While many youth activities are uplifting and serve valuable Gospel purposes, I’m puzzled over some of the exceptions I see. For example, why teach youths that their bodies are sacred temples to be treated with respect, and then promote eating contests, where kids are pressured to make fools of themselves stuffing food into their faces? For those who are overweight and already subject to teasing about their eating habits, an eating contest can be a dreaded nightmare. It’s not healthy, it’s ugly, it’s undignified, and I’m sure it’s something Christ would never approve of. What a sad deviation from the Word of Wisdom – and from wisdom in general. (Alternative suggestions if you have to have a competition with food: why not see how much food kids can prepare to give to the needy, or how food storage can be cataloged in a given time, or how many meals for missionaries can be cooked, or anything besides gorging?)
Another pet peeve is water fights or water balloon activities. Yes, they can be fun, but I’ve seen these events become traumatic for kids who came in nice clothes not knowing that they were going to be drenched. Many times the “fun” spills into the church building, with wet carpet and other problems. And sometimes the event becomes nasty. I recall one event in which a couple boys got socks wet with toilet water to throw at others. Ah, those sons of Helaman….
If 30 kids have a blast, and one goes home feeling like he or she never wants to come again because an event got ugly, I think the event is a failure.
Final thought: youth leaders, please be sure that water activities follow the Safety Afloat principles of Boy Scouts of America. Aquatic events can be so fun, but they are where some of the most terrible tragedies occur when Safety Afloat principles are violated. Years of good leadership in the Church won’t take away the pain, regret, and even financial disaster if a young person dies under your watch when proper safety principles were not followed. It’s serious stuff, and there are horror stories that go with each rule. Better to have people upset with you for being so paranoid about safety than to risk a fatality through negligence. And yes, you are likely to be sued if there was negligence (and, sadly, even if not).