8 Tips for Successful, Effective Family Home Evenings
Contributed By By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
- Become educated and teach children in the home by using many of the resources available to Church members.
- While fun activities are good for families, it is most important for children and families to spend time in the scriptures and focusing on Christ.
- Consistency is a crucial factor in family home evenings. A combination of quality and quantity will be most effective.
“Parents lead to the purest source of water.” —Darren E. Schmidt, seminary instructor
For many years prophets have counseled families to set aside one night a week for time together learning and having fun. Many families around the world are heeding that counsel and making time in their busy schedules for family home evening.
In an effort to strengthen their family and personal testimonies, parents lead their children in lessons, songs, and prayer and share with them what they feel their family needs at that time.
“Raising a family is hard work,” said Darren E. Schmidt during a class at Campus Education Week at BYU. That is why time together as a family is critical to building testimonies and strengthening relationships.
Brother Schmidt, a seminary instructor, shared principles and ideas to enhance family home evenings and scripture study, focusing on simple, practical elements for families to enhance their time together.
1. Be Consistent
“It doesn’t have to be perfect; just be consistent,” he said.
For many parents, the phrase “quality over quantity” applies to family home evening, but there is a danger in that, said Brother Schmidt. It is a combination of quality and quantity that will be the most effective for a family. Although it is important to plan and prepare for family home evenings, consistency is a crucial factor.
“It is a process and not a product,” he said.
As family home evening becomes part of a family’s routine, children will expect their assignments and responsibilities and will look forward to the time together.
2. Be United
“Satan will wiggle his way in, so what we do is prepare for that,” Brother Schmidt said.
One way to deal with distractions and other things that get in the way is through unity. As a husband and wife are united, both spouses will take an active role in family home evening.
Brother Schmidt shared ideas of how to divide and conquer—one spouse is in charge of discipline and the other keeps the evening going. In single-parent homes, older children may be asked to help in a leadership role.
3. Make Family Home Evening Inspired and Purposeful
Family home evening is a place—other than church—where children are able to learn gospel principles. Sometimes the topics to teach are very clear, as parents have certain principles they would like to go over with their children. Other times parents have to “just pick the best thing,” said Brother Schmidt. When the family is prepared, the Spirit is able to teach. In those moments the Lord will often inspire parents to teach something that their child may have questions about or have a desire to learn more about. It is as parents are purposeful in their preparation that the Lord will be able to prepare the hearts of the learners.
4. Plan Ahead
Part of an effective family home evening is planning ahead. Through proper planning, parents are able to involve their children and help them prepare.
Brother Schmidt spoke of the importance of every member having an assignment—no matter their age—every week. As the children are involved, they are able to prepare lessons and learn how to seek inspiration. By assigning the children things to do a few days before family home evening, they are able to work with their parents to prepare.
A simple paper chart is a great way to rotate assignments and keep things organized.
5. Be a Shepherd, Not a Sheepherder
There is a difference between a shepherd and a sheepherder, Brother Schmidt said.
“A shepherd knows his sheep, and the sheep know him,” Brother Schmidt said. “They can hear the voice of the shepherd and are reliant on him. They come when they hear him call.”
A sheepherder may yell for the sheep to follow but have a hard time getting them to listen. Family life is busy, filled with activities—homework, soccer practice, piano lessons and practicing—so families are often rushed. A simple five- or ten-minute warning before family home evening—rather than yelling throughout the house—helps children to finish what they are doing so they are able to come to family home evening and fully participate.
“A five-minute warning shows you are respectful of their time,” he said. “It is less forceful and creates an atmosphere with the Spirit.”
6. Everyone Must Play a Role
With an assignment given to each family member—even the younger children with help from their parents—participation becomes easier. When studying the scriptures, provide some form of scriptures for every person so all have their own something to hold and read.
“For little kids cartoon books are good,” Brother Schmidt said. And when all have something to read, they are expected to participate and follow along.
With that, asking inspired questions allows for deeper discussion and learning. When parents are prepared, they are able to follow the Spirit in extending invitations that encourage their children to act. Just as important as the inspired invitations is the follow-up on discussions and invitations.
“Be purposeful in time and money,” Brother Schmidt taught. Sometimes it is a simple conversation that will make the biggest difference.
Family home evening can be a time for families to set goals together—changing and adapting for each person as they get older—and a great place to reflect and be accountable for their goals.
7. Become Educated
With so many resources available to Church members today, parents have the opportunity to look to those resources for ideas for their lessons as well as answers to questions. Websites such as LDS.org, Church materials including the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, and Mormon Messages are available to use within teaching and to help parents become educated. Resources for often-discussed topics are available for families to talk about and discuss, approaching sometimes difficult questions in a safe and gospel-centered environment. Children can ask questions and learn in their own homes, rather than through outside sources.
8. Use “the Word” Consistently
Just as important as it is to hold family home evening, it is important to spend time in the scriptures and focusing on Christ. Fun and games are good for families, but teaching children while they are young how to have a relationship with their Heavenly Father is the most important duty a parent has. As parents make a point to study together from the scriptures, they are able to teach and testify as they learn together.
“Parents lead to the purest source of water,” said Brother Schmidt.