5 “Bear” Necessities for a Successful Family Home Evening

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Monday nights: it’s jungle out there, and gathering the kids for even five minutes can feel like you’re herding wild animals. But there is hope! With the help of some of our favorite Jungle Book pals, we’ve compiled a list of the bare necessities that may help tame the chaos this Monday evening.

1. Let the Children Be in Charge of FHE

Mowgli and the baby elephant lead Family Home Evening
By assigning your kids different family home evening jobs, you’re preparing them for a lifetime of teaching and service.

The Jungle Book elephants will do anything to preserve their way of life—which mostly consists of marching, singing, and following orders. But what happens when your kids have a hard time falling in line (never mind sitting still)?

There are plenty of reasons to let your kids take leadership roles in Family Home Evening. For a start, divvying out the various duties, and rotating them as you see fit, gives everyone the opportunity to be involved—even if involvement still takes a little persuading. (At the very least, who doesn’t like to pick the snack?)

Keep in mind, too, that as Latter-day Saints we’re asked to teach the gospel throughout our lives, whether in church talks, lessons, on a mission, or while home or visiting teaching. By having your children organize and run FHE regularly, you’re preparing them for a lifetime of teaching and service.

Here is a list of FHE duties you can draw from:

  • Prayer: Opening and closing
  • Song: This one’s easy. The song can apply to the lesson, or you can pick an attention-grabber for the littlest ones (hint: “Popcorn Popping” and “Once There Was a Snow Man” never fail).
  • Story: Did anything funny, interesting, or important happen this week? Who has a fun family story to share?
  • Lesson: See Bare Necessity #2 for some helpful tips on lesson ideas.
  • Activity: LDS.org has a fantastic list of fun FHE activities. See Bare Necessity #3 for some additional, productive ideas.
  • Refreshments: Preparing the refreshments can double as the activity when your goal is to teach the children and youth how to cook. The Friend provides a list of easy recipes that anyone at any age can make.
    • With general conference coming up fast, we recommend Conference bean dip to snack on between sessions.

2. Always Have a Lesson (Even if It’s Short)

Bagheera gives the Family Home Evening lesson
The only way to arm your children against the spiritual Shere Kahns of the world is to consistently provide them with gospel truths.

Bagheera’s instinct is to protect Mowgli by teaching him—although the feisty little man cub isn’t always in the mood to be taught. Bagheera doesn’t always feel like he’s getting through. But when Mowgli comes face to face with the smooth-talking Shere Kahn, his distrust towards the tiger never wavers. Years of hearing simple truths from his family taught Mowgli who he was—and who had his best interests at heart.

We all worry about our families. We want them to be happy and safe. Family home evening is an opportunity to teach each other gospel truths, our greatest defense against the Shere Kahns of the world. By preparing and having other family members prepare simple, straightforward FHE lessons (see Bare Necessity #1), you’re arming them with the tools they’ll need to strengthen their testimonies and triumph over their trials.

If you’re having trouble coming up with meaningful lesson ideas, here’s what we’d recommend:

  1. Pick a thought that’s relevant to what’s happening in the family. For example, is anyone preparing for a mission? Getting baptized? What conflicts might be resolved by having a meaningful family discussion?
  2. Go through the church magazines for ideas relevant to the age groups in your family. The EnsignNew EraFriend, and the Liahona all contain inspired family home evening suggestions.
  3. Compile a list of lesson options and give the kids a choice—what would they like to hear? Or what would they like to teach? (See Bare Necessity #1)

3. Make Family Home Evening Work for You

Baloo and King Louis share their talents at Family Home Evening
FHE should never feel like it’s another to-do list item you’ve got to worry about. Make it work for you and your family!

Baloo may not be the king of jungle, but he is the king of picking great activities—and most of the time he’s just going with the flow.

Speaking of going with the flow, Mondays can often feel like the busiest day of the week. As you go to plan family home evening, you may ask yourself, “Do I even have time for this?”

But family home evening shouldn’t feel like a burden or something else that has to be done on top of missionary work, family history work, family preparedness, various personal goal programs for children and youth, etc. If used wisely, FHE can give us the time we need to get so many other things done. FHE comes to the rescue!

Are you preparing to move? Is someone working on a talent? Writing a talk? Here is a list of some more “productive” FHE activity ideas:

  • Invite a non-member family over to do 72 hour kits. (Missionary work and family preparedness!)
  • Prepare a child for baptism.
  • Make a family goal chart.
  • Help with YW Personal Progress, Faith in God, or Duty to God (they often need a chance to teach a lesson).
  • Prepare youth for their missions.
  • Scripture mastery—teach the whole family and help the seminary student stay on top.
  • Food Storage—take inventory and make the FHE treats out of it.
  • Prepare for the temple.
  • Have a journal catch-up night.
  • Practice home-cleaning skills and preparing for guests.

Don’t forget: sometimes what the family needs most is a nice break! Monday evenings can be a chance to just hang out, have fun, and enjoy each other’s company:

  • Bring out your family photo albums.
  • Go for a drive and sing in the car.
  • Have a family dance party.
  • Watch a favorite family movie.
  • Read a story together.
  • Visit the zoo, the park, the library, or the community recreation center.

4. Start (or End) with a Family Council

the Jungle Book wolves hold a family council
How and when you hold a family council can vary, but through it, relationships and communication improve in your family.

The Jungle Book wolves understand the importance of family councils. They meet regularly as a pack to discuss potential problems—including the return of the terrifying Shere Kahn to the jungle. They know that they’re only a match for their enemies when they stick together.

We make time for general conference, stake conference, and ward conference. But are we making time for the most basic church conference of all? As President Benson stated,

Family councils can help a family work, play, and grow together. They help family members become more sensitive to the needs of others, set goals, and evaluate progress. They can create an atmosphere of respect, understanding, order, and harmony.

How and when family councils are held can vary depending on the family. You may choose to hold them around the dinner table or first thing in the morning. One thing is certain: by taking the time check in each week, you establish a habit of open communication between family members.

Here are some things you might want to do as you council together:

  • Discuss family problems.
  • Work out schedules.
  • Set family and individual goals.
  • Address the needs of others (and evaluate progress).
  • Establish habits of communication.

You could even build a lesson around the importance of meeting as a family. LDS Living has provided a great layout—story, snack, and all—for a fantastic FHE on family councils.

5. Don’t Stress—Just Be Consistent

the Jungle Book vultures plan FHE

If you’re one of the vultures from the Jungle Book, coming up with a fresh idea for FHE every week isn’t always easy:

“What do you wanna do?”

“I dunno, what do you wanna do?”

“I don’t know, but let’s do something!

Few have the time or energy to plan something elaborate every week. But the truth is that “elaborate” isn’t necessary. As President Gordon B. Hinckley so perfectly stated,

We have a family home evening program once a week [Monday night] across the Church in which parents sit down with their children. They study the scriptures. They talk about family problems. They plan family activities and things of that kind. I don’t hesitate to say if every family in the world practiced that one thing, you’d see a very great difference in the solidarity of the families of the world.

By making simple, heart-felt family home evenings a regular part of your lives, you’re not only establishing a pattern of setting the less important aside, but teaching your children to prioritize the eternal. You’re also providing a support group that each family member can turn to for the rest of their lives.

What has helped you make family home evening a habit in your home?

Marian is a seasoned traveler and third culture kid, having spent most of her life in Australia and Southeast Asia. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University in English with an editing minor, and is passionate about all things beautiful, meaningful, and edible.