged youth for help with this.
Last thing, please remember that you are learning how to do this! We are all, in one way or another, imperfect leaders. Developing leadership in others is a challenging leadership skill. Very often, we are put into our callings with little training for how to do this. Be patient with yourself and take it one step at a time!
What possible solutions do you see here that I haven’t thought of? 

How to Be a Leader that Youth Want to Follow

It took me some time to get a feel for how to interact with youth and really connect with them. I remember how very scared I was when I was first called as a young women president. I’m a lot better at it than I used to be, but I still have plenty of room for improvement.
How to Be a Leader that Youth Want to Follow
Be confident. Self-confidence attracts people to you.  Many youth are struggling with their self-confidence and can learn from your example in a positive way.
Have a sense of humor. People don’t want to be around someone who is no fun. Youth especially.
Be honest and authentic. The youth that you work with want to know the real you. They need to see that you are not perfect and how you handle making mistakes. You need to be human to them, not some perfectly polished vase on a shelf.
Avoid double standards. Most teenagers can spot hypocrisy a mile away! As long as your approach is “do what I say, not what I do” you will have trouble getting them to take you seriously.
Be accessible. Being a teenager can be a trying time. Sometimes they will need someone to talk to because you are the best person they have to talk to. Not everyone has parents, friends and family members who can do this for them. So, be open to going for walks and trips out for ice cream. If you can get comfortable with texting them, that will go a long way too.
Stay calm. They will make mistakes and display all kinds of imperfectness. If you can stay calm and let the natural consequences of their choices do the teaching, they will learn faster. Losing your cool can make it hard for them to trust you.
Keep your promises. This is so important! They will learn that they can trust you and count on you, if you do this. They will also be more likely to be patient in the rare moments where you end up unable to keep a promise and you have to apologize to them.
Now, it’s your turn. What characteristics would you add to this list?

11 Warning Signs that Your Youth Aren’t Engaged

Do you feel like your young women or young men group might suffer from a lack of engagement? It’s not an unusual problem. I’ve struggled with this to one degree or another. In case you’re not sure, here are a few things they might do if they are disengaged:

11 Warning Signs that Your Youth Aren't Engaged

  1. Don’t come to activities.
  2. Ignore you.
  3. Ignore their class president.
  4. Don’t take assignments.
  5. Accept assignments and then don’t follow through.
  6. Wander off during activities.
  7. Text during activities.
  8. Engage in side conversations during an activity (depends on the activity).
  9. Don’t participate.
  10. Sit or stand far away from the rest of the group.
  11. Have trouble remembering people’s names.

What about your youth? What signs of disengagement would you add to this list? Please share your in the comments and I will write a follow up post about how to handle them.

The Surprising Truth about Helping Youth Grow

        I would describe the process of helping teenagers as beautifully messy. There’s a whole lot of chaos in the middle of helping people to grow, no matter the age. With teenagers, I think it can get a little more messy. It’s also very worth it. Here are some of the things I’ve discovered over the years from working with youth
        It’s messy. They will make mistakes, ignore you, flake out on you and be generally rude to you. They’re in the process of growing up and it can be painful at times. Just let them know where the boundaries are with you in a kind and loving way.

Natural consequences are a great teacher. They will learn faster if you don’t bail them out.

The youth that you are able to help grow will develop a close bond with you.

It’s so important to listen to them. Being a teenager can be a time of insecurity. Helping them to feel heard will help them to find their sense of direction in life and help you to know where to lead them.

The Surprising Truth about Helping Youth Grow

They need to do things themselves to feel successful.

They need to see that you make mistakes, too and that it’s okay.

It will, most likely, take more patience than you currently have. What a great growth opportunity for yourself.

You will love them more than you thought possible.

There’s a whole lot of joy when they succeed. For them and for you.

