When my oldest son recently turned twelve, I began thinking about specific things he should be doing or already have done in preparing for his mission and what he needs to be doing in the coming years. In discussing this with my wife, she pointed me to a list of life skills written by Merrilee Boyack of things children should be able to do by age, starting at 3 and going up each year until age 18. Merrilee calls it “The Fabulously Brilliant, Flexible, and Comprehensive Plan for Raising Independent Children Who Will Be Able to Take Care of Themselves as Adults and Have a Family Plan of Their Own.” The list is found in Merrilee’s book, The Parenting Breakthrough, and I also found it on her website and there she stated she is okay with people adding to it or editing it.*
I thought I would make a Mormon Mission Prep version of the list which would focus on spiritual and physical preparation items that youth should achieve in preparing themselves to live independently and serve as full-time missionaries for the Lord. I didn’t want to replicate Raising Independent Children checklist, but rather have something unique to mission prep. I wanted it to be brief, one-page, list, focusing on the most important physical and spiritual skills young missionaries will need. I ended up 77 items in eight categories: Church Programs, Finances, Food Prep Skills, Household Chores and Maintenance, Personal Development, Spiritual Progress, Tech Savvy, and Transportation.
Putting this list together was a great exercise because it made me realize we are behind, a little, with my son. But it has given us many ideas of things we need to work on with him now and in the coming years to make sure he is physically and spiritually prepared to serve his mission. I know this will help us, and helpfully it will help many other parents and youth as well.
You may want to add, delete, or edit items on this list to meet you particular family needs, and that would be fine with me. Let me tell you a little about why I put the things I did in each category.
Church Programs: In this category, you’ll find check points for progress in the LDS Church’s official programs such as Faith in God Award, Duty to God, Young Women’s (Personal Progress), Aaronic Priesthood, and Boy Scouts. These programs are inspired by God and have been instituted by our Church leaders to help the youth develop spiritual skills and Christ-like qualities.
Finances: This section lists items necessary to help youth gain an understanding of money and how to use it responsibly such as earning an allowance for chores and learning to budget. It also includes more advanced topics like understand about debit and credit cards, and having youth begin to pay for some of their own things like clothes and cell phone when they get old enough. It also lists benchmark points for saving money for the mission. On that topic, I spaced it out so that youth double their mission savings each year. If they start at $150 at age 12 and double their mission savings each year, they will have the required $9,600 by the time they are 18.
Food Prep Skills: A missionary who doesn’t know how to cook could find himself/herself very hungry very often. Therefore I created this category to help youth learn to cook for themselves and do so in a healthy way. An anxious mother of a prospective missionary once asked President Thomas S. Monson what he would recommend her son learn before the arrival of his missionary call. His answer: “Teach your son how to cook” (Who Honors God, God Honors).
Household Chores and Maintenance: Missionaries often live in their own apartment and will need to understand basic home maintenance. They also often do acts of service at other people’s homes that require knowledge and ability to do home maintenance. And of course, they will need to keep their room and apartment clean and tidy. Having these skills will help youth be more clean and orderly and be able to be more self-sufficient with chores around their apartment.
Personal Development: This is the largest category because I have included many life skills and skills for hygiene, manners, and living independently. Also included in this category are some benchmarks for emotional strength that will be necessary for young missionaries to live away from home for an extended period without mom and dad around. Also included here are some skills for being able to take care of themselves and others by knowing first aid and CPR and about medical drug use, and making appointments with doctors.
Spiritual Progress: While everything on the list is important, I believe this is the most important category. It is the things youth need to do to spiritually prepare themselves to be missionaries. These items will help young people develop their own testimonies of Jesus Christ, the scriptures, living prophets, and the restored gospel. Doing these things will help bring the Spirit of God in greater measure to the lives of the youth and will help them know how to teach by the power of the Spirit. Many of these items are not one time things, but habits that should be established like daily prayer and scripture study. I have also listed things like teaching lessons, giving talks, and talking to neighbors about the gospel to give youth practice being missionaries.
Tech Savvy: Having technical skills is important for life and is growing in importance in doing missionary work. Here I have listed just a few important skills such as using a computer and digital camera and email, all of which they’ll need to know how to do to write home to the family each week.
Transportation: Missionaries do a lot of traveling via bikes, cars, buses, trains, and airplanes. Knowing how to get yourself around is an important skill for missionaries so I’ve included some of those things in the list. These are also important life skills, so it’s good for youth to have practice while they’re still at home.
*My wonderful wife Heather made her own edition of the Raising Independent Children list. Download it below. There you will see all the original items from Merrilee Boyack’s list, plus a few things Heather added for our family. I think it is a great addition to the mission prep checklist with more detailed things for children to learn to do to help make them strong and well adjusted and ready to take on the world.