“I think our experience of not being able to have children has influenced our feelings about family home evening,” says Sister Kristi Collins of Oahu, Hawaii. “Many times I’ve heard other couples say they think family home evenings are just for families with children. With or without children, my husband and I are a family. We became a family when we knelt across from each other in the Portland Oregon Temple and were sealed together for time and all eternity. Having children would increase the size of our family, but even without children, family home evening has been a great blessing to our marriage.”
“Often our schedules are so busy during the week that setting aside one evening to focus on our family is vital and allows us to do more than just meet in passing,” says Kristi’s husband, Jeffery Collins. “Family home evening provides the opportunity to bear our testimonies to each other. I think husbands can take the initiative to make sure it happens. We shouldn’t wait for our wives to remind us that it is our turn to plan a lesson or activity. I don’t think family home evening should be so structured that the same routine is followed week after week. We like to have variety.”
It is important to realize that family home evening is not just for families with children; many couples will spend all or a large part of their lives together without children in the home. When couples are obedient and give family home evening top priority, it can be a means of spiritual nourishment, growth, and fun at any age or in any circumstance.
Because each couple is different, husbands and wives can select the approach that uniquely suits their situation and best meets their needs. For most families, Monday night is the best time to hold family home evening because that night is kept free of Church meetings and activities.
In 1978 the First Presidency promised, “As you faithfully plan and hold quality family home evenings, you will gain strength to withstand the temptations of the world and will receive many blessings which will help qualify you to enjoy your families through eternity in the Celestial Kingdom.”1
Brother and Sister Collins like to use some of their family home evenings as an opportunity to serve. They write letters to missionaries, take food to local food banks, donate blood at the Red Cross center, and take cookies or treats to less-active members. They also like to clean up trash along the beach and help others learn English.
Dave and Karene Warby, a young couple from Anaheim, California, have found their biggest challenge to holding family home evening is making it official. “Every night could be family night because we spend most of our evenings together,” Sister Warby says. “When we make it official every Monday night and open with prayer it seems we have an easier time staying connected and communicating with each other that week. I think it’s important to establish a habit from the beginning.”
Dave and Karene both enjoy reading and discussing the scriptures and other good books, as well as riding bikes, followed by making cookies and ice cream. Brother and Sister Warby, both returned missionaries, have also enjoyed discussing their missions in combined family home evenings with their brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews.
Ryan and Kate McFarland of Ann Arbor, Michigan, say that with school and work, their biggest challenge to holding family home evening has been time. The McFarlands like to start with a prayer, sing a song, have a lesson, enjoy some kind of activity, then close with prayer. Before their son was born, they regularly invited new couples in their ward to share family home evening as a way to reach out and build friendships.
“When we have a prayer and lesson we invite the Spirit into our home and we’re better able to apply the gospel to our personal lives,” Sister McFarland says. “I think holding regular family home evening, even when there were just the two of us, helped set a pattern of obedience and got us into the habit early in our married life.”
“Holding family home evening gives us a chance to discuss the gospel more often,” Brother McFarland says. “If the gospel of Jesus Christ is our foundation, it will see us through whatever we have to face in our marriage. I notice a real difference if we miss a week. When we don’t take care of the important things like family home evening, it’s hard to keep a healthy balance in our lives, because we lack the Spirit.”
When the McFarlands moved into their previous ward, they were given a notebook from their bishop that included information on how to strengthen the family. They sometimes draw from that notebook for lessons. McFarland family home evening favorite activities include home haircuts, game nights, throwing Frisbees at the park, and going on hikes.
“I write ‘family home evening’ on my calendar and give it top priority,” Brother McFarland says. “I know we’ve been blessed with the Spirit and greater unity in our marriage.”
Many couples find that consistently holding family home evening after all the children leave home presents new challenges and opportunities. William and Ruth Williams, of Jacksonville, Illinois, looked for and found several solutions that worked for them.
“My husband and I found it difficult to keep having family home evening after all the children left home,” Sister Williams says. “Although we knew how important it was to our family’s closeness, sometimes it just didn’t happen. When we didn’t hold family home evening, I noticed we had less contact with our grown children. When we did have it, I personally felt less alone and seemed to have more contact with our children. My husband and I tried a variety of things to help restore our closeness to each other and to our children. Among our solutions were watching movies from the library, having the missionaries for dinner, inviting single mothers over with their children, having grandchildren over, and writing letters to the missionaries. Because my husband and I work different schedules, we plan our family night on whatever day we get off together.”
Making some kind of contact with grown children and grandchildren on a regular basis helps families keep in touch and sets a pattern of contact and caring. Some couples plan a combined family night at regular times with their adult children and grandchildren who live close by and then celebrate all the birthdays or special occasions in the family for that month. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “We enjoy extended family home evenings once a month with all available members of our family. At that time we also celebrate family birthdays. Many names are written on each birthday cake.”2
Some couples find it helpful to make weekly plans during each family home evening. Others take turns presenting a lesson or planning an activity. It doesn’t matter so much how they plan or implement family home evening, only that they’re consistent and give their family relationship the priority, time, and nourishment it deserves.
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “An eternal bond doesn’t just happen as a result of sealing covenants we make in the temple. How we conduct ourselves in this life will determine what we will be in all the eternities to come. To receive the blessings of the sealing that our Heavenly Father has given to us, we have to keep the commandments and conduct ourselves in such a way that our families will want to live with us in the eternities.”3
When couples arrange their lives to include quality family home evenings, they invite the Spirit into their marriages and build a solid foundation of love. Consistent, quality home evenings, combined with obedience to other gospel teachings, will help form a strong foundation of love, joy, and peace that can bind a family together forever.
Read and discuss the scriptures or research a gospel question.
Take turns presenting lessons from the family home evening manual.
Write in journals or work on family research.
Invite a single sister or brother to participate in a family home evening with you.
Read and discuss a Church magazine article.
Read and discuss patriarchal blessings.
Write letters, send e-mails, or telephone family members.
Write to missionaries or invite the missionaries over.
Research a topic you want to learn more about such as auto repair, cooking, decorating, yard work, food storage, or home maintenance.
Read and discuss the First Presidency message, visiting teaching message, conference talks, or next week’s priesthood and Relief Society lesson.
Read and discuss next week’s Sunday School lesson.
Invite a nonmember family to your home.
Select an aspect of your relationship you would like to improve; then search the scriptures and other good resources for guidance.
Ask what aspect of life is most challenging to your spouse and discuss ways you can be more supportive.
Ask your spouse what makes him or her feel loved; then express your love in ways your spouse most appreciates.