“Successful Family Home Evenings,” Ensign, June 2003, 7
When you begin planning family home evening, is your first question “What will I do for a lesson?” If it is, then read on.
The Church magazines asked readers to share ideas for successful family home evenings. Following are several simple lesson ideas or procedures that can help your family.
Simply giving thanks for the good things in our lives makes a wonderful family home evening and can be used successfully several times a year. James and Kelly Peterson of the Burley 10th Ward, Burley Idaho Stake, enjoyed such a lesson. “One week we had some unexpected challenges and some extraordinary blessings,” writes Sister Peterson. “So we sat as a family and talked about the things we were grateful for. We started with simple things like a home and food. Then we began to notice many things we had taken for granted, and we realized how much the Lord had blessed us. As we expressed gratitude, warmth filled our home; it was a spirit of thankfulness, a feeling of comfort and peace. We felt so close to our Heavenly Father and to each other that night. It was one of our most memorable family home evenings.”
When we combine scripture reading with sharing personal testimony, we always have an inspiring family home evening lesson. Jules and Judith Kon Bofanga of the Ngaba Ward, Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Masina Stake, have had success unifying their family using the scriptures. “It is in our home that we have come to know our Heavenly Father better, thanks to our family home evenings,” writes Sister Bofanga. “Since challenges are never lacking, we turn to our Heavenly Father through prayer and scripture reading. We have gained knowledge, and we have also learned to love and serve one another.”
A familiar hymn can easily become the basis for a family home evening lesson. After singing a hymn as a family, we can read and discuss the text of the hymn and the scriptures listed with it. Music tapes of Church hymns (item no. 52175, U.S. $13.25) or hymns and songs (item no. 52052, U.S. $6.00), available at distribution centers, can help us learn and sing the hymns.
Wendy M. Mitosinka of the Bradshaw Ward, Prescott Arizona Stake, remembers one such lesson from her childhood: “My mother played our piano, and we sang and sang. When we sang ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd,’ I felt the Spirit strongly, and tears came to my eyes. The melody stayed with me, and later I learned to play it on my guitar. Today when things get rough, the hymns I learned as a child bring me peace and happiness.”
Everyone benefits from hearing uplifting personal experiences and testimonies found in the journals of family members and ancestors. We can use family home evening to write in our journals and, when appropriate, to share entries with each other.
Ramona Morreale of the Cannonville Ward, Escalante Utah Stake, writes of a special family home evening when she read from her journal: “I found entries about our children and humorous things they said and did when they were younger. Before long we were all laughing. Our children often ask to have a ‘journal’ lesson again. Sometimes we also read spiritual entries from an ancestor’s journal. This brings great joy and helps us get to know them.”
Church magazines provide many gospel materials and ideas for family home evening lessons. “The First Presidency Message and Visiting Teaching Message, with their many quotes and questions, make great lessons,” writes one reader. “Our family also likes to read and discuss stories in Latter-day Saint Voices and talk about the questions in Questions and Answers.”
An index of gospel topics can be found near the end of each magazine. Families can choose a topic, then read and discuss articles on that topic. Families with small children can find other activity ideas in Sharing Time articles. Teenagers might try making posters like the ones in the New Era by using the same words and creating their own art.
Kathryn Marrett of the Camp Hill Ward, Brisbane Australia Stake, discovered the power of storytelling. “As a mum with small children, I found it a challenge to keep them interested in family home evening,” writes Sister Marrett. “After praying for inspiration, I decided to focus on a different value every month. I chose honesty as the first topic. Soon ideas began to flow, and the children and I began making up stories together about honesty. We made up imaginary children and used them in every story. It was fun to create different situations and explore the results of good and bad choices.
“Now when something needs to be dealt with, such as a bike left in the rain or bad language, we talk about the appropriate value and make up stories featuring the same imaginary children. Of course, these stories are only one way we teach good values. The scriptures and other Church materials provide the foundation for our gospel teachings.”
Victor and Susana Mendoza of the Ramona (Spanish) Branch, Hemet California Stake, have found that rotating the opportunity to teach is an excellent way to come up with innovative lessons. “Our family home evenings are truly exciting,” writes Sister Mendoza. “Our children each take a turn and invent ways to make family home evening different and interesting. For example, Victor Daniel makes invitations and gives them to us in advance so we can be on time. When Jasmin finishes her lesson, she gives us a certificate of achievement for paying attention. Melissa tells us interesting stories she has learned in seminary.
“It wasn’t easy at first, but we put our faith in the Lord, and He has helped us. I testify that holding family home evenings has strengthened our marriage as well as our family. Our bonds of love grow stronger each week. We’re grateful to Jesus Christ for showing us the way and for giving us His Spirit in our home and in our hearts.”
Family unity comes from getting together often. Alfredo and Tita Obial of the Quirino Second Ward, Quezon City Philippines South Stake, are the parents of five sons. “We want to be a forever family,” writes Sister Obial. “We have regular family home evenings to share our talents, learn gospel principles, and have fun. Sometimes we have family councils to discuss our needs and make family decisions. We are grateful for the family home evening program of the Church, which not only brings our family closer together but also brings us closer to our Heavenly Father.”
Family home evening can be a blessing in all our lives, just as it has been in the lives of these families, if we will pray for inspiration; “be of good cheer” (D&C 78:18); meet regularly; and invite the Spirit with music, prayer, and personal testimony. Above all, we shouldn’t let lesson preparation become a barrier to holding family home evening. Sometimes the simplest lessons are the best.
Any gospel topic can become a family home evening lesson when you follow these three simple steps:
Choose one of the gospel resources listed in column A.
Focus on a single topic or idea to keep your lesson simple.
Select any of the teaching methods listed in column B to develop the topic into a lesson.
The following items and many other gospel resources are available from Church distribution centers.
General conference talks (see Church magazines and www.lds.org)
Articles in Church magazines
Hymns (item no. 31243, U.S. $5.00)
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (see Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102)
Relief Society declaration (see Ensign, Nov. 1999, 92–93)
For the Strength of Youth (item no. 36550, no charge)
Young Women theme (item no. 35224, no charge)
The purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood in Aaronic Priesthood: Fulfilling Our Duty to God (item nos. 36412, 36413, 36414, no charge)
“My Gospel Standards” in My Achievement Days (item no. 35317, U.S. $.50)
Ask questions (who, what, where, when, why, how).
Show a picture, chart, or object.
Sing a song.
Give a writing assignment.
Bear your testimony or share a personal experience.
Write important points on a chalkboard or piece of paper and discuss them.
Memorize a scripture.
Draw a picture.
Act out a story.
Show a Church video.