“Turn Their Hearts”: How We Engaged Our Ward Youth in Family History
Have you been trying to get your ward youth excited about family history? Do you need some fresh ideas to spark interest? For the past two years, I’ve been working with teens age 12-18. Along with my fellow family history consultants, we’ve made a lot of progress in how our youth perceive family history. They’ve gone from reluctance to genuine interest. Here are some of the things we’ve done to turn their hearts to their ancestors.
January – Mutual Activity to Attach Photos and Stories
We decided to hold four combined activities (held on a week night, for all the youth ages 12-18) throughout the year, each focused on family history. In January, we took all of our youth and leaders to a large family history center in the area. The missionaries there prepared a PowerPoint presentation for us on the importance of photos and stories. We had our youth bring a photo on a flash drive and following the presentation, they each sat down at a computer and with the help of a family history missionary, attached their photo or story to FamilySearch. This started the year off with a positive experience and gave some youth their very first family history experience.
April – Ward Family History Fair
In April we planned a ward family history fair, with the youth running the activities for the most part. A photo booth, home movies, storytelling, displays, and Relative Finder kept all ages entertained and engaged in family history. One of the youth commented that it was the best ward activity ever! The photo booth and Relative Finder activities proved to be favorites.
August – Discovery Center
We took our youth to the Family History Discovery Center located at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. They took photos of themselves in ancestor dress, looked at their family tree on an entire wall, learned the meaning of their name and more. Each youth had an iPad that they used to sign into their FamilySearch account. When they docked their iPad at a station, it brought up their information on a large screen. They loved running around to each activity and connected with their family’s history in a whole new way.
October – Mission Possible Mutual Activity
In October we wanted the youth to try some of the fun family history programs and developed the Mission Possible activity. We invited smaller groups in to our building’s computer room during a weeknight. Each youth had a computer and a checklist so they could independently learn how to use websites such as Puzzilla, Find a Record, and FamilySearch. Some of the youth completed all five checklists in one night. We sent home the extras for them to try with their families.
After a successful year of various activities introducing the youth to family history, we wanted to help them succeed in the Find, Take, Teach program. We also wanted to give them experiences that would help to turn their hearts to their ancestors and develop connections. We took a two prong approach for year two: Quarterly Sunday Family History Afternoons and Class Goals.
Quarterly Sunday Family History Afternoons
We held a quarterly family history activity on Sunday afternoons at a consultant’s home where we encouraged the youth to use the “Adopt a Family” checklists to find a family to research, learn about them, attach sources, and reserve the temple ordinances.
I developed the “Adopt a Family” activity to train our youth family history consultants and it worked well. Once they learned the process, they were able to help the other youth during our Sunday afternoons. I especially loved seeing them getting the hang of using a research log.
Our youth consultants brought treats and the youth liked the camaraderie of being together. Some of the parents told our host how much their youth loved coming to his home to do family history! We’ll definitely be continuing Sunday Family History Afternoons next year.
The second part of our family history youth program for the year was class goals. One of our adult consultants met with each age group and helped them set a class goal. To get them started thinking of ideas, she put three sheets of paper on the chalkboard, each with one of the three purposes of family history and ideas of what activities could be done to fulfill that purpose.
- To do temple ordinances for our ancestors
- Review completed work
- Reserve ordinances that need work
- Search indexed records to find new ancestors
- To get to know our ancestors and preserve memories for our posterity
- Review photos, stories, & audio files
- Upload photos, stories, & audio files
- Preserve your own photos, stories, & audio files
- To create a record of our dead that is “worthy of all acceptation” (D&C 128:24)
- Review your family tree -make additions / corrections
- Search indexed records to find out additional information
- Attach sources
The adult consultant gave each youth three sticky notes and after she reviewed the purposes, helped them brainstorm ideas. She wrote the ideas on the chalkboard under each category, then had the youth vote by writing their three favorites on the sticky notes. They brought them up and placed their sticky notes next to the ideas they liked. The majority ruled and they chose their goal.
Throughout this year, the youth have come occasionally into the family history computer room during the second hour of the block of meetings and worked on their goal. The individual classes have done some week night activities and we’ve encouraged families to help their youth as well, emailing the goals and ways to help to the parents. Here are the goals that each age group set. You’ll notice that many of the goals fall under the “get to know your ancestor” category. Connecting with an ancestor is often the best way to turn hearts!
BEEHIVES – Young Women age 12 – 13
Seek out and find a grandmother, learn about her, add stories and details to her file on FamilySearch, and then hold a birthday party for her.
DEACONS – Young Men age 12-13
Seek out and find a male ancestor, learn about him, add stories and details to his file on FamilySearch, and then make a replica of his gravestone and have a “celebration” sharing the gravestones and stories about the ancestor.
MIA MAIDS – Young Women age 14-15
Make a scrapbook of grandmother photos.
TEACHERS – Young Men age 14-15
Track a family history line geographically back as many generations as possible, and then share that information on social media.
LAURELS – Young Women age 16-17
Help Beehives and Mia Maids find names for temple baptisms and plan an “epic” temple trip during the summer to perform the baptisms.
PRIESTS – Young Men age 16-17
Collect temple ordinance cards from ward members that are ready for baptism through the Home Teaching program and then plan a trip to perform those baptisms.
Some classes have completed their goals, and others are still working on them. Lots of youth have had good experiences discovering their ancestors and making connections.
How successful has our year been? Judging from our latest Sunday Family History Afternoon? Very! Seeing youth voluntarily bringing laptops, signing in to FamilySearch (remembering their log in), and going to work is fabulous. We’re excited to see what next year brings as we continue to work at helping our youth turn their hearts to their ancestors.
How have you involved your teens in family history? Share your ideas in the comments sections below.
Best of luck in your family history endeavors!