FSY* – The New EFY

By: Hedgehog
March 27, 2014

Just recently I was forwarded an email, originating with the Stake youth leaders encouraging leaders, in enthusiastic, even hyperbolic terms, to get all the youth signed up to attend FSY (For the Strength of Youth) this summer. The information provided in the email covered dates, costs, and the inevitable dress standards. Also included was a link to the FSY website required for the youth to register.

Now I don’t know about you, but as a parent, if my children are going to be signing up for an activity there are some things I want to know. Such as, who is running the activity? Who is going to be responsible for my children whilst they are away from home? What will my children be doing and learning? None of this information was provided in the email, so I took a look at the website.

To provide some background context: When my children’s school organise a residential trip, they hold a parent information evening. Parents see a presentation and are given several pages of information about the activities that will take place, and we get to meet and question the members of staff who will be accompanying the students.

Back to the website. For activities we get a brief paragraph:

“This is the full, five-day, overnight program which begins on Monday morning and concludes early Saturday morning. Youth have the opportunity to learn and grow together while attending classes, devotionals and firesides together. Highlights of the week include Family Home Evening, dances, a musical program, a games night, service projects, a variety show, good food, and a testimony meeting. The main benefits are new friendships, strengthened testimonies, and lasting memories.”

As a parent I’d quite like to know what these classes, firesides and devotionals will be about. What are the service projects? They sound good on the surface, but aren’t actually telling me much.

So for my next concern: who’s running it?

“Sessions are primarily supervised by young-adult counsellors between the ages of 20-30 and who are positive role models for the youth. All sessions are directed by adult instructors.”

That’s two sentences. There is a page with a message from the directing couple. There’s a photograph and names. But I don’t know them, or anything about them. We’ve never met them.

The page with the most information? That’s the one talking about dress, appearance and behaviour, with the greatest emphasis on dress and appearance. It’s in addition to the page with the packing list, which lists types of clothing required. Hmmm.

  • What information do you think should be included?
  • What information is provided where you are, and are you happy with it?
  • Does the balance of information concern you?
  • Am I an over-protective parent worrying about nothing?

Discuss.

*Apparently there are trademark issues with EFY.

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20 Responses to FSY* – The New EFY

  1. kingsandcosmicsi on March 27, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    One thing I found funny about the FSY dress code page was how the photos were of Utahn kids – the girls are standing on DT fields, the boys are in khaki pants. It’s a fitting (if unwitting) reference to the export of Utahn ideals. I get the jeans are jeans, but as a UK youth, I used to bristle when every image of a youth projected on me as ‘ideal’ also happened to be Utahn. I just didn’t want to wear an American Eagle t shirt with khaki pants and flip flops.

    I’d kind of want background checks done on the counselors. I know bishop approval is necessary, but still…

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  2. naom on March 27, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    *”I get that jeans are jeans”

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  3. IDIAT on March 27, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    I’ve never heard of FSY. EFY (Especially For Youth) I have heard about and sent my kids to, and that’s run by the church educational system. My four older kids attended several sessions of EFY as teenagers and all reported good experiences. I don’t think you’ll be able to pin down exact names and resumes of counselors and what not because they tend to come and go with schooling, jobs, etc. They usually recruit college age young single adults to be counselors, and I assume there is some vetting done. I think you’re being a bit over protective, but on the other hand, it never hurts to know exactly how things are to go if you’ve never sent your teenager (or don’t know anyone else who has) off to one of these sessions.

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  4. Hedgehog on March 27, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    IDIAT, I gather the name change to FSY from EFY was done for legal reasons, but it seems to be the same thing otherwise.
    I guess details on counsellors might be difficult, but I do think more information about the director couple could have been provided, through stakes and wards, if they didn’t want it on the website. Also I’d have liked to have them visit the wards, introduce the programme in person, and introduce themselves to the youth and parents. Not that I’m blaming them personally, I imagine they’re doing as instructed. Just the contrast between the way school go about things and the way this is advertised and pushed, I do think that there is underlying lack of respect for parents/families.
    Also, as I have a child with Asperger’s syndrome, a complete breakdown of what is happening each day so that the child can consider whether they will be able to cope would be extremely useful.