6 Things Your Class/Quorum Presidency Needs to Hear You Say

You will encounter a variety of situations in your journey as an adult leader of youth. Sometimes, it will be easy to know what to say.  Other times, they will leave you at a loss for words. This may be in a  good way or it may be in a bad way.  It’s just important to know that the things we say to them matter. Here are a few phrases I rely on a lot.


What did you learn from that experience? Inevitably, they will make a mistake at some point. It’s important to teach them that mistakes are learning opportunities. If we do this, they will be more likely to develop self-confidence and they will establish a pattern of “failing up”.

Great job! I really like how you… Always, always, always be specific in your praise. If you aren’t, it may not come across as sincere. Teenagers can smell insincerity and hypocrisy a mile away.

Good news, you can try again. This is another good one for when they forget to do something or make a mistake. It also helps them to develop some perseverance.

Who’s responsible for that? I use this when my class presidency members ask me to do something that is their responsibility. Not too long ago, I had a class president ask me to announce her activity in opening exercises. I used that question.

I drive the get-away car! I use this one to remind them when they are trying to give me a responsibility that belongs to them. It’s a good lighthearted way to remind them. It makes them laugh, probably because they all know I’m crazy.

How are the plans coming for…? Every age group needs a certain amount of follow up. Asking about it this way helps them take responsibility for planning and executing activities and the care of those in their class or quorum.

Now it’s your turn. What useful phrases do you use often with your class or quorum presidency?



5 Books that Helped Me Become a Better Adult Leader of Youth

When I became a young women president a few years ago, I felt a strong need to improve my leadership skills. I read and listened to a lot of material to help me to become the leader I wanted to be. As I reviewed this list, I recognized how very much a work in progress I am. I feel these books have helped me to grow and improve as a leader.
5 Books that Helped Me Become a Better Adult Leader of Youth
Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath

An explanation of the psychology of decision-making. Top takeaways were: having a few options to choose from and the importance of using deadlines to facilitate decision-making.
Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath

A catalog of strengths with a test the profiles you and tells you your top 5 strengths.  Top takeaways were: Knowing what my strengths are and the importance of recognizing and leveraging the strengths of others.
The Power of Everyday Missionaries by Clayton M. Christensen

A great book with many different ways in which missionary work can be done. Best takeaways: Get people engaged and interested in the gospel by asking them to help with service projects and church assignments. People need to feel needed. Extending the invitation is success, not the person’s response.
Counseling with Our Counsels by M. Russell Ballard

Great book about how counsels work together. Best takeaway: It is important for all  thoughts and opinions to be shared to facilitate good decision-making.
The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute

Wonderful book about how to be at peace with someone, even when you may disagree strongly with each other. Favorite takeaway: To be able to really resolve conflict with someone, you need to get “out of the box” with them. “Out of the box” means that you are not seeing yourself as better than, worse than, must be seen as, or as deserving something from them. The attitudes we carry about the youth we serve and the adult leaders we work with matter.
Now it’s your turn. What books have helped you to be a better adult leader of youth?

5 Reasons Why You Should Stand Back and Let Them Lead

I know, I know. It’s really hard to let go and let a youth struggle with something. It pays off, I promise!

Let me give you an example. I just got back from camp and my Beehive class president was responsible for one of our devotionals. I checked with her to see if she needed any help. She said she had it covered. So, I nervously twiddled my thumbs and waited. I knew she could do a decent job, but would she really feel comfortable?

Guess what? She totally rocked it!

When you let the youth lead_ 1. They will

She got up there and called on someone to give an opening prayer, asked us to sing a primary song, shared a brief spiritual message, asked open-ended questions, encouraged participation and called on someone to give the closing prayer. I was blown away.

Here’s what happens when you let them lead:

  1. They will surprise you in a good way.
  2. You will learn things about them you never knew and discover skills and talents you didn’t know they had.
  3. They develop self-confidence.
  4. They see that you trust them with important things.
  5. They learn to take responsibility for things.

So, what’s keeping you from getting out of their way?