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Building Friendships Between Youth and Senior Ward Members

Ideas for how young women and young men can make connections with older members of their wards

A young woman visits with older women in her ward.© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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By Mary Richards, Church News

When Sister Jordan Murray of the Young Women General Advisory Council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was 14 years old, one of her best friends was the 80-year-old ward librarian.

They became friends as Sister Murray would stop by the library each Sunday for homemade fudge — and while she loved the fudge, she said she really loved talking to the older woman each time she picked up the treat.

“It’s unusual to have an 80-year-old best friend when you’re 14, but I loved hearing her wisdom and perspective,” Sister Murray said. “She was a widow, and her family had moved away, so I like to think she enjoyed being my friend too.”

Sister Kristin M. Yee, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, also had a dear friendship with a woman who was several decades older than she was — which came about from a ministering assignment.

“You’d look at us and think, ‘There’s nothing in common between these two,’” Sister Yee said on the Church News podcast. “Different lives, different things we were doing.”

Sister Yee was going through a time where she was considering what to do with her future, and she would walk around the block with her ministering sister.

“We’d walk and talk, and she and I just became the closest of friends. And we prayed together for each other’s needs and found the Savior amidst us as we sought to help one another,” Sister Yee said.

Youth Activities Can Build Relationships With Older Friends

Relationships with senior members of the ward can come about through youth activities. Sister Murray explained how she and her older friend decided to host a “tea party” for all of the widows and the young women in their ward.

Every widow came with pictures, mementos and stories to share. Every young woman was paired with one of the older sisters and they talked together.

“What we thought would be a 30-minute activity turned into two hours. No one wanted to leave their new, unusual best friend,” Sister Murray shared in a social media post for Young Women Worldwide.

A young woman speaks with older women at church.© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Sister Murray said that with the leaders’ help, youth can get in touch with the Relief Society in their ward or branch who can make introductions or suggest some names of women to invite.

Young men can also do the same with the help of the elders’ quorum.

Sister Ruth Todd, also of the Young Women Advisory Council, shared more tips for such an activity with the young men and young men.

Depending on the number of youth and ward seniors, they can either be assigned to each other in a one-on-one situation, or they can be split up into smaller groups.

“Wear name tags to encourage learning names,” Sister Todd said. “Think speed dating. Give each conversation a time limit.”

Asking open-ended questions will encourage learning about each other’s lives, families, jobs, hobbies, testimonies and life experiences. At the end of the evening, each person can share something new they learned and they can have a refreshment together.

Greg Trimble, a friend of the Young Men General Advisory Council, said such a gathering could either happen in the ward building or in the older members’ homes. He gave the following steps as a suggestion:

  1. The youth leadership contacts various members of the elders quorum and Relief Society.
  2. The youth leader asks if they would be willing to have a small group of youth over to their house for 15–20 minutes on the night of the activity.
  3. The youth leader asks the member if they would be willing to share the story of their life and then finish with a testimony of how the gospel has impacted their story.
  4. The youth leader asks the member if they have a favorite snack or treat and then assigns someone to bring that treat or snack for that member.
  5. Youth leadership lines up three or four of these members, and the youth spend 15–20 minutes at each house.

“Then have some treats or snacks at the end while you talk about some of the stories you heard from these members,” Trimble wrote in a post for Young Men Worldwide.

A grandson sits at a table with his grandfather in Latvia. Young men can meet with older members of their wards in their homes and listen to their stories.© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Continuing the Connection

Trimble said that there are people in each ward who are lonely and would love someone with whom to share their story — “and besides, everyone loves a good story and every ward could use more connection.”

Sister Todd suggested having a follow-up activity a few months later to bring the youth and seniors together again for a service project or a dinner to solidify the new friendships.

And everyone should be encouraged to say hello and keep building the friendships each week at church.

“Some of the sweetest friendships happen when we open our hearts to new people who are different from us,” Sister Todd said. “It can be so wonderful.”

Copyright 2024 Deseret News Publishing Company.

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