Parents can do much to strengthen their families, communities, and nations by holding more effective family home evenings. Parents are accountable to God for teaching and rearing their children properly; they have the responsibility to lead their families in gospel learning and to make sure their children know the scriptures and counsel of modern prophets and apostles. Effective family home evenings help parents fulfill this great responsibility.
Since the early 1900s prophets and apostles have counseled families to learn and have fun together at least once each week. Many families throughout the world hold weekly family home evenings. In fact, Monday evenings were set aside by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for family home evening. There are no Church meetings or temple sessions scheduled on Monday evenings to allow Church leaders and members to be with their families.
In a recent presentation at BYU Campus Education Week, Darren E. Schmidt, a seminary instructor in the Church Educational System, shared some of his ideas for enhancing family home evening and scripture study.
Brother Schmidt knows that rearing a family is hard work and takes much time. That is just one of the reasons why he believes parents must make family home evening as effective as possible through lessons, songs, and prayer. He believes that “time together as a family is critical to building testimonies and strengthening relationships.” He believes this can be accomplished by “focusing on simple, practical elements” to “enhance their time together.”
Brother Schmidt shared eight suggestions for parents to consider doing. (1) Be consistent in holding family home evening. Teaching and training children is a process, not a product.
(2) Work together with your spouse and be united in your efforts – one spouse could be in charge of discipline while the other makes things happen.
(3) Make family home evening inspired and purposeful. “By the family being prepared the Spirit is able to teach. In those moments the Lord will often inspire parents to teach something that their child may have questions about or have a desire to learn more about. It is as parents are purposeful in their preparations, the Lord will be able to prepare the hearts of the learners.
(4) Plan far enough in advance to the children and to help them prepare their assignments.
(5) Be a shepherd, not a sheepherder. “A shepherd knows his sheep, and the sheep know him. They can hear the voice of the shepherd and are reliant on him. They come when they hear him call…. A simple five- or ten-minutes warning before family home evening … helps children to finish what they are doing” and come prepared to participate. “A five-minute warning shows you are respectful of their time. It is less forceful and creates an atmosphere with the Spirit.”
(6) Be sure every person has a role to play in the meeting. Each family member should have an assignment of some kind for family home evening. Each person should have some form of the scriptures to hold and read during scripture study. Family home evening is a good time and place for families to set or update family goals.
(7) Educate yourselves. Parents have many resources available to them for teaching their children. The Church websites such as lds.org have many materials available to help.
(8) Use the scriptures consistently. “Just as important as it is to hold family home evening, it is important to spend time in the scriptures and focusing on Christ. Fun and games are good for families, but teaching children while they are young how to have a relationship with their Heavenly Father is the most important duty as a parent. As parents make a point to study together from the scriptures, they are able to teach and testify as they learn together.”
These eight ideas are good suggestions to aid parents in holding effective family home evenings with their children. As parents improve their family home evenings, they will strengthen their families, communities, and nations.