Since women had been serving missions no sooner than age 21, our specific emphasis used to be preparing the young women for their future responsibilities in the family, preparing for the temple, getting an education, etc. Since it would normally be at least 3 years between when the young women left YW and when they could go on a mission, it didn't seem very 'urgent' to prepare them for possible mission service, especially since it wasn't something that they necessarily 'had' to do.
As our Ward YW President mentioned, it might be something to spend a little more time and effort on now, especially since so many girls are now excited about the possibility of serving.
The Young Men are encouraged to go on full-time missions because it is part of their duty as priesthood holders. They are taught about full-time missions their entire lives. The Young Women may not have as much knowledge about full-time missions as their Young Men counterparts, but it is something that should be taught, now more than ever.
Even thought full-time missions are not something that all of the young women might be interested in, the skills that can be taught as part of mission-preparation really apply to all of their future responsibilities in the church, family, and community...
Here are some of the basic skills/attributes that missionaries need:
- Public speaking
- Being tactful/good manners
- Temple worthiness
- Laundry/minor sewing & clothing repairs/ironing
- Basic cooking
- Gospel Knowledge
- Budgeting/Grocery shopping
- Stress-management/dealing with depression or homesicknesses
- Personal care and healthy habits (grooming, nutrition, exercise)
- Dressing modestly/appropriately for situation
One excellent way to teach Young Women about mission service is to have a returned (Sister) missionary come and speak to them (for Mutual or maybe a fireside) about what it is like to serve. If they can share photos, souvenirs, etc that is a great addition. If you don't know of any women in your ward who have served full-time missions as a young adult, all you have to do is ask around in your Stake and you're sure to find someone! Preferably someone young! When I speak to youth about serving a mission, I try to emphasis the positive, but also make sure that they know that it is a sacred responsibility and that it can be difficult work...
For more ideas on specific ways to prepare youth (Young Men OR Young Women) for full-time mission service, there is an excellent special mission edition of The New Era available for purchase at www.lds.org (click here) Its only $1.50 (free shipping) for this issue if you want to purchase it, or you can read & print any (or all) of the articles online for free (click here). This entire magazine talks about ways that youth can prepare (spiritually, mentally, physically, etc) to serve full-time missions and/or be member-missionaries. This special issue was put out in 2007, so the age requirements discussed some of the articles will not be current, but everything else will be relevant.
Please also check the "missionary work" and "preparing for missionary service" categories at the top of this page for more related posts on my blog. For example, we had a sister-missionary night that was a big success! Check out that specific post by clicking on the cake photo below: