Many religions work hard to keep young people active in their respective faiths and the LDS Church is no exception. There seem to be at least two critical time periods when young people opt of out their religions, the middle teens when youth begin to question everything and the twenties, when important decisions are being made about developing skills for the job market, finding employment and getting married.
Within the LDS Church, one of several youth oriented programs is the Church Education System (CES), which has Seminaries for high school students and Institutes for the 18 to 30 year old crowd. The church serves these two groups through a system that provides religious and ethical education and the opportunity to socialize. As missionaries, we are assigned to the Institute section of the CES program in New Jersey.
Another mechanism to serve the 18-30 age group, used by the LDS Church, is the formation of congregations made up solely of Young Single Adults (YSA). These are formed by the local Stake President (head of the diocese to some of you) with approval from Church headquarters. The congregations may be designated as Wards (125 to 225 members) or Branches (fewer than 125 members. These congregations provide the YSAs with more leadership, teaching and service opportunities than might be available in a family ward. So, except for the member of the Bishopric (Ward) or the Presidency (Branch) all of the members of these congregations are YSAs. They meet every Sunday and do everything to make the congregation run smoothly and effectively; give the sermons, form the choir, play the organ, teach the classes, and organize the meetings, service projects and social events.
So in our stake the New Jersey East Brunswick YSA Branch was formed. The President of the Branch is a local man named Peter Eck, and his two counselors are myself and Elder Sierer another CES Institute teacher. This will afford us as teachers many more opportunities to interact with the YSAs and help us prepare lessons and discussions for our Institute classes that will more directly address their needs. We've posted this picture before, but here it is again because it seems to best illustrate our branch population.
|Some of the members of the East Brunswick Young single Adult Branch (Photo collage by Sister Sierer, 12/11.|