“Looking for a Family Home Evening Lesson?” Ensign, July 1999, 22
Perhaps you wonder, like many, where to get fresh ideas to prepare family home evening lessons. Maybe the answer is closer than you think: the Family Home Evening Resource Book. A whole generation has grown up with this valuable tool shaping their family home evenings, yet the array of timeless ideas and activities offered in the book never gets old.
To look afresh at this valuable resource, the Ensign invited several families to use the Family Home Evening Resource Book for two months, then report back. We mailed them a copy of the book and invited their comments. As families turned to the resource book, many rediscovered the detailed lessons and lesson helps that have made the book a favorite tool of Church members for years. Following is a selection of responses from those who participated.
As families turned to the resource book, some after several years of disuse, they seemed pleasantly surprised at the rich treasure awaiting in its pages to assist parents as they prepare family home evenings.
Mark and Judy Young, Layton, Utah—We were excited and inspired by the rediscovery of the family home evening manual that’s been sitting on our shelf for years! We have five children ages 6 months to 15 years, and for a long time we invented our own lessons and activities, which could be both time intensive and frustrating as we tried to deal with multiple attention spans and interest levels. The resource book lists suggestions for adapting the lessons for younger children, and we’ve found them very useful. I personally found the section “Making Home Evenings Successful” the best part of the manual. The supplemental videos are excellent, and we use them often during family home evening and on Sunday.
Our home evenings are far from perfect or even very smooth, but the suggestions and approaches contained in the manual have helped us in our efforts to teach our children the gospel and to build harmony in our home.
John and Becky Christensen, Nampa, Idaho—When I informed the family about our commitment to use the resource book, they were hesitant, but enthusiasm took over when the manual arrived.
Anne, 18, gave the first lesson. Steven, 16, actually volunteered to give the next lesson. He prepared without being reminded and even had visual aids. He used lots of humor and did a great job. Kasen, 8, did not want to be left out, and he and Anne worked on a lesson together. It was touching to see the two cooperate. They grew closer because of the experience.
Rusty and Marguerite Hancock, Palo Alto, California—Marguerite: Amid the demands of busy schedules, we all look forward to being together in family home evening. We have felt the power of lessons week after week and the joy of learning, doing, and sharing together in a gospel framework.
Rusty: I appreciate the resource book. It has a comprehensive list of topics, and we want to teach each of them at some point to our family. I have appreciated the abundance of material in each lesson that we can use—or not use—as we choose.
I value finding numerous references to scriptures. We have firm convictions that the program is inspired, and we can trace much of the spiritual strength of our family to regular family home evenings.
For some, the lessons from the resource book opened doors to memorable experiences that strengthened testimonies and brought families closer together.
Robert and Suzanne Hall, Madrid, Spain—Our children found the lessons very interactive. For lesson 3, “The Gospel in Our Daily Lives,” we all sat down to dinner, but before we said the blessing, Dad entered into a discussion of the food and then went around the table and had everyone tell what they liked about the meal. We were getting really hungry when he excused us all from the table and asked us to go to the family room! There he talked about how food strengthened our physical bodies and then tied this into how our spirits, too, needed nourishment. We were really hungry by the time we returned to the dinner table. Our son Tyson, 13, remarked, “This made us realize how much we need to feed our spirits!”
Using the resource book provided us with structure and consistency from week to week. We followed the suggested activities and added our own thoughts and experiences, which stimulated our creativity and added a personal touch to the lessons. The Spirit of the Holy Ghost was strong, even during our preparation time.
Scharlotte and Gaylon Smith, Norman, Oklahoma—Our son Gaylon gave a lesson on getting answers to prayers. He asked his dad a question from the resource book—I can’t recall exactly what the question was, but the Spirit just filled the room. His dad started to cry as he shared with us the story about why we moved to Oklahoma—how he knew, without a doubt, that we should move here. It took me by surprise because even though we had prayed about the decision, Gaylon had never shared that story with me. He said that other than asking me to marry him, it was the strongest spiritual confirmation he had ever received.
I feel the Lord’s hand is in this manual to give us these kinds of teaching moments and spiritual experiences with our families. Our leaders were inspired when they put this book together, and we should use it more.
