In 1976 the First Presidency stated: “Family home evening is for everyone. It is for families with parents and children, for families with just one parent, and for parents who have no children at home. It is for home evening groups of single adults and for those who live alone or with roommates.” These different family configurations bring different definitions of family home evening. What works for one family, may not be an option for another.
Making FHE Work
I asked a dozen friends from across the United States to share their insights on how to make family home evening successful. There were several areas of differing opinion. Some felt structure was important, for others structure was a no-no. Some felt it was a time to earnestly study the scriptures, others felt it was a time to work and play together, not to preach. In spite of the differences, there were several common themes that emerged in their answers. Here are ten tips to help make a success of your family home evenings.
1. Make it sacred. Treat Monday night as a sacred night, and try your best not to skip it. Just as you would not skip church, do not skip family home evening. Remember this is time invested in your eternal family. Trust that the Lord will bless you, even when your FHEs don’t seem to be working very well, for your consistency and faithfulness.
2. Everyone is present. Everyone should be present to participate in family home evening. That may mean inconvenience at work, at school, or at play, but this is sacred time. When we all know it is going to happen, everyone can plan their activities around family home evening.
3. Everyone has a responsibility. This is “family” home evening, not “Mom and Dad” home evening. Every family member should have the responsibility and opportunity to participate in planning and carrying out the lesson or activity.
From the time they are born our children have had a responsibility. Perhaps our favorite family home evening calling is when a newborn gets to be in charge of the “sunshine committee.” The baby’s responsibility is to bring sunshine and happiness to our evenings. Older children take on responsibility for lessons, songs, treats, etc. A simple responsibility chart can help everyone know what they are invited to do.
4. Everyone participates. There is no sitting on the sidelines. One friend said, “We got our children engaged in FHE by asking direct questions to each child and expecting a solid, well considered answer. A general, ‘Sunday School’ answer like ‘faith’ was not acceptable. We would not go on the next question or the next child until the question was answered with a little more thought.”
If your family home evening is activity focused, everyone should be included and everyone should participate. In some cases, older children can assist younger children in participation.
5. Be flexible and creative. Having a variety of family home evening types keeps things interesting. Have a family talent night, a craft night, a sports night, a testimony-centered or music-centered night. Provide service to neighbors, counsel and plan together, or teach each other the gospel.
6. Have a great treat. Treats can be great motivation for encouraging participation and proper behavior. They also provide a way to extend the evening and the teaching time together. We usually have one of our children in charge of the treat. We help her make it and by so doing, are helping her build cooking skills.
7. Keep focused on the purpose. As the First Presidency stated in 1976, family home evening is to “develop increased personal worth, family unity, love for our fellowmen, and trust in our Father in Heaven.” Family home evening is a time to help each member put on the armor of God in order to gain protection from the “fiery darts” of the adversary facing families.
8. Keep FHE relevant. We listen to what is happening in our children’s lives as they share their experiences. At times we hear of situations that came up at school or church. Topics like the fashion trends, popular movies, divorce, and cheating have all come up. These have become keys to bringing relevance into family home evening lessons.
Lessons can also prepare children for important events such as baptism, temple worship, missions, the birth of a new child, a change in jobs, or moving to a new location. Family home evening can be used to discuss fears, concerns, joys, and other family matters. It can be used to celebrate graduation from pre-school, advancement to Young Men’s or Young Women’s, or other milestones.
9. Testify. Family home evening provides an opportunity to testify by words and actions. As your children see you serve, they will see the value of service. As your children hear your testimony, they will want to develop their own testimony. Children learn more than we know through observation, and family home evening is a great place to share what you know and feel about Heavenly Father, the prophets, temples, and other sacred things.
10. Teach about the Holy Ghost. Perhaps one of the greatest successes parents can have is to effectively teach their children how to feel and recognize the Holy Ghost in their lives. Family home evening provides a great forum to do that. We will recount experiences earlier in the week where we were prompted by the Holy Ghost and discuss what we did and how it felt. We also point out the Spirit when we feel it at our family home evenings.
Continuing to Redefine
I imagine that as the rocking chairs start to get used in the sunset years of our lives, my wife and I will again redefine this inspired program. We will probably put away the file-folder games and our treats will be less elaborate, but we will again discuss life’s experiences – this time from a different vantage point.
As we obey the counsel to hold regular family home evenings we will build a foundation for our forever families and we will obtain the blessings promised to the faithful. And, maybe we really will continue to have family home evening with our heavenly parents. If so, lessons will be inspired, activities will be celestial, and the treats will be divine!