Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Manual's Introduction, part 1: Do I have to teach every lesson in the manual in the order they are printed?

For many of us, it was lesson manuals that got us looking online and eventually landed us here at this blog. Over the next few weeks, I am going to do a series of posts on the manual - what it is, what it isn't, and how we can use it to do good despite its weaknesses.

So, today the question is: Do I have to teach every lesson in the manual in the order they are printed?

At first, you would think so. In Relief Society, there is a set plan for which lessons are taught which weeks. And generally speaking, the ideal is that "anywhere you go in the church, the same lessons are taught every week" in Primary, Sunday School, Relief Society, and Priesthood quorums.

But what about the youth programs? Are we expected to hold to that ideal as well?

Actually, we are not. In the Introduction to Manual 3, it says:
Lessons do not need to be taught in the order they appear in the manual, but all topics should be covered at some time during the year.
Notice also that all topics should be covered at some time, but not every single lesson. The topics in the manual are the guidelines of what we need to be focusing on with our girls. Notice also these words:
Remember that you are teaching young women, not just teaching lessons. Pray for inspiration to help them reach their full potential as daughters of God.
and also:
When you have carefully considered the needs of your young women, study the lesson titles and objectives of each lesson to determine which lessons will best meet those needs. By planning well in advance, you can be sure that the young women will receive lessons in all units and that you will provide a complete, balanced curriculum.
Notice that the manual instructs you to "determine which lessons" will be best for your girls. You are not actually expected, or required, to teach every lesson. Nor are you required to teach them in order. These lesson "titles and objectives" are available for you to pick and choose from, a sort of lesson a-la-carte meal so you can pick those things which will most nourish your Young Women.

I realize that for most of you, this decision is really up to your Young Women president. I feel like this is a great way to see the lesson manual, and allows us to work with the Spirit to determine what we teach the Young Women. If you feel the same, and if you feel comfortable, then perhaps you could point out that you "happened to notice this one part of the Manual Introduction..." and see what she says.

(Of course there are many people out there who simply appreciate knowing just what is expected of them, and to teach any other way than right through the lessons without much change to each lesson outline would completely rock their boats and throw off their routines. So it probably depends on your presidency whether or not you could bring this up. And if not, then of course you can do a lot of good with any lesson, no matter when it is taught!)

If you are in a position to plan, I just wanted to pass along one other thought I had. Looking at the stake calendar ahead of time would allow you to have several lessons together on the same topic without interruptions of stake conference or ward conference. You could also choose which lessons to have with all the YW together, and plan which Sunday would work well for that. (In many wards, all the YW meet together on Fast Sundays.)

Any thoughts from our readers? Have any of you ever taken this route with the manual before? Advice and suggestions for the rest of us that had never even noticed these lines in the Introduction?


  1. My YW president asks that we teach the lessons in order. However, if it were up to me, I wouldn't. I would rather teach by value in order to help the girls with their personal progress and to help them really develop their talents and knowledge of the gospel. I've thought it over more than once. I've been in 2 YW organizations and it always seems that we are supposed to "focus" on a value each month, but the lessons don't coincide. I feel like if they did, our girls would be getting a lot more out of the program.

  2. I am the YW President in my ward, and have been working on the 2012 lesson schedule. I am fairly new in my calling--and wonder if the online resource guide is updated for the entire manual at the beginning of the year or if it is updated in order. If it is updated in order starting at Lesson 1, that would be a compelling reason for me to have our lesson schedule (at least for the most part) follow the manual from front to back. If not, then I see value in scheduling lessons based on topic rather than page number.

  3. kasimira- the Resource Guide for 2012 (Manual 1) is already up and it looks to me like the whole thing is up-to-date. I picked a later lesson and saw talks from 2011 and 2010 listed.

    (There might be more even updates coming as the conferences happen each spring/fall. I know that after the Oct. conference I saw a few talks added to the Resource Guide for 2011 (Manual 3). But I think you'll have plenty to work with if you chose to teach them out of number-order.)

    Good luck with your new calling!

  4. By the way, the Resource Guide, which is printed new each year, also has this same advice about the order of the lessons:

    "You may want to take more than one week to teach
    some of the lessons, and you should consider ways to
    reinforce the doctrine and gospel principles in these
    lessons during midweek activities. You can adjust the
    order of these lessons based on the needs of the young
    women or the counsel of priesthood leaders. Consider
    teaching lessons about the Savior during the Easter
    and Christmas seasons. In the week following each
    general conference and the general Young Women
    meeting, take time to discuss the recent words of the
    prophets, other General Authorities, and general
    Young Women leaders."

    I also just realized that teaching lessons about Christ on Easter and Christmas doesn't necessarily mean leave the manual to create a lesson. It might mean moving a lesson early in the manual about Christ to that week. I'd never thought about it that way before.

  5. I know I'm a little late to the party, but I still want to share what we have done. I was just released from the YW after being in for over 4 years. I was an advisor, but the YW president and I, and the other leaders, collaborated over many things, including the order of the lessons. Last year she switched it up by moving the first three lessons to December so it would coordinate better with the Christmas season since those lessons are about Christ, and it went over great with the girls.

    This year we started the first Sunday with an introduction to this year's theme with all the YW together (which we do every fast Sunday), and then started last week with lesson #4 and they will continue from there. Some lessons get switched around, especially in the summer, but for the most part the rest are taught as outlined.

    I have so appreciated the thoughts and directions I have received from your website since I discovered it a couple years ago. I have been struggling with some church-related issues the past few years, and your website has offered some real insight on how to teach certain subjects when I wasn't sure there was a way to teach at all. I have come a long way since I started out, but I have gotten to the point where I really enjoyed teaching so I could help offer a different way of thinking about things to the girls, without straying too far off the beaten path of course. They need the spiritual stimulation that your questions and thoughts offer. I am really going to miss the interaction with the girls, but I just wanted to say thank you again for the important work you do here. I have recommended Beginnings New to many of my friends, and I hope you will be able to carry on for all those out there who need a little "help" teaching.

  6. gt - never too late to add to a discussion! Thank you for your thoughts on your experience. They'll be ready here for anyone to read at any time!

    And thank you for your kind words about the blog in general. I am so glad to hear that it has helped you! Best wishes in whatever your new calling is. (And I've found that what I've learned teaching YW has helped me in all my other callings too.) And of course, you are welcome to continue commenting here too, even without a calling in YW!


If you wish to comment anonymously, please comment with a made-up name.