*This post is written for people who are unfamiliar with the ideas of family home evening and scripture study and are wondering what the model in FHEasy is and how they can apply it to their families.
Family Home Evening and Scripture Study: A Model for Nurturing Families on a day-to-day, week-to-week Basis
About a year ago, I went to a conference for authors, speakers, and coaches. I was one of a few people there who were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called LDS or Mormons). During the conference, we got into groups and shared our topics and books and projects. I remember sharing my book with a large and beautiful African American fellow who was an expert in doing business in China. His enthusiasm for life and his work were contagious. Being around him was so uplifting. When I told him I had designed a book whose mission was to help nurture family relationships and teach kids values on a day-to-day basis, he got very excited. As we talked, he finally blurted,
“What’s the model?”
Here’s the answer in three steps:
1 – Once a week, get your family together and introduce the topic for the week, give a little lesson or presentation on the topic, have a discussion about it, and then do something fun that may or may not be related to the topic. Just do something that bonds you as a family: play sports, do some kind of artwork, dance or play music, take a walk, have a treat, watch a video (short is best, like on YouTube or a half hour show, not a full-length feature film), do some kind of service for someone … whatever. In my church, this is called “family home evening” or FHE.
2 – On a daily basis at breakfast, dinner, or right before bed, have a super short follow up discussion on the week’s topic. You can do this by reading a scripture verse on the topic, reading a short story that illustrates the topic, or by sharing a quote on the topic said or written by someone you respect. We call this family scripture study. And while we don’t do in depth and lengthy daily discussions, we do read and discuss a topic for the week, so I find it to be a good “study” that just happens to be done in short spurts over a longer period of time.
3 – Pray as a family before your meals and right before the first person in your family goes to bed. If you aren’t into praying, still set aside that time to share things about your day and focus on what you are grateful for and how you can support each other in your family.
How we do family home evening, family scripture study, and family prayers in a nutshell
Daily, we pray as a family before all our meals and before the first person goes to bed. On Sunday morning before Church, we pick our topic for the week and read the first scripture for the week. Monday morning, we read Monday’s scripture that’s in our book. Monday night we do our weekly family time during our dinner, so we pray over our dinner and our time together first and then have a little lesson and discussion while we eat. The rest of the week we do our daily scripture reading and discussion during breakfast, so there are prayers there, too. And we have family prayer every night as a wonderful way to come together at the close of each day.
Tips for Starting or Building on Your Family Traditions
1 – Have a go-to resource for lesson and activity ideas. Whether you are using an idea book, a scripture story, or an idea off of the internet, have a plan before it’s family time. This takes a huge amount of stress off of you. If you are prepared, you can focus on your family instead of figuring out what you are going to do. That’s why I wrote FHEasy: A Year of Weekly Teachings and Daily Devotionals, so when it was time for FHE, all I had to do was open the book, scan the plan, and go for it. If you’re LDS, I invite you to check out and buy this book. If you’re not, I still invite you to check out the book and look over the format. If you think it would be helpful to you as a springboard for ideas, then buy it. If not, see what ideas come to your mind as you look over the format as to how you would like to organize your family time. A couple of resources to look into are Aesop’s fables and The Children’s Book of Virtues.
2 – Do your best to get mentally and emotionally prepared to have a good time with your family. Take a minute to detach from your to-do list, the housework and homework, the phone calls you need to make, etc. This is family time. Block everything else out.
It’s a good idea to have a little routine to help you tune in. Turn off the technology, take the phone off the hook, close the curtains, and lock the doors if that’s what it takes for you to focus. Take a couple deep breaths, imagine having a good time, and say a prayer. Having a short routine can help you show up to FHE in a positive mood and in tune not only with your family but with the Spirit, because heaven knows sometimes you need that help during family home evening. You may need to support family members who aren’t so happy, patiently deal with siblings that are pestering each other, or more ideally, to be given guidance and wisdom in what you say or do to bring your family closer to each other and to God.
3 – Make sure the timing works well for your family and consider connecting family home evening right along with a regular family meal. I suggest doing the intro right away in the week on Sunday or Monday if possible, because it’s easy to think in weeks. The reason I suggest combining your family time with a regular meal is simple: everyone’s there! You don’t have to round the family up again.
In our family, we sit down, have our meal-and-family-home-evening prayer, and whoever’s in charge of the lesson opens our FHEasy book and starts us off with a scripture, song, quote, or scripture story. We go through the points in the lesson that we want to discuss, go off on any related tangents that come to mind, and then clean up. If we have time we naturally go into some kind of activity: the one in the book, a spontaneous family dance, playing outside, drawing or coloring, or making a quick treat.
4 – Put together a family-fun-activity box. Get a box and go through your house gathering up things your family likes to do together. If you want to, you can stock the box with store-bought items as well. My kids are between the ages of four and ten, so our box has toy cars, toy dinosaurs, bubbles, balloons, poppers, a kids’ joke book, a how-to-make-different-paper-airplanes book, marshmallows for s’mores, and microwave popcorn. When I did first came up with the FHE activity box idea, it took me about fifteen minutes to go through my house and gather things up so I had plenty of FHE activities my family loves to do, ready to go. After the lesson, one of my kids likes to choose an activity out of the box, and we have fun every time.
5 – Check your expectations: have high hopes and low expectations.
- Do you expect everyone to act a certain way or you consider FHE unsuccessful? If so, it’s wise to remember that probably no one acts exactly like you’d like them to, so expecting everyone to follow your script is a setup for frustration.
- What day and time do you think would work best for you? Sunday or Monday night? How about Sunday afternoon or Saturday morning? I think Saturday morning to Monday night sometime is generally best for most families, but check your schedules and pick a time and try it out.
- Is an hour too long for you to fit in or for your family to focus? Try a 15 minute lesson during dinner and a little play time afterward.
- Does your family love art? Make sure to include drawing, coloring, or some kind of art. Is your family really active? Get outside and play! Do you love music? Have a dance or jam session.
- Prioritize your family time. What’s more important than your family? Nothing. So act like it. Put family time on your calendar … IN PEN. I love Steven Covey’s concept: don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities.
- BE CONSISTENT and adopt the attitude that consistency counts, and do it no matter what. Just make it a routine. Know that some days will be fabulous, bonding, and memorable and some days you’ll be super tight for time and spend 15 minutes and the kids will pester each other the whole time and you’ll feel like pulling your hair out (if you have any J). That’s normal. Don’t worry about it. When the great times happen, bask in them! And when those normal bumps happen, just know it’s normal and say to yourself, “Consistency counts!” and move on. Next week will be better.
The ROI of FHE
You’ll get better results if you manage your time, meals, and moods well. You’ll get better results if you pray or self-connect and really feel the spirit of love come into your heart and then stay connected with that love throughout your time together. One thing that married people tend to have happen is that they start to fall in love with each other over and over if they habitually make fun family time a priority. Another thing lots of families see is increased friendship among siblings.
Try it out, let me know how it goes, and …
Happy Home Evenings!