I might be about commit the unpardonable sin in the eyes of many. So here it goes. I think we should do away with Stake Youth Dances. Or at the very least, cut them down to once a quarter instead of every month. Maybe not everyone does them every month, but in our area it has always been an every month ordeal…event, I mean event. Now I’ll tuck into a ball and endure the slings and arrows that are surely headed my way.

How dare I launch an assault on the sacred and anointed past-time of youth ages 13 turning 14 to 18.

I’m sure there are many out there that have good memories of youth dances, but let’s be honest, teenagers plus dancing always equals awkwardness. ALWAYS. I think if you were to remember back on your youth you’d probably agree. And you have probably tried to scrub those memories from your brain.

What is the purpose of a youth dance?

Is the point to get youth to mingle together? News flash! I don’t know if you’ve been to a youth dance lately, but the kids clump together in small groups and you literally have to coerce them into dancing with each other. Trust me, I’ve done it multiple times with my son. I’m not proud of it, but hey, you do what you need to do to get your kids outside of themselves. But in the end I’m left wondering if I’ve made the best decision.

I don’t like to be coerced or force into getting to know people. I like it to happen naturally. It also feels wrong to some extent to constantly have to “encourage” the youth to dance together, when you know a lot of them don’t really want to. There is also the fact that it seems to me that circles of youth cliques seem even more pronounced during youth dances.

Wouldn’t we be better pressed to have the youth do activities where they actually work  and do stuff together. Instead we put them in the awkward situation that is dancing and expect that they will naturally mingle. Some do great, but a lot stick in their comfort bubble. Think back, you do remember what middle and high school dances were like, right? Seriously, I danced like this. Now you know why those memories need to be scrubbed.

I wonder what our activity rate with youth dances is anyway. Just from observation, there are many kids that don’t come because it is a dance. I think we miss a lot of kids if this is our go-to activity every single month.

Great music. But is it so great?

Sometimes I think it is just an excuse for leaders to relive the glory of 80’s music. Journey and Chicago songs, while overplayed, do make the best slow dance songs. But  let’s face it, the youth don’t love them as much as we think they do. Or we fall back on the same old traps, I mean, favorites. Yeah, that’s what I mean. But I will tell you, if I have to hear Cotton-Eyed-Joe played one more time, my head might literally explode. Does anyone have some duct tape I could use to keep that from happening?

The last dance I was at the kids danced to this EFY song called “Runaway”. While the beat was super catchy, and the kids were somewhat hilarious, all I got was the message, run away from love. It wasn’t until I looked up the lyrics later that I understood what the song was about. But it still left me wondering, this is the best we’ve got? See for yourselves below. Now it’s stuck in your head. You’re welcome TWiM Nation!

Is it our job to entertain our youth?

I was recently reading an article on Leading Saints about family-centered church-supported activities and the author made this observation:

“In my opinion, it is not a stretch to say that the transformation in emphasis in our church, from a church centered, family supported church to a family centered, church supported church represents a similar significant paradigm shift. A significant obstacle to that transformation may be a deep-seated cultural attachment to programs, events, and activities that were excellent at supporting a church centered focus, but which may not meet the needs of families and individuals.”

and

“Step one, which is not generally part of the pattern, is to recognize that all programs, events, and activities of the church are indeed spiritual. The church cannot compete with the world in a battle to entertain our youth. Entertaining youth doesn’t accomplish the Lord’s purposes. Once we align our programs with the Lord’s purposes instead of the world’s purposes, we become entitled to His help.”

So why do we dance?

I’m not saying we should never have dances. I think it’s great for the youth to learn how to interact with members of the opposite sex. I think it’s great for them to learn how to dance. I think there is great value for families and youth in things like Mod Prom. But sometimes I feel like we are afraid to cut back on some of these things, as if we have some sort of divine mandate to dance. THOU SHALT DANCE!

Like the above writer for Leading Saints, I wonder if we do a disservice to our youth by just trying to engage them in fun without a purpose. Even when the youth are planning them, are they only going with what they know, because it’s part of our culture and tradition?

Our purpose as leaders should be to connect the youth with Heaven. Can we do that through dancing? Maybe? Are there better ways for the youth to mingle and work together, while also having fun and potentially feeling the Spirit at the same time? Definitely. But it is incumbent on us as leaders to look past the comfortable cultural traditions of the past and see what these youth really need. And that is a connection to Jesus.

We can’t compete with the world for entertainment value for our youth, but what we can offer is a place to feel the Spirit, and grow a testimony. Sure, not everything will be a profound spiritual experience, but our goal should be to try and provide spaces where those experiences can happen.

After all the frills and gimmicks, if we are failing to connect them to the most important thing, we are failing them completely.