Part 7 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series.
We’ve all probably seen The Singles Ward DVD at some stage–personally I enjoyed Singles Ward II better–and perhaps even cringed at the thought of our precious returned missionary being exposed to such a culture. But of course in reality singles wards are perhaps one of the few places that could actually assist them to effectively transition back into mainstream life and find the spiritual and social path they need to take.
Singles wards. We have found that attending a singles ward or branch (if available) is almost always a good idea, even though almost nobody likes singles wards at first. Staying in a family ward with no one their age is just not in their developmental interests, even if it feels easier to them and delights their parents. If the singles ward just doesn’t work at all, encourage Institute participation and singles activities.
Church callings. Encourage your missionary to approach the bishop or branch president directly about serving in the Church. If they do not have a calling in the Church within a month, consider talking to Church leaders yourself. Be bold! Serving in the Church helps returned missionaries use their skills, build relationships, strengthen faith, and continue to develop. Many returned missionaries find attending and serving in the temple very rewarding, especially if there are others their age also serving there. Encourage serving and developing spirituality even without a formal calling.
What do I think?
Singles Wards. I am probably the wrong person to ask about singles wards, as my one and only personal experience with one was not positive. The singles ward I did attend (over 30 years ago) for a few weeks was very large and I felt isolated and lost in it. However, as Dave and Wendy point out, most people don’t like them at first. The mistake I made was to give up on it too soon. I’m sure if I had stuck it out then it would have been a very good move for me. If patience is exercised then in actual fact they are the perfect place for a young person to find good fellowship with other YSA, as well as offering a multitude of opportunities to serve.
Why do I say that?
Well, I’m afraid this attitude did rub off on to my eldest daughter when she moved away from home and had the choice to attend the local singles ward. It took her 12 months before she was able to venture into this new culture; reluctant to participate in something that was so stigmatised. Instead, she chose to attend a local family ward. As good as this was, once she made that final step to overcome her prejudice, she never looked back.
There were so many more opportunities for her to serve in callings than she had ever had in the family ward. She found herself called as the Gospel Doctrine teacher within the first few months of shifting, which allowed her to grow immeasurably. Probably a calling she would never have had if she attended a family ward. Additionally, her dating options increased 10 fold, as she participated in the many ward social activities.
But for a lot of our young people throughout the world there is no option to attend a singles ward. That’s why it is critical for our YSA to connect in other ways. Programs such as Institute and YSA activities are key to maintaining the spiritual and social welfare of the young person. I have a strong belief in this as my husband and I have had years of experience with the both the Institute program and similar social activities involving the YSA in the Church.
Key to maintaining their spiritual wellbeing is the consistent spiritual nourishment of the good word of Christ. Key to their social wellbeing is being able to make connections with other like-minded young people in meaningful ways. They will not get this anywhere else except in their Institute classes, Sunday lessons or through larger social activities with other YSA.
Where we currently live there are no singles wards for the YSA to attend, so when my daughter returns from her mission in a few weeks, we will be strongly encouraging her to participate in all the YSA social activities within the area we live, as well as placing full emphasis on her attendance of weekly Institute classes and regular attendance of the Temple.
Church Callings. Many wards and stakes in the church have programs where returned missionaries are given the highest priority when it comes to filling callings. I would hope that all wards and stakes (branches and districts) place emphasis on this and ensure these hardworking young people are given the opportunity to continue their service once home.
A calling is critical to the spiritual welfare of a returned missionary. Many a young person has lost focus on their return because, after months of not receiving any kind of calling, they feel worthless and purposeless in their religious lives. I cannot stress more the importance of each returned missionary obtaining a meaningful calling within the first month of their return. If this has not happened with your missionary then I would agree with Dave and Wendy – be bold and approach church leaders yourself.
If callings are not immediately available, then the additional encouragement to participate in regular Temple attendance, and in many cases, becoming a Temple worker, can help maintain their worth and purpose. Again, my eldest daughter, who had not served a mission nor was she Temple endowed, would regularly attend the Temple with various other young people, to perform proxy baptisms and confirmations – often attending as a group date. What better way for our young people to put the world aside and see each other as the Lord would want them to.
I maintain that there is nothing more attractive to a young LDS women than to see a young man performing his priesthood duties righteously. The Temple is the perfect place for this to happen.
1. What does everyone feel about singles wards? Does the term have a negative connotation, or is is something that is viewed generally as a good thing?
2. Is it inappropriate for a parent to approach the Bishop about issuing a calling to their son/daughter?
3. Do you have a son or daughter who has become a Temple worker upon their return?
**For Part 8 we’ll be talking about ‘Finding Meaning’.