It is Time for Church Members to Hire and Mentor Youth

by Robert John Stevens, February 9, 2018

I see a problem in our church that probably extends nationwide to all faiths: Many young, capable people can’t find jobs and older church members won’t take a chance on them.

When the U.S. dollar finally collapses, it will surely get a lot worse.

I have two sons who graduated from BYU in Provo and can’t find work. Tyler graduated in physics. Andrew later earned an MBA from UVU and still can’t find a job so he volunteers and films BYU’s innovators for Tech Transfer Director Mike Alder at BYU.

Andrew applied to more than 1,000 jobs. Several friends and career advisors reviewed his resume and cannot figure out why he can’t get interviews and a job offer. There is nothing wrong with him. I watch his self-esteem sink weekly.

Hundreds of times he’s asked himself why he is turned down repeatedly and what can he do to improve his resume and interviews. One problem is he didn’t graduate with a degree in the E in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

This begs the question, “Would it be easier to get jobs after graduating from college if job training began in their youth?”

Often I hear employees tell me their best employees grew up on farms. Whenever I hire, I want to know how they earned money in their youth.

When I was young it was easy to get jobs from neighbors and church members. They took a chance on me and were never disappointed. I worked eight months for Bob Rowe in Potomac, Maryland and picked up his house one piece at a time after it blew down and then hung all his interior doors and moldings without any previous training or experience.

My brother and I sealed Brother Colton’s asphalt driveway, sealed Bishop Rolapp’s driveway and then repaired it with cold asphalt and rolled over it with our parents’ yellow 1972 Ford Gran Torino Squire Station Wagon, painted the exterior of Brother Hart’s home, mowed lawns, raked leaves, washed windows and sealed driveways all over Potomac and Darnestown. I was so successful that my father often called me “money bags.”

During my 37 years living here in Utah Valley, I’ve never seen a teenager mow another man’s lawn. In the dozens of neighborhoods we’ve lived, I am not aware of any youth who were employed by church members other than babysitting and at their retail businesses.

It is common to hear, “Kids these days don’t want to work.” Perhaps, but would things be different if they were given opportunities in their youth?

I have always been disappointed that so many of my generation, even after they earned degrees from BYU and other colleges, were never given the opportunity to work for the previous generation of millionaires and billionaires of church members in Potomac, Maryland ; hence, few graduates could afford to return to Potomac where the median home value rose steadily and is now $848,600.

I suspect at some point in their careers, many wealthy members of my church did hire youth and other church members from their congregation but now don’t. I do not understand that. They must know something that I do not.

Has litigation made it too risky? Did they lose money? Or has one too many relationships resulted in bad feelings?

What good is our money after we are dead? At Judgment Day will we rather say, “I used my resources wisely and with my keen knowledge of business I started farms, factories, manufacturing ventures and for-profit businesses, trained and employed the youth of my church and increased their salaries proportionally as their combined labors increased my profits?”

From Gordon B. Hinckley: “A man out of work is of special moment to the Church because, deprived of his inheritance, he is on trial as Job was on trial—for his integrity. As days lengthen into weeks and months and even years of adversity, the hurt grows deeper. …The Church cannot hope to save a man on Sunday if during the week it is a complacent witness to the crucifixion of his soul.”

I don’t have an obvious solution for employing youth. My kids babysat and sold Christmas videos but when they travelled outside of our ward or congregational boundaries in the same neighborhood they were treated with disdain.

I’ve personally mentored, trained and employed more than sixty adults. Sometimes they produced and I earned back my investment and more; sometimes they produced nothing and I lost my entire investment. As a whole, women very much outperformed men.

It is time for church leaders to speak out in public and from the public to ask members to mentor, train and employ our youth. Maybe it is time for my church to direct a portion of tithing to assist in a wise and clever manner.

I know there is great pain in this area and that something heavenly could be done if inspired leaders urge members to act. What would Jesus do?