As the new year approached, I wondered which president of the Church we’d be studying this year. Then on the last Sunday of December, my ward held a joint meeting for the third hour to explain what would follow in 2018.
No longer would we study the words of modern prophets in manuals devoted to individual servants of the Lord. Now we’d study the words of prophets and apostles from recent Conference addresses. And we’d be discussing them as a group, with everyone seated in a circle facing each other.
The word discussion is key. The Church would no longer provide lesson plans as it had previously. Now discussion leaders would need to prepare their own plans ahead of time considering the needs of the class.
Since learning of these changes, I’ve been intensely curious to see how well they’d work. After all, this free-form format leaves a lot of blanks to fill. But observing how those blanks have been filled over the past two months, I’m totally sold on the new model. I believe it’s but a prelude of greater things to come when we embrace the moments.
Embrace the freedom
Part of my concern with the new program related to my new calling as a Sunday School teacher for the 12-year-olds. It’d been years since I last taught the youth, and the Church has made many changes to youth instruction in that time.
For the past couple of years, the youth have experienced in their classes what all of us now experience in our classes and meetings. The Church still provides the skeleton pieces of what could be a lesson plan. I like this new model, especially the freedom to put the pieces together in the way I feel inspired.
I also love how, even though we make our own lesson plans, we can go off script any time we feel inspired. Instructors have always had this freedom, but I’m glad the new model builds on it. Some of the best learning moments for both student and instructor occur during those unpredictable moments that simply come.
Embrace the belonging
What I really like best about the new model is a newfound sense of belonging. Perhaps the biggest contributor to this sense lies in the seating arrangement.
Before, chairs would commonly be arranged in rows. Often people would sit as far back as they could. Everyone has typical places to sit as well, providing a feeling of stagnation.
Now, with the insistence on sitting in a circle, there’s no more seeing the backs of other people’s heads. The circle arrangement has everyone seeing everyone. And there’s no “fixed position” for anyone. That arrangement changes the whole dynamic of how I’ve come to see myself in my ward.
Over the years, I’ve typically felt estranged. Lessons were typically about this marriage-and-family thing I didn’t have. And sitting so as to be less visible by others didn’t help with the sense of belonging either.
That’s all changed with the new model. Lessons still focus on the marriage-and-family thing I don’t have, but there’s something about sitting in a circle where everyone can see everyone that provides this sense that we don’t need to be in the same chapter of life to be on the same journey.
Embrace the opportunity
That shift in perspective helped me to see something I wasn’t seeing before. We singles need to contribute more to meetings and classes in general membership wards. Our failure to do so hurts everyone.
The other week in quorum meeting, the discussion turned to descriptions of children spending countless hours watching online videos of other kids doing things, like play a video game or build a model. A flash of inspiration came to me, and because I felt more a part of the group, I decided to share it. After announcing my ignorance in dealing with kids, I suggested the fathers actually do with their kids what they’re watching other kids do in the videos.
This comment completely changed the tenor of the meeting. The discussion branched into a direction it otherwise wouldn’t have. The spirit and comments that followed helped me to see that many of the brethren were edified by the new direction the discussion took after my contribution.
As I said before, I’m totally sold on the new model the Church has employed for our classes and meetings this year. We singles have much to contribute therein. Instead of complaining about how we don’t fit in and tuning out, we can embrace the moments the new model offers to lift where we stand. When we make those contributions, we can bless the lives of others on the same journey we’re on. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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