Family Reunions: Where Do We Begin?

“They’re here!” The cry rang out across the yard as family members converged to welcome long-awaited cousins to the family reunion. Few moments in life yield such richness of warm and loving feelings as do times of joyous family gathering. Sometimes just one determined individual can begin the process of organizing a reunion. The following ideas may help:

  1. 1.

    Determine the size of the group. Immediate family members may wish to gather at least annually. For extended families, such as those descended from a common grandparent or other ancestor, meeting every three to five years may be sufficient. Invite everyone, even those distant cousins or aunts you’ve never met.

  2. 2.

    The size of the group usually determines the length of the reunion. As a rule, the larger the group, the shorter the reunion. Small groups that can meet at a significant location such as “the old homestead” may wish to spend up to a week together. However, for groups of 25 to 75 people, one to three days are often adequate. And larger extended family groups may meet for only a long single afternoon. One family met for two days with immediate family members and then with the extended family from the father’s side of the family for the final potluck dinner.

  3. 3.

    Set a date and time at least a year in advance. Some families choose to celebrate holidays together; others prefer summer vacation time for reunions.

  4. 4.

    Choose the location. If one large home will not accommodate your group, consider reserving a campground, college dormitory (between sessions), or city park. Some hotel chains offer reduced rates for large groups who reserve rooms well in advance. Vacation homes, private facilities, or local community resources may be available for a small fee. It is a good idea to avoid resorts, entertainment parks, and similar reunion settings where family members will be involved in other activities instead of being together.

  5. 5.

    Make committee assignments. The larger the expected group, the more important committees become to the smooth running of the reunion. For very large groups, tasks within each committee should be further delegated.

    • Food: Plan which meals the reunion committee will provide and whether or not potluck dishes will be required. Determine the menu, buy the food, and schedule everyone attending to help prepare a meal, or clean up. Rather than assign a single family to prepare a meal, it’s a good idea to assign members of various families to work together. This is more fun and allows at least one parent to watch children.

    • Scheduling and fund-raising: Some facilities require a deposit. After determining where the reunion will be held, calculate all shared expenses for the event and assess each individual family on a per-person basis. In subsequent years, the extended family may prefer to hold fund-raising events to help with costs.

    • Activities: Schedule events with plenty of time in between for visiting. Activities for a one-day reunion may include a potluck luncheon, family introductions, photo sessions, a craft auction, team sports, family history activities, or sing-alongs. Longer reunions can also include talent shows, a family home evening, family prayers, campfire programs or bedtime stories, craft projects, entertainment, games, sight-seeing, or a family organizational meeting. Plan no more than one major activity each morning, afternoon, and evening.

Getting together can be fun for the entire family and will help family members rediscover friendships and draw needed strength from one another.

[illustration] Illustrated by Jerry Harston

Staying Spiritual on the Road

After moving our family to San Diego, California, I began working for a new company that required considerable out-of-town travel, even on weekends. Due to an onslaught of new temptations and experiences resulting from my being away from home and alone, I realized I needed to set for myself the following guidelines for maintaining my spiritual reserves while traveling.

  1. 1.

    Maintain contact with the Church and reinforce my identity as a Latter-day Saint by:

    • Attending Sunday Church meetings whenever possible, even in foreign countries.

    • Carrying a Book of Mormon and being willing to talk to people about it as occasion permits.

    • Appropriately sharing Church standards with business contacts so they understand why I do not participate in some activities.

    • Attending the temple if there is one in the city where I am visiting.

  2. 2.

    Pursue a program for ongoing self-improvement by:

    • Reading uplifting books.

    • Keeping a personal journal.

    • Studying languages, history, and geography in connection with my travels.

  3. 3.

    Build spirituality by:

    • Reading from the scriptures daily and memorizing selected passages.

    • Offering multiple daily personal prayers, as necessary.

    • Avoiding inappropriate movies, magazines, books, and hotel room television.

  4. 4.

    Serve others by:

    • Staying in touch with my family and encouraging them through letters, postcards, or telephone calls.

    • Sending uplifting postcards to friends, shut-ins, and missionaries.

    • Writing to my home teaching families and staying informed of their needs.

I also found that by having a personal prayer before leaving on a trip and specifically recommitting myself to living gospel standards and the above guidelines, I was able to avoid temptations, boost my spirituality, and always remember my love for the Savior and his gospel and for my family.Paul McMullin, San Diego, California

[illustrations] Illustrated by Tom Child

Teaching Moments: Tips for New Teachers

As general president of the Primary, I am asked to travel from time to time. I have met many good Saints, some quite new in the Church and all trying to serve in their callings the best they know how. I often ask myself, How can we help these good people? How can we strengthen new teachers and new leaders? I thought of five resources available to each of us.

Prayer: I bear testimony that prayer is our most valuable source of help. One of my favorite places to really talk with Heavenly Father is in my car, driving from Provo, where I live, to Salt Lake City. I have had wonderful spiritual experiences in my car that help me in my calling. I know that all leaders and teachers can get substantial help in their callings through prayer.

Scripture Study: The scriptures give us help and answers to our questions. One day I felt deeply troubled about this world, where there is often so much hurt and destruction. I wondered how we can influence the children. Then I discovered a scripture that gave me hope—Isaiah 11:9 [Isa. 11:9]: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

While this scripture describes the Millennium, I believe it was a powerful answer to my question, “How can we influence the children?” Primary and homes can help children more when they are filled with the “knowledge of the Lord.”

Ongoing scripture study provides comfort as well as an increase in knowledge and understanding of gospel principles.

Handbooks and Resources: Handbooks are an important source of help in Church callings. Study the handbooks and supplements—become a handbook authority in your calling. Find out about other teaching resources, such as video presentations, that are available through Church distribution centers.

Councils: Sitting in council with priesthood leaders is another valuable resource for help in Church callings. President Stephen L Richards, First Counselor in the First Presidency in 1953, said, “I have no hesitancy in giving you the assurance, if you will confer in council as you are expected to do, God will give you solutions to the problems that confront you” (quoted in Ensign, Nov. 1993, p. 76).

Councils can happen in many more settings than the established ward and stake council meetings: they take place in presidency meetings, in leadership meetings, and in the home. Councils are where we listen to one another and share concerns. Councils are where we solve problems and formulate and implement plans to help one another.

Recognizing the Spirit: Often new teachers are uncertain if they are teaching by the Spirit. How do we know when the Spirit is present? The Spirit manifests itself in different ways. It can cause a burning in our bosoms, eliminate confusion and bring peace to our minds, lead us to do good, fill our souls with joy, and bring us faith and love (see D&C 6:23; D&C 9:7–9; D&C 11:12–13; Gal. 5:22–23). The Spirit also can help teachers know what questions to ask, the needs of the children, and what to emphasize in the lesson for certain children.

When you feel these things while teaching, when you see the students’ desire to do good, when you feel peace and love and joy in your classroom, please share these feelings with your students. Please help young people identify the Spirit in their lives. That will be such a powerful blessing for them.

Each of these resources will help teachers and leaders strengthen their skills and be better prepared to fulfill their Church callings. As they do this, I know that Heavenly Father will bless and strengthen them and fill their minds and hearts with ways to bless the children.Patricia P. Pinegar, Primary general president; from her address given at a March 1995 Primary open house.