Even a strong desire to have successful family home evenings often does not supply the know-how to make them profitable. In answer to one father’s perplexed question concerning this, the Ensign invited four families to share their successful methods.
The Church is emphasizing the importance of family home evening. It is referred to as an important part of our stewardship. Yet I am not a teacher. Neither am I very successful in teaching a family home evening lesson that holds the interest of my children. I just don’t feel qualified to fulfill my responsibility as I should. How can I, as unskilled as I am in teaching, fulfill my stewardship in conducting effective family home evening lessons?
Martin Hosteen leaned against his hogan, fingering the family home evening manual the elders had left the night before. How, Martin wondered, was he going to teach his family the gospel effectively with so little education and no teaching experience, not even the preservice teaching training course?
As he turned the illustrated pages, he noticed a selection of stories accompanying each lesson. He loved stories. His old Navajo grandfather used to keep the family spellbound for hours with tales he still remembered. Why couldn’t he teach his family the gospel through stories?
He recalled an experience he had had just a week before, while herding his small flock of sheep. As he stood on a sandhill over-looking his flock, he observed a hungry coyote approaching. Instead of rushing down into the flock and stampeding them, the coyote singled out a few playful lambs, walked casually among them, and romped with them through the brush, leading them over a small sand hill. Martin rescued them just in time.
This is much like the tactics of Satan, thought Martin. Satan does not try to stampede the Latter-day Saints—there is too much strength there. Instead, he comes in disguise and singles out a few to lead away from the flock. Yes, we as Latter-day Saints must stay close to the flock.
That night in family home evening Martin had something to teach about the gospel.
James D. Mathews
Rapid City, South Dakota
Home evening is a great vehicle for family unity if we are creative and positive about it. Here are some of our varied family home evenings, low on formal teaching but high on unity and spirituality:
1. Our teenagers do a beautiful job of planning and carrying out a family home evening lesson, so we let them take over once in awhile. It’s amazing which concepts they choose to emphasize.
2. We throw out questions and see how our children really feel. All we need for this lesson is a list of questions for group discussions.
3. We listen to a tape from a General Authority, inspiring both to hear and to discuss.
4. We share an exchange family home evening with another family. (We prepare the food and they bring the lesson.)
5. We feel we need help in using better English, so we invite a lesson from a ward member with an excellent background in English.
6. We invite the love and valuable counsel of grandparents.
7. My husband gives our oldest son a father’s blessing on his 18th birthday, after a family fast.
8. Occasionally we assign a scriptural chapter to a family member and have him read and discuss it.
Mary Ellen Smoot
When my wife and six daughters and I first started to make family home evening a part of our lives, we had some pretty shaky experiences.
First, we weren’t serious enough. I sometimes let family night take a backseat to Monday night football. When we finally did get serious about family home evening, it became too serious. We forgot to have fun! We took too long on the lessons, the activities were too short, and the whole evening was too rigid.
We finally did discover how to loosen up and enjoy family home evenings, but something was still lacking.
My wife, who teaches the Relief Society mother training class, came home with the missing ingredient: the parent planning meetings.
Once a week we would meet, kneel in prayer, and then go over our joint agenda. When we realized that many items should be discussed with the entire family, we used stake high council meetings as a model for our family planning meeting.
This system might not work for everyone, but from the first night it has been a great success. We meet on the second Monday of every month. In addition to being full partner in the planning, my wife, as executive secretary and family clerk, presides in my absence. We were both sustained by every member of the family.
I called one of my daughters to serve as the family calendar coordinator, and all of us sustained her. She places everything of family importance on the calendar, including the “dates” my wife and I have with each girl at least once a month. Each daughter receives a typed agenda and minutes from the previous family meeting before each planning meeting.
Our agenda includes a kneeling prayer, a spiritual thought, minutes, calendar review, and agenda discussion. The April 9 family planning meeting included such items as: family finances, allowances, interruptions during family meetings, work assignments from Mom, garage rules from Dad, our monthly family outing, and assignments for the family home evening.
When my wife and I later evaluated the family planning meeting, we felt that it was a success but there was still something lacking: many individual needs were still unsatisfied. Our answer again came from the Church organization. Who counsels with the Saints on personal issues? The bishop. Who should take care of personal problems in the home? The father.
So on the first Monday of every month, before the parent planning meeting, I hold a personal interview with each daughter, opening with prayer. Many problems naturally go to Mother; however, some are brought to me. I’ve never felt so close to them as when they confide in me.
Most of the time it’s financial needs. Many times I’m able to say “yes,” but sometimes I must say “not at this time.” They have been very willing to wait, when necessary.
I remember an interview with my three-year-old. I asked her if Daddy could help her and if she needed anything. She said, “Yes, I need monies!” I asked her why a little three-year-old needed monies. She said, “I want a girl snake and a teddy bear with a long tail, and I need monies!”
In summary, on the first Monday of the month I conduct personal interviews with all my girls, and my wife and I then hold our parent planning meeting.
On the second Monday of the month we hold a family planning council.
And on the third and fourth Mondays of the month we have a lesson-activity-oriented family home evening.
It’s certainly tailor-made for our family.
Jack W. Lindsey