Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. The start of school brings cooler mornings, Friday night lights, and a chance for fresh starts and new beginnings. As we start a new school year and anticipate all the glorious possibilities or possible trepidation that may lie ahead, there is one class in a high schooler’s schedule that can be a huge resource for parents—seminary. And as with anything, the more you know and the more involved you are, the better your child’s experience can be.
So after polling the collective brilliant minds of some seminary teachers and drawing from my own experience as a parent and seminary teacher, there are a handful of things I think every parent should understand as their child starts a new year. Here are five tips that I believe can help both you and your child get off to a good start with seminary and make the most of the opportunity to come closer to Christ.
1. It is worth the sacrifice.
In talking about enrolling in seminary, Elder Boyd K. Packer once said, “You will never regret it; this I promise you.” I have seen so many blessings from seminary in the lives of my kids and my students, and I can promise you that Elder Packer’s words are true: you won’t regret enrolling in seminary. Even though you may need to wake up earlier in the morning or take time out of your busy school schedule, the blessings far outweigh the sacrifices it takes to be there. President Gordon B. Hinckley explained some of the blessings that come from attending seminary. He said, “Your knowledge of the gospel will be increased, your faith will be strengthened, and you will develop wonderful associations and friendships.”
2. Scriptures are more relevant and helpful than kids and parents might think.
Although the scriptures are ancient and often difficult to understand, our prophet has promised that answers to life’s problems can be found within these pages as we spend time studying them. President Russell M. Nelson has said, “From events portrayed in the scriptures, new insights will come and principles relevant to your situation will distill upon your heart.” Our goal in seminary is to help our students have straightforward and converting experiences with the Savior’s life. As we share and discuss His teachings in the scriptures, we also help our students see the relevant and applicable lessons within the scriptures and how they can apply them in their lives today.
3. Seminary is a tool to use in your home-centered approach to living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We teachers try to create an environment of belonging and love in our classroom, so many students feel comfortable asking tough questions in seminary. While every teacher I know loves questions and the discussions that can follow, it is vitally important that these discussions happen at home too. One of the best ways to maximize the investment of time and effort in seminary is for parents to have regular conversations with their teens about the lessons they’re learning and the experiences they are having.
Here are some things that have helped me and my kids have open conversations at home when they have a question on their mind:
- Connection is never convenient—and teenagers usually want to talk at the most inconvenient times. Put away your distractions, sit up in bed, and listen. It is in those moments when they feel seen and heard that they often feel safe enough to ask the questions that have been on their minds.
- Questions are a good thing, so don’t shy away from asking them or talking about them. In fact, Elder M. Russell Ballard has said, “Gone are the days when a student asked an honest question and a teacher responded, ‘Don't worry about it!’ Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue.” Ask your teenager what questions they have or ask them how they can find answers to their questions. You can also search for answers together and encourage them to turn to their seminary teacher and class for additional guidance if they feel comfortable doing so.
- Openly discuss your process of how you receive answers to your questions.
- Practice your poker face! When your child comes to you with questions, concerns, and possible mistakes, do not act surprised, scared, or disappointed. Have confidence in your (and your child’s) ability to receive personal revelation and grace through the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Your response will either give them the confidence to find answers and seek peace, or it may cause them to feel shame, silencing valuable future conversations.
4. Seminary is a valuable resource in helping your child stay connected to Heavenly Father and the Savior throughout the week.
In addition to your regular family study, seminary provides support in helping your child feel strengthened and focused spiritually each week. School can be a tough environment for teenagers—especially when they feel bombarded with messages that they are not enough. Seminary is an opportunity to actively combat those messages of self-doubt. Some of my students regularly refer to seminary as “an escape” from the anxieties and pressures of school because they know it can be a safe place to feel God’s love and understand their divine identity.
5. Seminary (or you) won’t save your child—the Savior will.
Your child’s seminary attendance alone won’t lead to their salvation, but teachers do their best to invite their students to always follow the Savior. Supporting the class, helping your child stay off games and social media during seminary, and encouraging them to attend are important things you can do to help teachers in their efforts to invite your child to the Savior.
You can also communicate openly with your child’s teacher. If there is a question or a concern, reach out. I am forever grateful for the parents who have reached out to inform me of a situation their student is going through. As a teacher, I will always pray and seek guidance, make an adjustment if needed, or tailor a lesson or thought in a way that may help an individual student.
We’re in this together and we want to help in making loads lighter, in lifting burdens, and in supporting you in your efforts to help your children “come unto Him and partake of His goodness.”