Just Wing It
My advice for Family Home Evening with teenagers is to just wing it. If you get to fussing about it you may never start. Just get up and go and make it up as you go along. If you can plan ahead then that is great but don’t let lack of structure hold you back.
When our children were young we held reasonably structured Family Home Evenings. They went well and our children learned a lot, especially as we gave them responsibility for a portion of the proceedings at the earliest possible age. As they became teenagers we moved to a loose program which went over just as well.
For example, consider tonight’s Home Evening. We only have one teenager left but the relaxed approach works just as well with our returned missionaries. Sometimes we use our little wooden rickety house to figure out who is on what assignment but most times we go from memory — that is one advantage to holding Family Home Evening every week. Daniel is on conduct so he tells me to start on the music. I distribute the hymn books and pick the hymn. I choose “Count Your Blessings“, hymn number 242, which Paul plays on the piano. Jake gives the prayer. Jill teaches the lesson which will turn into an activity (Jill loves to have an activity). To begin she quotes a well-known Book of Mormon scripture:
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)
She continues: The September Ensign has an article about how service can be done in quiet and simple ways. For example one person purchases unstained baby blankets at yard sales, washes them, and donates them to charity. Another member gives the extra items from her buy-one-get-one-free coupons to the sisters on her visiting teaching route or to families with children. Another sister has gorgeous rose bushes and shares a vase of them with the sisters in the ward during the summer.
Jill told how when she was single and had some time to spare she would spend two hours a day at a school helping the teacher. She would grade tests and help in small ways to keep the classroom running. A few years ago my wife and children went to a nursing home and sang for the residents. Our daughter Sarah played the accompaniment.
Jill then had each us write our names on a piece of paper along with something we would like done in the next 15 minutes. Here is what we wrote:
- Rick: Clean the garage for five minutes.
- Jill: Put all the winter clothing in the closet and remove all the summer stuff and put in boxes.
- Paul: Put the blue basket of laundry in the washer.
- Jake: Make me two sandwiches.
- Daniel: Vacuum my room.
I ended up with Daniel’s service request. Jill went to the garage while Paul made sandwiches for Jake, providing an extra one for Jill. Daniel put the laundry in the washer and then helped Jake fulfill Jill’s request, which no-one wanted to draw.
We came back for the lesson conclusion. Jill asked that we share our feelings about our service. Now that is one losing request — ask four males to share their feelings. Jill said that she didn’t know that the boys had so many roller blades. Paul commented that we should do it again next year. Jake said it was a good lesson. Daniel mentioned that his was easy so he was able to help Jake. I said that I knew it would take a long time to vacuum Daniel’s room because it is the first time in five years I have seen the carpet. It seems that departing for a mission on Wednesday was incentive enough for him to pick up his room. Jill finishes with this quote by President Monson:
Along your pathway of life you will observe that you are not the only traveler. There are others who need your help. There are feet to steady, hands to grasp, minds to encourage, hearts to inspire, and souls to save. (Thomas S. Monson, “How Firm a Foundation,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 62, 67–68)
The most important item of all was furnished by Paul — FatBoys for the treat.
Rather than listen to me you may want to check with the experts before you leave tonight. If you are still reading I advise for Family Home Evening to just let your hair down and relax. For the lesson Jill picked up a nearby Ensign and flipped to an article and began. Most teenagers enjoy just winging it. If they are in seminary then they will likely do well with scriptures and quotes from the prophets. At times we would have a seventeen or eighteen year old just lay on the floor and sleep rather than participate. I found it best to leave them alone and in a few weeks they would become involved again. Family Home Evening works in raising faithful members who are not afraid to be involved because it encompasses much of what happens at church: prayer, lessons, teaching, singing, listening, activities, and yes even preparation at times.