A key to strengthening a family is to spend quality time together. Often, however, when a family is together they are simply watching television, not interacting. Parents need an opportunity to share their values in an appropriate setting and a way to spend meaningful and fun time with their children despite busy lives.
One way to do this is to set aside one evening a week just for the family. Mormons call this Family Home Evening. Some other religions, which have adopted the long-standing Mormon tradition, call it Family Night. The Mormons, having started this tradition, have recently launched a new website designed to help Mormon families hold better family home evenings. The materials on the website are easily adapted to fit families of other faiths.
The website is called Family Home Evening. It includes quotes on the importance of family home evening, sample lesson plans, activities, and tips for success. The site also offers links to hymns and pictures which can be used to enhance the family night experience.
Mormons consider families to be the basic unit of God’s plan for the world. They teach that families are forever, continuing even after death, and so they must be a priority in this life to make them eternity-worthy. Family home evenings are a key to building the kind of family that will want to be together forever.
“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World.)
Mormons hold Family Home Evenings once a week, usually on Monday evenings. During this meeting, they share gospel principles and values with their children and enjoy some fun activities. It allows parents a specific time to explain what they believe and why and to allow the children to also teach their religion.
Mormon Family Home Evenings are easily adapted to other religions. The basic pattern will fit for any religious faith and then the specifics can be adapted to meet your own needs.
Family Home Evenings begin with a hymn and a prayer. This is followed by a short lesson—fifteen to thirty minutes-on a religious teaching, a family issue, or something else the parents wish to have taught. For example, a family might have one lesson on serving others the way Jesus served, another on preparing for emergencies, and a third week on the importance of helping out at home. The lesson includes fun activities, songs, stories, and other interactive methods that allow each family member to participate and to learn in a pleasurable way. It is probably similar to the Sunday School lessons in your own church.
After the lesson, many families play games together or do a service project. They finish up with a special treat, another song (or perhaps a family sing-a-long) and a closing prayer.
Most families have each person prepare and carry out one part of the lesson. Assignments might include: giving the prayer, conducting the meeting, leading the music, playing the piano, teaching the lesson, planning the game, preparing the treat. Younger children are paired with a parent or older sibling so they can participate equally in the program. Even a three-year-old can give a lesson with a little help. This helps the children develop public speaking skills, leadership, teaching skills, music skills, and other important skills they will need throughout their lives.
The lessons on the website are meant for Mormons, but many are easily adaptable to your own religions. Simply read through them and substitute wherever a teaching or activity is different from one appropriate to your beliefs. The lessons are merely suggestions. There are lists of other lesson ideas on the site as well. Some lesson topics include: Music, gratitude, and Life and Teachings of Christ. A lesson that is very accessible to people of most Christian faiths, and which can be taught with minimal adaptation, is Jesus is My Example. This lesson uses only scriptures from the Bible and teaches very basic Christian principles.
The activities section of the website offers ideas for fun things to do as a family during family nights or everyday life. The Family Unity section has ideas for family reunions by mail (or email today.) The Learning Activities section has ideas for making chores more fun and for travel games to make family outings more successful. Have you ever put on a family play? This section can make all sorts of fun and learning activities more interesting to carry out.
Be sure to check out the other Family Home Evening lessons on this website. The lessons are generally non-denominational in nature and can help you get started learning to create fun family nights.