Here's my plan:
- Replace Stake Dances with game nights and talent shows (and other worthwhile activities)
- Combined YM/YW monthly activity = service, always. Real service outside of the church unit and in the community.
If we can get our youth interacting on deeper levels than who is successful at getting past the “dark corridor” police at dances and who has the best dress/makeup and danced the most, we might have a shot at them choosing to socialize rather than explore how far they can go in a physical relationship and still be safe. The pressure for girls to attract is great, and often overwhelming. It can deliver a crushing blow to fragile self esteems.
Our Stake recently had a “Beacon” activity for those 12-14. The goal was to “prepare the Deacons and Beehives (Beacons) for their first Stake Dance.” The 12 year old boys responded, “Yuck!” At least the ones in our branch. They also expressed concern that they won't be accepted in the group as a whole (meaning Stake youth they only see at Stake Dances) if they are not interested in dancing.
Two of those same boys have a LEGO Club, with girl members. They also have a few girl friends through our homeschool co-op and Concordia University classes. They have nothing against girls. They rather enjoy their company and can easily switch between playing cops and robbers to kickball or talking about current events and books they are reading. They don't want to dance with girls and they don't want to delve into the “dating” world where they have to ask them out (to dance) and single one girl out for another one. They enjoy being together in a group setting. It feels safe and comfortable.
We don't need to teach our young adults how to talk to each other and get along. We need to provide activities where that is a natural result. Like game nights, service, talent shows, and yes, even the dreaded Road Show. Our Stake revived that last concept a couple years back and it was a tremendous amount of fun for the whole family. A superb way of interacting amongst one another with a common purpose that was also entertaining. Clean entertainment. It disappeared after just one go, not sure why. It was fabulous.
If the activities we provide our youth are geared towards attracting and attraction then that will be the focus. We don't need to encourage that sort of thing. It's a natural phenomenon built into life itself. They will find the attraction, they don't need help.
What they do need help with is civil communication, healthy and mature interaction, appropriate compromise, respectful actions and dialogue, working together, and building a life actually centered on Christ rather than superficially and precariously balanced on Him. The youth of the church are great. They just need opportunities to be great among one another. Focusing on Christ and service would provide this profoundly better than Stake Dances and weekly activities centered around, screens, entertainment, and the latest social and cultural trends.
I know churches with youth activities such as
- playing games at a local nursing home/care center
- weekly bible study (actual serious study) followed by a potluck dinner
- formal dinners with an etiquette lesson beforehand
- providing care for at risk and homeless youth in the area after school, reading and playing games with them.
- singing (no matter the “talent level”) at local nursing home and care centers
- and many more worthwhile endeavors
Even when they get together with other like minded church groups (similar to our Stakes) their activities are service oriented; weekend service/mission trips, etc. The fun element is getting to know one another through actively serving others. Lives have been changed dramatically when the self-centered youth is challenged in real and engaging ways to work hard and see things from another perspective, outside the “entertain me” mode often prevalent in our society.
Stake Dances are overrated and, although not torture for all involved, they are a parade of sorts with a competitive element that does not provide the best benefit to our youth. Focusing on healthy and purposeful interactions between genders will fix the “modesty” issue. In my opinion of course!