Fred and Carolyn Ward, Moline, Illinois—As a young family we tried holding family home evenings, but as the children grew and became involved in ever more activities, we really struggled. When this opportunity to participate in the Ensign project came along, we agreed that we would all take part.
I gave the lesson the first week, and each week thereafter one of the children took a turn. When it was Laura’s turn, we felt some success as the family discussed the lesson. At the conclusion, Laura said, “It says here I should bear my testimony. I don’t know what to say.” I said to her, “Do you believe the things you just told us are true?” “Yes,” she replied. “Then that is your testimony. You simply say you know these things are true.” It was a beautiful teaching moment, and I was suddenly very glad we were holding family home evening again as we should.
We plan to continue to use the Family Home Evening Resource Book for our lessons. We know we will see even more rewards in our family if we do so. No, we are not a perfect family, but we have made great improvements in our relationships with each other in the short time we have been using the book. It is amazing to see the understanding our children have of gospel principles as we watch them teach family home evening lessons. It’s a wonderful feeling to be back on track.
Families with school-age children found a number of benefits from relying on the resource book. Not only did parents see children grow as they prepared lessons, but they also began to experience the carryover effect of lessons.
Brent and Becky Anderson, Chantilly, Virginia—Participating in the Ensign project provided an incentive for us to have better organized family home evenings. Using the resource book, I realized I could pull together a great lesson in a short time full of gospel themes and attention-getting activities.
The first week my children made a poster to hang on the refrigerator, which we all signed as a commitment to live the principle we talked about. It served as a reminder all week. There were also great ideas for future lessons, which we could carry over for several weeks.
One day my six-year-old asked me how many more days until family night. When I told her “Three,” she replied, “Good, because then we can learn what Jesus wants us to do.” There has been a peaceful spirit in our home since we committed to holding a more organized family home evening.
Cathy and Paul Ehlert, Salt Lake City, Utah—We rotated assignments, and each of us selected a topic and prepared a lesson with ease because of the wealth of information and activities available. Many lessons in the resource book had good follow-up activities.
Stephanie, 11, prepared a lesson on friendship on her own. She gave stories and examples, encouraged discussion with questions provided in the lesson, then challenged us to be better friends in the coming weeks. This was impressive to me.
The “Family Activities” section of the resource book provides wonderful ideas for games. With our busy lives, my husband and I find family home evenings are our best time to play with our children. Our time together has become memorable and valuable in helping us to bond together as a family.
John and Maryanne VanDenBerghe, Lincoln, Nebraska—As we gave the lessons from the resource book, I watched our children, ages two to nine, sit and listen to every word. When we used the book, our children responded more because there was more structure to our lessons. Now my daughter Brooke brings her scriptures to family night because she knows that every lesson will have a scripture to look up. Sometimes she comes to me and asks, “Which scripture shall I look up now so I can be ready for family night?” All the children seem to be getting into the spirit of it.
There are things we do in the lessons that carry over. One lesson suggested we make a chart to remind us to make decisions as Jesus would want us to. For the next week the girls came home from school and wrote down on the chart the decisions they’d had to make. It was one of those lessons that the children really thought about during the week.
The resource book has made a vast difference in our Monday nights. Our family home evenings are just so much better than they used to be.
Suzanne Chapple, Tallahassee, Florida—I have only two of my seven children left at home—a 17-year-old and a 5-year-old. After my husband died, I realized I had let my older daughter’s lack of enthusiasm affect my determination to go ahead and have a family home evening activity with my youngest, which was not fair to her. With the challenge from the Ensign, I decided to change!
The resource book’s strength for me is in its adaptability to any family situation. I realized it is truly a resource book, not a manual. But its strengths cannot bless my family unless I seek and respond to the influence of the Spirit as I prepare the lessons. It has been a help to me as we get on with this new stage of life.
Doug and Ann De Burgh, Cypress, California—My husband is the bishop of our ward, and I am in the stake Young Women presidency, so we do not have a lot of extra time. The manual has been a very helpful resource and an excellent way to teach children how to give lessons.
The principles never change, so the lessons are always appropriate. Our daughter, Christine, 19, told us that she gets a lot out of the lessons, whether giving the lesson or listening. If she has a problem she has been praying about, she says she often receives answers through these lessons.