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  5. LLH on March 27, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    I don’t think you are being over protective at all. I think there is too much naivete in the church and I think there is way too much of an assumption that someone is trustworthy simply because they are a member of the church or has a temple recommend. People Lie. I have found out about people who were temple workers who were sexually molesting their granddaughters. I think the church needs to do a way better job of communicating with parents than this. I have fought with my son’s YM and boy scout leaders for years to get them to give me more, better, and more timely information and I am always met with resistance. It’s not my job to automatically trust anyone with my children. That is not how it was when I was growing up in Michigan. Maybe that is what people are used to in Utah, but it is not ok anywhere else in the world in my opinion. I have also discussed this at length with several non-mormon friends and they think that the lack of information and the assumption that I should just hand over my kids for any activity with no idea what is going on is completely asinine. It makes my husband (also not mormon) nuts and we have cut way back on what activities the kids can go to. The deal breaker was when I got a call from one of the leaders who was driving my kids on a temple trip 3 years ago. The temple is in a city about an hour from where we live, and she was driving around the city with no idea where the temple was and no idea where she currently was within that city. She was having kids call their parents to see if we could offer some assistance. None of the leaders bothered to make sure the adults driving even knew where the temple was located and this particular leader didn’t bother to check google map before taking off to another city with a car full of other people’s children. Absolutely mind boggling. I trust no one with my children until they have shown me they will be responsible and take care of them. The church can do that in this situation by actually providing you with some details so you can make some informed decisions to appropriately assess what is good for your children.

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  6. Hedgehog on March 27, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    LLH, Thank you, for your comment. It never ceases to amaze me how unconcerned some people seem to be about handing over their children to perfect strangers simply because they’re church members. r the extent to which they expect others to be willing to do so.
    I do think the criminal record bureau checks that teachers and others employed to work with young or vulnerable people undergo in this country perhaps needs to be extended to this kind of event.

    A few years ago I was in the primary presidency, and the Bishopric had decided the ward would provide a primary age activity at the temple as part of the ward temple day in the summer. Primary were asked to plan and prepare activities, but were told volunteers would actually be running the event. We spent weeks asking who the volunteers were, we asked if they’d like us to ask for volunteers (since they seemed to have it on the back burner), but they didn’t. I really tried to spell out you can’t expect volunteers if you aren’t going to specify what time the activity will be, no-one is going to sign up to be a rolling babysitting service over the course of the day. I also stressed repeatedly that parents would want to know who they would be leaving their children with, and they wouldn’t be happy with the prospect of a change of shifts of those volunteers. But it was so hard to get them to grasp what I was talking about…

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  7. handlewithcare on March 27, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    But we’re all volunteers, aren’t we? Tired and overstretched. It’s a wonder that tragedy has not happened before. We have kids with difficulties, and my husband has accompanied the youth program on camp, and we seem to now employ professionals who are CRB checked for activities that require specific skills.
    I am personally uncomfortable with EFY as I see it as cheerleading for the church-with the best of intentions. I’m afraid that intelligent young people do experience it as a pressure cooker, leaving no space for thoughtful analysis. Within my family the youth program has been described as brainwashing/bullying, although I would say under current leadership both I and my husband have been very impressed with the growth and application of the gospel within the program. When you have volunteers, it is very difficult to have proper oversight and accountability.

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  8. staceyvalderama on March 27, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    FSU is run by the Church itself (note the copyright at the bottom of the page). Apparently it is only for certain “invited” stakes — and all of them out of the U.S. ESY is run by CES; not quite the same. FSY counselors are called to the position by their bishops and stake presidents. EFY counselors are employees…

    Also, stake budgets supplement FSY costs, not true for EFY.

