Preparing and Teaching a Young Women’s Lesson

I’ve been thinking about the Young Women’s lessons for a while (I’ve been serving with the Young women for nearly 2 years…). I think that a lot of people have the same complaints about the Young Women’s lessons. The manual is a bit outdated, so the lessons can be a challenge to teach.

If you are feeling challenged, I hope that the following will help you in preparing your Young Women’s Lessons.

1. Have a good foundation. By this, I mean, pray every day. Read your scriptures every day. You don’t need to have a lesson plan in mind when doing so, but work on gaining your own spiritual knowledge. We have been taught:

” 21 Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.” – Doctrine and Covenants 11:21

We cannot possibly teach others the gospel if we do not have a deep, abiding knowledge or testimony ourselves. And if we don’t have a deep knowledge, we must begin working on it. The Lord will compensate for our weakness, but only if we go to Him. We do this through our own daily scripture study and prayer.

I will give a quick example. Last year, I had to teach lesson 29 (Exaltation) from Manual 2. As I read through the lesson, I found that this was exactly what I had been studying in my personal study. I felt like I should relate some scriptures to the lesson that weren’t necessarily included in the lesson manual. You can see the lesson I gave here. Even though the way it is presented differs from the layout given in the Manual, the Young women still understood the principles that were to be taught. The lesson went very well. The Spirit was strong. I knew that had I not been studying my scriptures on my own, I wouldn’t have been guided in the way to teach this lesson as effectively.

Strive for personal worthiness and preparation before worrying about your lessons!

2. Read through the suggested lesson plan prayerfully. Read through the lesson outline, and pray to be directed. Do this before you actually sit down and hash out the lesson. Often, I do this a week before I actually plan out my lesson – with a prayer that I will be directed throughout the week – in my life and personal scripture study – to notice the things that will be helpful for the lesson.

I don’t go too in-depth at this point. I have four kids. Life is busy. I don’t usually sit and think of a hand-out I want to make. I just read the lesson plan and pray that I can receive general inspiration. Usually, throughout the week either things will stick out to me that I’ll “file away” mentally, or if I think of a good object lesson/handout the idea will come to me during the week.

Keep in mind to pray for the needs of the young women you teach. Be specific. The Lord will guide you.

3. Prepare the Lesson. Now you are finally ready to prepare the lesson. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind.

  • Avoid printing the entire lesson and giving it straight from the book/print-out. I’m not saying that the lessons are un-inspired, but I think that this is a pretty un-inspired way to give a lesson. As a youth, it was easy to spot when a teacher was reading straight from the manual…BOR-ING! Also, when you are reading straight from the manual, it can be harder to hear the nuanced whisperings of the Spirit. Sometimes we rely on the words, discussions, and points of the lesson plan more than we rely on the spirit. If you avoid printing it out and reading from it directly, you will be less likely to use it as a crutch.
  • Notice the Objective in the lesson. This is the overarching principle to be taught in the lesson. In Lesson 2-29, the Objective is: Each young woman will desire to receive exaltation. So, with this being the objective, you now know what your purpose is. You aren’t teaching a lesson on exaltation. You are teaching a lesson that will inspire young women to desire exaltation. These are two vastly different things! When I’m preparing a lesson, I open a word document, and type, in bold, the objective of the Lesson. As you prepare your lesson, be sure that everything you do and say fulfills this purpose.
  • For now, ignore the intro/preparation, and look for the “subheads” – I know that this may sound a little crazy, but hold off on starting with the introduction. Instead, plan the meat of your lesson first. To do this, look for the “subheads”. These are the little phrases that divide up the lesson. For example, in Lesson 2-29, the subheads are “All those born on earth receive immortality, but only the obedient receive exaltation.”, “We must receive ordinances and make covenants”, and “Exaltation is worth all our efforts.”. As you begin planning your lesson, you now know 1) the objective and 2) a suggested development for this objective. You can better shape your lesson if you really understand these points.
  • Plan the “meat” of your lesson. At this point, you may read through the specific material in the lesson again. Because you are more familiar with the objective of the lesson and the ways to develop it, you are not going to be obssessing about the stories and discussion that is included. Also, you haven’t planned the intro, so you aren’t busying yourself, yet, on the suggested minutia of the lesson. This helps as you plan. You can then look to the suggested materials through a better lens – thinking about your young women, specifically, and the purpose of the lesson.
    • For example, when I read through Lesson 2-29, I noticed that the subheads didn’t mention something that really mattered – especially when you consider that the objective of the lesson is for the Young Women to desire eternal life. I also knew my young women, and I knew that they would notice this ommission, too…Why? Why? Exaltation? What is keeping us from receiving exaltation? In this lesson, there is an assumption being made: that the Young Women already know that they can have immortality without exaltation.

