If you feel that your family scripture study sometimes (or maybe even often) falls short of what it is “supposed to look like,” then consider this:
Done is better than perfect.
This has been our family’s strategy throughout the years, and it has proved to be a good one…because our scripture study is not exactly a scene from a church video.
A typical daily family scripture study for us find me standing in the hallway at 6:45 a.m., halfway between the family room where I can read to both the younger kids who are curled up on the couch, wrapped in blankets, and appearing to be asleep, and my 17-year old daughter who is curling her hair and getting ready for school. Sometimes I pile up the blankets outside the doorway of the bathroom and we read there, or on rushed mornings I read to them as they are eating a bowl of cereal. About every other verse or so I take roll call to see who is awake or paying attention, and when I ask a question, only the 8-year old seems to have anything to say.
I’ve worried for years that I wasn’t doing enough.
And then came the evidence that with our consistent efforts, Heavenly Father has made up the difference. One letter, and then another, and still another, came from my oldest son who is currently serving a mission in Bangkok, Thailand. In essence, his letters read, “Thank you so much for getting us up every morning to read scriptures. I know it didn’t seem like I was listening, but I was. That is how I learned the gospel and got my testimony.”
So…apparently, he wasn’t asleep all that time. Apparently, enough of those scriptures managed to make their way into his head and heart for a testimony to take root in those early mornings. Apparently, the consistency of doing scripture reading almost every single morning for most of his life was enough…better, in fact, than the picture in my head of what it was supposed to look like. More than once he has told us how grateful he is that we read the scriptures every day, and how much what I felt was “imperfect scripture study” has given him a strong foundation for his mission and his life.
I’m hoping his younger siblings still at home are taking note.
If you are wondering if your sporadic or less-than-perfect family study sessions are doing any good, try looking at it through a different lens. In between the resistance and complaining and “sleeping” and maybe even bickering and fighting, tiny miracles are happening.
The truth is, done is better than perfect. Consistency will send our families a message, loud and clear, that the gospel is a priority to us. Maybe even more important, it teaches them that their own imperfect but committed efforts are enough. Because in the end, perfection is a myth and impossible to attain. What a gift we give our children when help them avoid falling into the perfectionism trap.
Knowing that consistency is important is only half the equation, however. The other problem we need to solve is how to do it.
For our family, answering the 5 W’s of Scripture Study – Who, What, When, Where, and Why – has been the key.
- Know WHO is expected to be at family scripture study. This may seem obvious, but a deliberate discussion about the importance of having every family member attend can help everyone feel more committed. You might have to get creative (think of me reading from the hallway into the bathroom and family room) but it will reinforce how much you value the gospel, and each family member, when you make adjustments so everyone can be present for family scripture study.
- Know WHAT you will be studying. With so much access to all the standard works and other gospel content, it’s essential that we eliminate the guesswork and have a clear go-to plan for what we will read each day. Perhaps you follow the Come, Follow Me outline, study conference talks, or have set a goal to read the Book of Mormon on a timeline that works for your family. Give yourself a big high five for studying the gospel in whatever way you feel is most inspired for your family, and then make it easy by having your study schedule determined in advance.
- Know WHEN you will study. As with personal study, having a regularly scheduled time for scripture reading is critical. To help the family come together more easily, try thinking of scripture study as having a start time, like church or school. Better family cooperation also comes when everyone has a clear expectation of just how much time they are committing to be there. One organizing strategy that helps with scripture study is “Just Take Ten…” as in ten minutes. I tell my family, “You can do anything for ten minutes.” (And on crazy mornings, we adjust to “Just Take Two!”)
- Know WHERE you will study – This might seem overly technical, but for a scripture-reading culture to develop in your family, it has to be easy to know where to gather. Maybe it’s on the couch before school or bed, maybe it’s in the kitchen while the kids eat breakfast, or maybe it’s in the car while you drive to work or school. Whatever your family circumstances, establish a regular location so the habit can form for everyone.
- Know WHY you study – Never miss an opportunity to reinforce why you prioritize scripture study. As you plan with your family how to implement gospel learning, or thank the family for gathering at the appointed time, or when you are troubleshooting and making adjustments, knowing WHY you are making such an effort will help your family all buy into the same vision. This kind of support creates important momentum that helps family scripture study become consistent and regular.
And one last WHAT to help you be successful…remember WHAT you will tell yourself if you start to question if all this effort is worth it, or if you wonder if you are really doing enough: Done is better than perfect! We are a product of what we do every day, and as we consistently study the gospel with our family, it will guide them to living the kind of life God would have them live – even if everything isn’t picture perfect.
Jenny Layton helps women stop settling for a life they don’t love. As a professional organizer, productivity expert, and mindset coach, Jenny creates signature systems, routines, and vision to organize homes, families and businesses, freeing her clients from clutter so they can focus on what matters most. Jenny is a blogger, speaker, author, a regular guest on KUTV Fresh Living, a wife to a very supportive husband, and a relatively sane mother of 5, which she considers her highest achievement.