This year we celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the First Presidency letter that introduced family home evening as an official program of the Church. At first, local leaders were requested to set aside one day a month where members would have no scheduled church activities so families could spend a night at home together. Later, in 1970, the First Presidency officially changed this request to the weekly Monday night we are now familiar with.
While most of us know that family home evening is intended to help us keep our families close to each other and to the Lord, many of us struggle as we alternately try to hold regular FHEs and . . . don’t. Time is tight and energy and interest levels are often at a seemingly all-time low whenever family time comes around. Are there practical solutions to this weekly challenge—I mean blessing?
Before I dive into some suggestions, here’s a little background on me and why I have something to say on the subject.
I was raised in a strong LDS family where my parents really embraced the lifestyle. I have four older brothers and a younger sister, so our house was pretty busy. From my perspective, we did everything pretty well except family home evening and family scripture study. Bless my parents’ hearts, they tried. . . and tried . . . and tried, but finally they just gave it up.
I had enough positive experiences with family home evening to fall in love with the idea, but before I was out of elementary school, family home evening had become a thing of the past.
Regardless, I still loved the idea and, although the family I grew up in wasn’t very successful at it, I committed to figuring out how to have regular, positive family home evening and scripture study when I had a family of my own.
After I got married and my daughter was in her terrible/terrific/Tasmanian Devil 2-year-old year, I felt it was time to get more organized. Up to that point, we had had a lot of unplanned family time, but nothing thought-out, gospel-oriented, and regular. It was time to figure this out, just as I had committed to myself that I would. And . . . I did!
Since then, now eight years later, I have become an expert at giving great FHEs in a flash. We do family home evening come rain, shine, holidays, or sickness, and not because we’re “supposed” to. We do it because we enjoy the benefits. Plus, it’s so easy! The way we do FHE, it’s almost just as easy to do it as not to, so why wouldn’t we? Once I was really sick all day long and still pulled off one of the best FHEs we’d had to that point.
So, what are my suggestions?
1. Have a go-to resource for lesson and activity ideas.
Whether you are using an FHE idea book, gospel art pictures, a scripture story, or an idea off of the internet, have a plan before it’s family time. This takes a huge amount of stress off of you. If you are prepared, you can focus on your family instead of figuring out what you are going to do. That’s why I wrote FHEasy: A Year of Weekly Teachings and Daily Devotionals, so when it was time for FHE, all I had to do was open the book, scan the plan, and go for it.
2. Do your best to get mentally and emotionally prepared to have a good time with your family.
Take a minute to detach from your to-do list, the housework and homework, the phone calls you need to make, etc. This is family time. Block everything else out.
It’s a good idea to have a little routine to help you tune in. Turn off the technology, take the phone off the hook, close the curtains, and lock the doors if that’s what it takes for you to focus. Take a couple deep breaths, imagine having a good time, and say a prayer. Having a short routine can help you show up to FHE in a positive mood and in tune not only with your family but with the Spirit, because heaven knows sometimes you need that help during family home evening. You may need to support family members who aren’t so happy, patiently deal with siblings that are pestering each other, or more ideally, to be given guidance and wisdom in what you say or do to bring your family closer to each other and to God.
3. Make sure the timing works well for your family and consider connecting family home evening with a regular family meal.
On lds.org it says, “Be consistent. Monday nights are set aside by the Church for family home evening. If that doesn’t work, find a night that does.” The reason I suggest combining family home evening with a regular meal is simple: everyone’s there! You don’t have to round the family up again. We sit down, have our meal-and-family-home-evening prayer, and whoever’s in charge of the lesson starts us off with a scripture, song, quote, or scripture story. We go through the points in the lesson that we want to discuss, go off on any related tangents that come to mind, and then clean up. If we have time we naturally go into some kind of activity: the one in the book, a spontaneous family dance, playing outside, drawing or coloring, or making a quick treat.
4. Put together a family home evening activity box.
Get a box and go through your house gathering up things your family likes to do together. If you want to, you can stock the box with store-bought items as well. My kids are between the ages of four and 10, so our box has toy cars, toy dinosaurs, bubbles, balloons, poppers, a kids’ joke book, a how-to-make-different-paper-airplanes book, marshmallows for s’mores, and microwave popcorn. When I first came up with the FHE activity box idea, it took me about 15 minutes to go through my house and gather things up so I had plenty of FHE activities my family loves to do, ready to go. After the lesson, one of my kids likes to choose an activity out of the box, and we have fun every time.
5. Check your expectations.
If family home evening isn’t working for your family, think about what you are expecting and how you could change things for the better.
• Do you expect everyone to act a certain way or you consider FHE unsuccessful? If so, it’s wise to remember that probably no one acts exactly like you’d like them to, so expecting everyone to follow your script is a setup for frustration.
• Is Monday night not working for you? How about Sunday afternoon or Thursday night or Saturday morning? Try a different time or day to see if it works better for your family.
• Is an hour too long for you to fit in or for your family to focus? Try a 15-minute lesson during dinner and a little play time afterward.
• Does your family love art? Make sure to include drawing, coloring, or some kind of art. Is your family really active? Get outside and play! Do you love music? Have a dance or jam session.
Whatever your situation is, please remember that just as “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), family home evening was made for the family, not the other way around! God loves and cares for you and your family and will guide you as you follow His prophets’ counsel to have family home evening regularly.
Happy Home Evenings!
Lead image from Getty Images.
Christina Shelley Albrecht graduated from BYU with a degree in Linguistics and a master's certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). In the course of getting married and having children, she realized the need for books to support parents in having practical, effective, and fun family home evenings and daily scripture study. She originally compiled FHEasy: A Year of Weekly Teachings and Daily Devotionals for her family but also shared it with some friends. The feedback was so positive that she decided to publish it for all LDS families to enjoy. She invites you to visit her website at fheasy.com.