    Church-sponsored. Like going to YM/YW in the middle of the week.

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  9. Mormon Heretic on March 27, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    When I was a teen, I split time between New England and Utah. I never once attended EFY, and I don’t even remember it ever being advertised. I know pretty much nothing about the program, and am amazed when people have strong feelings (either pro or con).

    We did have scouts, but it was pretty unorganized and a waste of time. when I did go, the leaders just said, “hey, let’s play football or basketball.” I can do that on my own time without wearing a stuffy uniform. I hated scouts as a kid.

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  10. Tay on March 27, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    Sounds like a youth conference.

    I was an EFY counsellor, and I definitely did not have a background check and I was 19 for 4/6 of my weeks working. However, the application process is a day-long activity with most applicants not making the cut. I felt it was a rigorous process, though definitely with all the crazy happy stuff. And all of the kids I worked with were super. They just were. Best job I’ve ever had – adolescents are amazing and fun.

    I could have done with less cheese, but the cheese is what got the kids to get over themselves and feel more comfortable around their peers.

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  11. mh on March 27, 2014 at 11:17 PM

    I never went to youth conference either.

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  12. Hedgehog on March 28, 2014 at 2:34 AM

    An old W&T post on EFY in Britain available here: http://www.wheatandtares.org/4437/reflections-on-efy/

    k&c #1, It does seem to be a cultural import, based on the descriptions given in the link. The images on the site did remind me of New Era images. And I’m struggling to work out why the rules for best dress and Sunday dress are different. Isn’t Sunday dress meant to be our best dress?

    hwc #7, Yes, we are all volunteers. I think it’s possible tragedy has happened before. I remember hearing something about the zip wire at the church youth campsite in Britain, but don’t have details. Only that it’s use was no longer permitted. I’m not convinced the FSY/EFY environment would be beneficial for my kids. They tend to balk at the kind of over-emotional hype discussed in the link above, as would I have done at their age, and now.

    stacey #8, So far as I can tell, the FSY in Britain and Europe is the same as the event we used to call EFY here, irrespective of whether it was run by the same organisation that runs EFY in the US. The above link gives a bit of detail at the start. The name change appears to be new this year. I am puzzled if EFY is run by CES a change of name would be required however, since CES is also a part of the church. The Seminary and Institute programmes don’t change their names depending on whether it is run teachers in a calling, or teachers who are employees.

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  13. Hedgehog on March 28, 2014 at 2:37 AM

    Tay #10, I’m glad you enjoyed it. The selection procedure sounds interesting. Can I ask which country you were in?

    MH #9,11. No such thing when I was growing up either. There were youth conventions, but they were no more than a couple of days, and I generally opted to avoid them (as I did stake youth camp), only going to the dances.

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  14. Angela C on March 28, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    I never heard of EFY until I was an adult, but apparently it existed. We had Youth Conference in PA, run locally by our stakes and held at a local college or university. These were a blast. As I recall, we got successively booted out of 3 local colleges for pranks and other shenanigans. Ah, youth.

    EFY looks a little too emotional for my taste too, aside from the cheese factor. Probably best for ages 13-14. Maybe not above that.

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  15. Jack Hughes on March 28, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    Youth Conference didn’t work for me. We spent many hours on a beautiful Saturday taking part in a “service project” which consisted of putting on orange vests and picking up trash on an embankment–an activity usually reserved for DUI offenders and youth on probation. Being treated like a criminal was not the least bit spiritually uplifting. This was followed by a 2-hour testimony meeting that turned into a sob-fest/public confessional. I don’t recall anything spiritual about the whole experience, only how miserable it was. At age 14, it was my first and last.

    In hindsight, I imagine the whole event was the product of overworked, well-meaning leaders trying to do their best with limited resources and budget, but who were still generally out of touch with the needs of young people.

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  16. MB on March 29, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    My kids did EFY. It was significantly better organized and helpful than our stake youth conferences which they also attended.

    My kids were “only Mormons in their school” kids. Spending a week with a bunch of LDS kids from their part of the world was a huge shot in the arm for them. Don’t know that it would be that great if you come from a place where there are lots of LDSaints, but for a teen who sometimes feels like one of the few in the world, it’s fun. They went with friends from their ward and and made great friends with other teens from surrounding states that they kept in touch with for years. No problems.

    Two of them later worked as counselors at EFYs in our quadrant of the country. The application process was competitive. I’ve met a bunch of the young men and women who worked with them. They were a dedicated and cheerful bunch, responsible and well supervised.

    My take on sending my teens to programs/camps/whathaveyou of any sort: Does it have a good reputation? Is it sponsored by a responsible organization? What can I find out about the guys in charge (googling skills come in handy.) Have I talked to other parents who have sent their kids there? Do my kids know any of the other participants and enjoy their company? Are my kids educated about personal safety and do they recognize danger? Do they have a way to reach me in an emergency?

    I do the research and analysis to the best of my ability and If the answers to those questions satisfy me, my teenaged kids can go.

    EFY isn’t for everyone, but for those who would find it helpful or enjoyable, it’s good.

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  17. Hedgehog on March 30, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    Thanks for that MB. I like your selection criteria. I haven’t been able to find out too much from google though. I have requested more info via our stake FSY go to person, and am waiting for that. FSY is a fair way from home, a couple of counties over, and so far as I know, there are no leaders from our stake involved, and very few youth going that my kids know so far. A particular difficulty is the way they group the kids by age band when they make up the smaller groups at FSY. The likelihood is they won’t be able to be grouped with even one person they already know.

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  18. Sarah on May 7, 2014 at 1:17 AM

    FSY is the same program as EFY, it’s just outside of the united states. The name changed because of legal reasons.
    It’s a wonderful program that will allow the youth to grow spiritually, create new friendships and just having a lot of fun.
    I’m in charge of planning one of the sessions in Denmark, and I can definitely recommend parents to send their youth to the FSY. It will a great and life changing experience for them. No need to worry, it’s an awesome program with great people!

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  19. New Iconoclast on May 7, 2014 at 7:53 AM

    Nice cheerleading, Sarah, but I think you missed the point of many of the preceding comments: namely, that parents do worry, and have every right to worry, when strangers take their children for extended periods of time and don’t make any information available about who the kids will be with, what their qualifications are, or what kind of screening process they’ve gone through. It’s not enough, as a number of people have pointed out, that it’s a Church-sponsored activity. “In God we trust – all others get background checks,” including those He calls to run EFY/FSY. That should be our motto.

    I’ve served as a 4-H volunteer for 15 years in the US and have had a background check every year. I get backgrounded by my kids’ school district to serve as a volunteer to pass out programs at the high school play. It is not unreasonable to expect this. It is unreasonable, not to mention disrespectful and dismissive, to say “No need to worry!”

    That said, four of my five children have gone to, and loved, EFY. Even my youngest son, my skeptic, came back with his attitude toward the gospel changed for the better. His counselors seem to have NOT been the “straight company line” types, and while I’m sure they’re told to be strictly orthodox in thought, word, and deed, they also seem to have done a good job of helping the kids deal with their thoughts and doubts and issues.

    My fifth kid will be a tough nut to crack – she’s 13, she’ll get to go in the summer of 2015. She’s currently in her “Not sure I believe” phase. I think EFY will help her. She’s learned how to think from her parents and siblings, and she’ll do just fine.

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  20. Hedgehog on May 7, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    I can update that I received a little bit more information, including a draft programme, and reassurance that leaders will be background checked. I do think that information should be available upfront though.

    The child with Asperger’s opted not to attend. Probably a wise choice given it’s almost week long, and a long way to go should problems arise. The other decided to go ahead.

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