      You may find that your young women do know this, but I wanted to be sure that we were all on track. As I said earlier, I had been reading the Book of Mormon in personal study, and as I was planning this lesson I was inspired by the way Lehi and Alma had taught their sons this very lesson. Lehi taught Jacob a lot about the fall of Adam – and the resulting need for an atonement.

      As the Lesson Manual proceeds, it goes on – saying we need to make covenants in order to receive exaltation. Which is true. But I felt like the young women would learn this true principle better on their own, if I give them the sad state of man after the fall (and before the atonement), than if I just stood up at the front of class and said, “we need to receive ordinances and make covenants.” In other words, I gave them the answer to “why” before giving them the answer to “what”. Because I took this approach, the Young Women, themselves came upon the conclusion that the lesson outlined. The Lesson plan in the manual wasn’t bad, but I knew my young women. I have a young woman who asks questions. Deep questions. She wants to know. I knew that I couldn’t just “fluff” this up. Besides, I believe the youth would rather have the substance of the gospel rather than some sugary-sweet version of it. So…I was prompted to take a more direct, doctrinal route in teaching this lesson. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this if I hadn’t been reading my scriptures. I also wasn’t overly-worried about the minutia of the lesson because I was honing in on the points of the lesson, and incorporating the ideas as they fit, rather than trying to make my young women and lesson fit the manual.

  • Stick to the scriptures. In the introduction of each young women’s manual, There is a quote by Elder M. Russell Ballard –

    Teachers would be well advised to study carefully the scriptures and their manuals before reaching out for supplemental materials. Far too many teachers seem to stray from the approved curriculum materials without fully reviewing them. If teachers feel a need to use some good supplemental resources beyond the scriptures and manuals in presenting a lesson, they should first consider the use of the Church magazines” M. Russell Ballard (emphasis added)

    You don’t need to go find crazy examples or stories elsewhere. Look first to the scriptures.

    I have found that the lesson manuals can be pretty skimpy as far as scriptural examples go, so this can be tough, but try to think of ways to incorporate scripture stories in the lessons. I find that the scriptural examples and study is better, usually, than the stories in the manual. The young women love going to the scriptures. There is power in the scriptures. The Spirit can speak to the hearts of the young women through the scriptures.

    • As a quick example. A while ago, I taught a lesson on Optimism (Lesson 2-41). The lesson included only One verse as scripture reference. The rest of the lesson was stories and quotes from prophets in the seventies…Yet, the principle of optimism is a good one, and the Lord counsels us to be cheerful. I decided that this lesson would be better taught and received by using two examples from the scriptures: The people of Limhi and the people of Alma (while in bondage to the Lamanites). You can see the full lesson plan here. The young women were in the scriptures learning the importance of optimism. We also discussed a lot from Elder Wirthlin’s talk, “Come What May and Love It.” This lesson plan was okay, but with a little bit of tweaking, our lesson went from okay to really great. We didn’t need any fancy stories. We just needed the scriptures.
  • After your lesson plan is well formed, think of an appropriate introduction or “attention getter” – It is easier to think of the introduction when you really know what you’re teaching. You may find that you want an introduction that is woven throughout the lesson. You may think of using an object lesson for an introduction. You may even realize you don’t really need a complicated introduction. Do this part near the end of planning, so that it really goes well.

    Many of the introductions in the manual are just fine, but only need a little tweaking – to make them more current or relevant.

