“How can chaperones help ensure that Church standards are maintained at Church youth dances?” Ensign, Aug. 1992, 61–62
Annette P. Bowen, Relief Society president, Bellevue Fifth Ward, Renton Washington North Stake. For most of my adult life, I have had the privilege of working with the youth of the Church, and I have attended and chaperoned many youth dances. I can remember clearly the burden and confusion I felt as a newly married young woman when I was first asked to chaperone a youth dance. Me—a chaperone? What was I supposed to do? What were the Church standards and policies regarding youth dances?
I feared the role of being an enforcer. Would my participation as a chaperone jeopardize my relationship with the youth in the stake? Couldn’t I just go and dance? If a problem did arise, how could I best handle a confrontation and a loving correction?
My experience has yielded some answers to those questions. I’ve also talked with numerous people—other chaperones and adult leaders, as well as young people and youth leaders—and they have shared their experiences and their answers with me.
It is important to know exactly what the Church standards and guidelines are for youth dances. The 1990 Activities Committee Handbook offers the following guidelines for dance activities:
“1. Lyrics should not be contrary to gospel principles.
“2. The beat of the music, whether instrumental or vocal, should not overshadow the melody.
“3. Lights should be bright enough for people to see across the room. Strobe lighting is generally not advised; psychedelic lighting that pulsates with the beat is not acceptable. Lights on the floor, in the corners of the hall, or spotlighting creative wall and ceiling decorations are appropriate.
“4. Music volume should be low enough so that two people standing side by side can hear each other as they carry on a normal conversation.”
It is important that local guidelines and policies, as well as general Church standards, are clearly understood by both the youth (including nonmember friends) and their leaders; and that these guidelines and policies are consistently, but lovingly, followed.
Avoid instituting too many rules and regulations. To keep the youth informed and reminded of standards and policies, our stake prints its guidelines on the back of an annual youth activity calendar distributed to each young person in our stake. All of the stakes in our area use a dance card—issued to young people after an interview has taken place at which the standards are explained—and each young person (member or nonmember) signs the card, agreeing to uphold those standards while attending youth dances.
The youth should always be encouraged to govern themselves: to help avoid situations in which chaperones are required to confront or to correct—in hopes of moving away from a punitive atmosphere to one of cooperation and mutual enjoyment. In addition, youth leaders, especially those serving on stake youth committees, should be encouraged to help monitor behavior and to set fine examples of behavior and fellowship. Of course, there will be a few situations where chaperones will need to intervene.
After consulting with experienced chaperones and with many of my young friends, I offer the following suggestions:
Chaperones should be carefully selected. Ideally, those adults who attend youth dances should be people who love working with the youth—and show it. They should remember that their most effective teaching method is to be models of appropriate behavior as leaders, as friends, and as adults who care about young people.
Dance! Without exception, my young friends have said that they most enjoy a dance at which the chaperones are out on the dance floor having a great time. And when the need arises to correct youth participating in inappropriate dancing, it is easier and better for a chaperone already on the dance floor to say a gentle word of reminder to a couple who may need to modify their dancing than it is to embarrass them by barreling out from the sidelines to call them to repentance.
Treat youth with respect and kindness. Teenagers acknowledge that they sometimes need to be reminded, instructed, or corrected, but they appreciate being treated as if they are valued and respected—and they will respond better if they are treated this way.
Monitor the building and parking lot occasionally. I used to balk at this suggestion, but I have since found it is sometimes necessary to literally “herd the sheep back into the fold.” Of course, we can’t force them to come into the cultural hall, but we can let them know that the grounds and building will be monitored.
Solve issues related to lighting and music and atmosphere before the dance begins. Performing groups need to sign a suitable performance contract (one is available at no charge from Church distribution centers—Publication No. PXMU0028.)
A word about lighting—if the room is too light, teenagers will not dance because they will feel self-conscious. Instead of using many glaring overhead lights, leaders can arrange for well-placed spots and other alternative light sources in order to provide a suitable amount of light.
As leaders, we have stiff competition for the attention of our young friends. It is our opportunity to uphold our standards while providing activities for them that they will want to attend, activities where they are welcomed, respected, instructed, and loved.