When we started law school as married students with children, we choose to attend the local "town" ward. We could choose whether we attended the married student ward (MSW) or a local ward. There were several good reasons to do this- we wanted a ward with a little more age diversity, we were both older than the average married student, and we thought that we would feel more welcome in a regular ward. But it didn’t take long to notice some problems.
First, there were three town wards there, but really only enough youth for one ward. The wards had to be split up because of the high number of married students, and the youth didn’t like that. There also were relatively few children in Primary (although many in nursery). Many of the students felt like they were on the periphery of the ward, and most of the students were assigned to visit and home teach each other. We weren’t really meeting older people in the ward, or the non-students, and we didn’t feel like an important part of the ward (and after coming from Trenton, New Jersey, and a ward where everyone was desperately needed, that was a bit hard).
After we had been there for a year, a university stake was created. The leadership decided that married students would be encouraged to attend the student stake, but not required to. We somewhat reluctantly decided to attend the MSW (it wasn’t complete reluctance, since I had seen the problems that large number of married students were causing the town wards). In the end, we were the only family that changed wards, but many more students started to attend the MSW when they moved in.
I couldn’t believe the difference that attending the MSW made. There were a variety of things that made it a better experience, but the main thing was that the ward was geared towards married students and their needs. There is no other time when a ward is so specifically focused on one group of people. I was sold.
Fast forward a few years. We live in a college town again (this time my husband is teaching), and we are in a ward that is about 50 percent married students, and the problems are the same. In fact, they are worse here in some ways. But the married students don’t want to attend the MSW, even though they are encouraged to. The MSW here, for reasons I don’t understand, don’t even have nurseries, much less Primary for Sunbeams and CTRs. They are known as even more transitory than a typical MSW because no family attends the ward after their oldest is 18 months (although it could be argued that gives a couple over two years at the very least to attend a MSW, and hopefully they didn’t get married that young).
Do you think it’s a good idea for married students to have a choice of which ward they attend? One concern here is that it’s hard to keep track of the married students- you never know which ward they really are attending. Some also use the ploy of going to one ward until they get a calling they don’t like, and switching to the other. Should MSW have nurseries?
But more importantly, if there are going to be large numbers of married students in a town ward, what can that ward do to make the students feel more welcome?