    • For example: In lesson 2-34 (Hold Fast to the Lord’s Standards), the lesson is introduced with a story of someone surviving a tsunami. I was struck by the quote given by Spencer W. Kimball, but I only gave the final part of his quote. Instead of giving his account of Tsunami survivors, I found some stories of those who survived the tsunami in Sri Lanka and Indonesia back in 2006. I knew that this Tsunami happened in our collective recent memory. The young women saw the pictures of the survivors, I showed pictures of destruction, and they were immediately drawn in. I’m sure that the story given in the lesson would have been okay, but I felt that a more recent, relevant example would be more effective, and it was. The idea behind the example didn’t change, and I finished the intro using President Kimball’s words, as quoted in the Lesson manual.
  • Make a conclusion and testify. Always end your lesson with your own testimony. In fact, bear your testimony often, throughout the lesson, but end with your testimony. Be solid. Be a conduit of the Sprit. If you bear your testimony with the Spirit, then the young women will have the choice to receive it with the Spirit.

4. Present Your Lesson – Present your lesson with confidence, yet with reliance on the Spirit. Be close to the Spirit while teaching. You may find that you planned a lesson, and then give something that isn’t anything like what you planned. Maybe you will have a young woman who is investigating the church come – this kind of situation can drastically change the course of a planned lesson. Don’t let circumstances frustrate you. Instead, be confident in your preparation and, above all, confident in the Lord. He will guide you if you will let Him.

  • Don’t be afraid to “veer” off, but also stay on course. Sometimes young women will ask questions that seem to be off topic. If the Spirit guides your discussion to a topic that seems to be tangential, follow it. If a tangent occurs, but doesn’t seem to be the direction that the Spirit is inclined to take, then carefully lead your class back to where the Spirit is guiding. There is no solid answer to this problem because each case may be different. Spiritual preparation is necessary for times like these.
  • Also, while presenting your lesson, bear your testimony often. You may not formally say, “I bear my testimony that [this] is true.” But you may find ways to bear testimony – either through sharing personal experiences or other forms of communication. Again, be close to the Spirit, he may remind you of a personal experience you can share with the young women – that is appropriate – and will help them to learn the principle being taught.
  • Don’t give “personal experiences” for the sake of telling personal experiences. Follow the Spirit. Sometimes too many personal experiences can be a distraction. Make sure that you share your own personal insights with care.
  • Wait. When you ask a question – wait for the answer. Remember, you have prepared this lesson, and you are in the frame of mind to answer your questions. Your young women are hearing the questions for the first time, and if you are asking a question that requires some serious thought, then wait. If the Young Women seem stumped, then avoid answering the question yourself, and, instead, rephrase the question. If you are asking a “no-brainer” question, then you may preface it, “I know that this may seem like a dumb question, but [ask the question].” Make sure that your obvious/no-brainer questions are going somewhere. Maybe there is a follow up question. Maybe you have a point.
    • For example, I asked the young women how we can receive inspiration from God and the Holy Ghost. This is a dumb question. They know – prayer, scripture study. Standard seminary answers. And I wanted the seminary answers. After they gave me the standard answers, we discussed Jesus Christ – what he did in the Garden of Gethsemane to bear the pain of the atonement – he Prayed! We also discussed Jesus Christ – what he did to overcome the temptations of Satan in the wilderness – he quoted scripture! We discussed that – if prayer and scripture study worked for the Savior, then it would work for us. A “dumb” question became meaningful…
  • Thank your participants. Validate comments made by Young women. They want acceptance. They look up to you. Validation will encourage more dialogue.

I hope that this helps in preparing your lessons. Let me know if there are any more tips that could be included! What do you do to teach your lessons?


5 thoughts on “Preparing and Teaching a Young Women’s Lesson

  1. Rachelle

    Catania, I love your thoughts. All of the ideas reinforce the first point you made about having a good foundation. All of our preparation and our delivery of the lessons will be enhanced if we ourselves are “walking the walk”. If we are close to the spirit, then our preparation will be exactly what it “needs” to be. Thanks for taking the time to share your insights, knowledge, and experience.

  2. Yay! I love finding good posts on preparing lessons! I loved it all. I really liked your points about looking at the objective statement and subheadings first, and after some time (or even days) returning to the suggestions. I think that way of doing things keeps us very focused, and very able to listen to the Spirit during the week. Also, preparing the intro last makes a great deal of sense. Then the intro isn’t the thing we are obsessed with or something that is separate or distracting from the lesson. At that point, when we have a feel for the lesson, the intro becomes a strong tool to use in helping our students start thinking and learning.

    Thanks for such a detailed and thorough post!

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