“The Encouragement Council,” Ensign, June 1987, 68
Family home evening was an eventful one that night since both sets of grandparents were with the family. After an opening prayer and song, Mother said with an optimistic smile, “Please tell the person on your right what you appreciate about him.” Before everyone had had a chance to respond, tears of joy and friendship had filled the home. The family felt a spirit of love and unity.
This was only one of many “Encouragement Councils” this family has held. The Encouragement Council is a time set aside for family members to express positive feelings about one another. It can be held regularly at the beginning of family home evening or family council, or at any time parents feel it is appropriate. The council not only helps individuals feel better about themselves, it helps the family members appreciate one another’s strengths and develop mutual respect and Christian love.
Before each council, the person in charge of the Encouragement Council chooses two or three discussion questions from the following list, or makes up his own questions.
What is something you do well?
What is something you like about yourself?
What would you like our family to do to help bring us closer together?
What do you appreciate about other family members?
What is something you have done better recently?
What is something our family has improved upon recently?
What is something that you would like to do for someone in the family this week?
What is something nice a family member did for you this past week?
What is something you would like to work on improving in your life?
After opening the council, the person in charge asks a question, then lets each family member respond to it before he moves ahead.
Family members of all ages can participate in the Encouragement Council. Children too young to respond verbally can listen and still feel a part of the group. Grandparents or other extended family members can also be involved. But participation is voluntary, and if children choose not to take part of the discussion, respect their agency.
Problems sometimes arise during these sessions, but learning to solve problems is also an important function of the council. Deal with disagreements in a positive way by encouraging family members to discuss their feelings rather than attack the character of another person. If emotions are running too high, set aside another time to talk about the problem.
The Encouragement Council doesn’t always have to be a formal meeting; the questions can also be discussed at the dinner table or while traveling in the car. But no matter where or when these councils are held, they can become a treasured family time.—John Nield, Spanish Fork, Utah