Dan and LeAnne Hoopes, St. George, Utah—Probably the biggest asset of the past few weeks, when we’ve tried so hard to be consistent with family home evening, has been to see our 9-year-old give a lesson out of the book. When a 9-year-old can do it as well as an 18-year-old, that’s pretty good.
Lynn and Paulette Jensen, Ontario, Oregon—We especially liked the lesson on family unity. It had a story about a family that seemed to be doing everything right but had the wrong spirit. It gave us a chance to discuss where we are and set goals.
Even parents of young children, challenged by short attention spans and the need for simplicity, found help from the Family Home Evening Resource Book.
Aaron and Laura Cheadle, Minneota, Minnesota—The suggestions for young children are especially important since we have five children under seven years of age. The stories are good, and so are the hands-on activities. We don’t have to drag the children in—they want to come. We have been pleasantly surprised.
Kelly and Julie Black, Mesa, Arizona—Before we used the manual, the children had a hard time because Mom and Dad were the only ones doing the talking. One of the best suggestions we found was to make a chart with family home evening assignments and let everybody take turns doing different things. That was especially helpful for our three-year-old. Before, all the children competed for our attention. Now things seem more orderly, and many behavior problems have been eliminated because the children all know they will get a turn to do something each week.
Brent and Sharon Taylor, Manhattan, Kansas—Sharon and I have found the manual helps us to have an organized lesson plan. Family home evening is hard with little children—it’s difficult to keep their attention. The manual has plans for activities and stories that can be adapted to children of all ages. As a result, we are doing a little better in family home evening. We’re working harder on getting our children to sit down and listen to a lesson, which is good practice for them.
The following letter sums up the feelings of many who participated.
Howard and Lisa Sorensen, Oakley, Utah—My husband and I and each of our five children (ages 8 to 17) prepared a lesson from the manual. Even the youngest did this unaided, giving a meaningful lesson with scripture references. I was amazed at the quality of the lessons the children gave.
We have found the resource book to be a great asset and can only wonder why we had not used it before!
The following items, which have been recommended for consideration in preparing family home evenings, can be purchased from Church distribution centers or by ordering from the Church Materials Catalog:
1. Family Home Evening Resource Book (item no. 31106, U.S. $3.50)
2. Family Home Evening Video Supplement (two-hour videocassette with 19 segments on gospel topics cross-referenced to lessons in the Family Home Evening Resource Book,53276, $5.00)
3. Family Home Evening Video Supplement 2 (two-hour videocassette with 21 segments on gospel topics cross-referenced to lessons in the Family Home Evening Resource Book,53277, $5.00)
4. Gospel Art Picture Kit (104 color pictures; kit in plastic box, 34730, $14.25; kit without box, 34735, $11.00; supplement of 56 additional pictures, 34740, $6.00)
5. Church magazines
6. Scripture readers for children (audio- and videocassettes also available):
Book of Mormon Stories (softcover, 170 pages, 54 illustrated stories, 35666, $2.25)
Doctrine and Covenants Stories (softcover, 250 pages, 64 illustrated stories, 31122, $6.00)
Old Testament Stories (softcover, 189 pages, 48 illustrated stories, 31118, $4.00)
New Testament Stories (softcover, 167 pages, 51 illustrated stories, 31119, $4.00)
Scripture Stories (hardcover, 220 pages, 54 stories for intermediate readers, 31120, $7.25)
7. Music resources (also available on audiocassette and compact disc)
Hymns (standard size, green cover, 31243, $3.75)
Children’s Songbook (hardbound spiral, 35395, $8.00)
“Dear Brothers and Sisters:
“We live in a time when selfishness, violence, immorality, and every other form of unrighteousness increases unrestrained in most of the world. The family is being assailed on every side. It is with deep concern that we urge you as parents to gather your children around you and build love, loyalty, and companionship in your homes. You are responsible to teach your children to walk uprightly before the Lord. …
“… We promise you great blessings if you will follow the Lord’s counsel and hold regular family home evenings. We pray constantly that parents in the Church will accept their responsibility to teach and exemplify gospel principles to their children. May God bless you to be diligent in this most important responsibility.
“Sincerely your brethren,
“The First Presidency”