The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique for creating specific congregations for its young, single members. Known as Young Single Adult (YSA) Wards, these wards are generally for members between the ages of 18-31 and are designed to help ward members come to Christ while also providing enriching social activities. However, no YSA ward is perfect. Even as a structure, they are not perfect.
We asked LDS Daily readers what changes they would like to see in their YSA wards. Here are their answers.
Focus on Worship, Not Weddings
The overwhelming response from our readers was to change the inadvertent focus of YSA wards from weddings to worship.
Jessica Ferrin said, “Personally I feel like everyone in a singles ward goes to date and not feel the spirit. Which is hard! The number one priority should be going to learn and grow in the gospel. I love being in the ward, I just don’t think the intentions are where they should be!”
Heather Origer said, “Like many others have expressed, I also feel that YSA wards tend to be cliquish in many cases, though not all cases. Only the members can fix that. But it would be nice to hear leaders teach about YSA wards, about being welcoming to EVERYONE and that we’re still there for church and worship, not hunting a companion…”
Logan Wells said, “It seems the older someone becomes that with each passing year dating and marriage advice given to singles motivates them through fear. Fear of loneliness, fear of not keeping the commandments (unfortunately marriage and having children are commandments that require someone else to be willing to be with you), fear that the older you get the smaller the dating pool becomes. Fear leads to doubt, spiritual paralysis, and feelings of worthlessness. Singles wards should be built on the idea that no ones identity is based on their relationship status but it should be a safe place for others to worship and serve others. Too many singles wards are nothing but meat markets and people caring very little about others physical and spiritual needs.”
Lainy Barrick said, “There’s not enough focus on Jesus Christ and the atonement. And way too much focus on social events and marriage.”
Encourage Timeliness & Reverence at Church
Robert Perez made a good point about how we can focus more on worship on Sundays: “Only reason I wasn’t fond of YSA was the organization. Sacrament was never prepared BEFORE sacrament meeting started, everyone was always late… But when an activity came around people were on time.”
Many people discussed how Sunday School always started late because people socialized in the halls and the focus seemed to be on talking with friends rather than getting the most out of the classes. Starting on time, avoiding excessive chatter, and coming to Church prepared to worship were all suggested by our readers.
Seek Ward Unity
Many readers recognized the changes need to happen from within with the members themselves. Cliques and a lack of ward unity seemed to be a problem across the board.
Amy Horton said, “I would have to say that the things I don’t/didn’t like about moving into this singles ward that I’m in now. It seems like everyone already knows each other (most are graduating soon) so everyone has their cliques and so when someone new comes along…well they are left out. I’ve been in my ward for almost six-eight months and know two people by name. There was no sort of ice breaker or introduction to anyone in the ward. Kind of frustrating if you ask me…”
Suggestions to change included a ward theme to help unify people, a push for visiting and home teaching, and activities designed to incorporate new people into the ward.
Allow Flexibility in Ages
YSA wards are generally geared towards single members between the ages of 18-31 who have never been married. However, with so much diversity with members circumstances, our readers wanted to see more flexibility in who is welcomed. There was a 23-year-old single mom who still wanted to be involved with people her age but was asked to go to the family ward since she had a child. There are 30-40-year-old members who hoped to see more mid-single wards created. They encouraged flexibility over rigidity when it comes to guidelines and hoped leaders would use a more Spirit-filled approach.
No YSA Wards at All
Surprisingly, many readers said they wished YSA wards would be dissolved completely, with members joining family wards and having specific activities for singles instead. What do you think of this idea? Let us know in the comments below!