Five Ways to Make Family Scripture Study a Habit Everyone Can Enjoy
I tried not to wince recently as my teenage daughter read one of my favorite scripture passages in a monotone voice punctuated by several loud yawns. “Well,” I thought to myself, “it’s better than when she did somersaults on the couch as a toddler during family scripture study.”
As almost any parent knows, making family scripture study a regular habit, let alone one everyone enjoys doing, often seems impossible.
Following are five suggestions I’ve found helpful for making family scripture study a more enjoyable habit for everyone in the family:
- Set realistic goals.
- Be consistent and persistent.
- Find creative ways to involve younger children.
- Add variety.
- Teach, discuss, and apply.
1. Set realistic goals.
“We know that family scripture study and family home evenings are not always perfect,” Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught. “Regardless of the challenges you face, do not become discouraged” (“In Tune with the Music of Faith,” Apr. 2012 general conference).
Now that you know not to expect perfection, first try setting a short-term, realistic goal for scripture study as a family. Decide when and where you’ll meet together, as well as how many verses or chapters you’ll try to cover at a time.
Start with a simple goal, don’t try to read too much material too quickly, and be realistic in your expectations of family members’ behavior—especially with younger children (and teens).
Carefully consider the ages, attention spans, and other needs and characteristics of family members. If you expect your active toddler to sit like a perfect angel each day or your teen to act enthusiastic to be there, you may feel frustrated and disappointed.
As part of your goal setting, be sure to plan a reward for when you meet your goal, such as a fun outing or special treat. For example, in an effort to be more consistent, my family set a goal to study scriptures every evening at 9:00 p.m. for one week. Our reward was Chinese takeout. We found it was fun to have something tangible to work for, and when we met our goal, we felt a sense of accomplishment. Rewards can be as simple as a game night together, a bowl of ice cream, or an outdoor hike. It might help motivate your family if you track your progress using a chart like this reading challenge chart in the Friend magazine or marking a calendar. Once you have achieved your goal, set a new goal.
2. Be consistent and persistent.
Choose a specific, consistent time and location that works for your family, but also try to remain flexible if you need to move the time of day. And if you miss a day, don’t give up!
“Persistence is the answer, and a sense of humor helps,” said Elder Cook. “It requires great effort from every family member every day, but it is worth the effort. Temporary setbacks are overshadowed by persistence” (“In Tune with the Music of Faith”).
Now that my teens and young adults have cell phones, I send text reminders and calendar appointments to help them remember our family’s scheduled study time. If occasionally one of us can’t attend, the rest of us meet together anyway. Each family is unique, so keep trying until you find what works best for yours (and don’t forget the part about having a sense of humor).
3. Find creative ways to involve younger children.
I loved the example Elder Cook shared of how his youngest son and his wife are reading the scriptures with their young family: “Two out of their four children are not old enough to read. For the five-year-old, they have five finger signals to which he responds in order for him to participate fully in the family scripture reading. The signal for finger 1 is for him to repeat, ‘And it came to pass’ whenever it appears in the Book of Mormon. … Finger signal 2 is ‘And thus we see’; fingers 3, 4, and 5 are chosen by the parents based on the words contained in the chapter they are reading” (“In Tune with the Music of Faith”).
One way to keep younger children better occupied than doing somersaults is the new Book of Mormon Stories coloring book the Church recently published and provides online. It’s an easy way to get young children interested and engaged in learning about scripture stories. Other helpful resources I’ve found for teaching children about the scriptures and supplementing family scripture study include:
- Lesson Helps for Teaching Children from the Friend magazine.
- Text, video, and audio versions of the Scripture Stories for children.
- A simplified Book of Mormon story in each issue of the Friend magazine.
Remember scripture study doesn’t have to be complicated and can evolve as your children grow.
4. Add variety.
If family members take turns reading, you may want to vary the number of verses or the order in which you read. My family enjoys taking a break from reading aloud by occasionally listening to the audio versions of the scriptures. You could try reading together in your backyard or on your porch instead of the family room, or watching a video from video.lds.org that coincides with the verses you are reading. The point is to try new methods that keep family members interested and engaged.
5. Teach, discuss, and apply.
Remember family scripture time is not just about reading the scriptures together; it’s also about studying them. The quality of your family study time is more important than the quantity of what you read together. As the Spirit directs, stop reading verses in order to teach concepts, provide context, invite further discussion, ask and answer questions, and apply what you’re learning to your lives now. We’ve often been amazed at the insights our children have shared.
President Thomas S. Monson has taught that “in order to gain and to keep the faith we need, it is essential that we read and study and ponder the scriptures” (“Be an Example and a Light,” Oct. 2015 general conference).
Our families need the consistent daily protection that family scripture study provides, and we take comfort—despite all the yawns, somersaults, and imperfect days—knowing that none of our efforts to fortify our spirits will be wasted.
Camille West graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. The happy, distracted wife and mother of four finds gardening, organizing, and bargain shopping therapeutic.