Family Home Evening Resources

Family Home Evening Resources

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I was asked to give a presentation at a Relief Society meeting about Family Home Evening to give some tips and tricks for making it meaningful and easy with young kids.  I thought I would share with you here what I shared with the sisters in my ward in case anyone from my ward didn’t get a chance to come to our activity, or if it would be helpful for other friends.  I know that I shared the experience in the first paragraph in this post too, but it was applicable here so I hope you’ll forgive the repeat.  The rest of the content should be new 🙂

Before this most recent General Conference I was struggling with feelings of inadequacy as a mother and I wrote down a few questions that I was hoping to have answered during the conference.  This is one of the questions I wrote – “How can I best use my time with the many demands placed thereon? Freelance work, housekeeping, motherhood, callings, education, blogging, reading, socializing children etc. How can I keep from being completely overwhelmed and truly accomplish things? Or do I need to simply embrace the chaos?” In the second talk of the conference Sister Linda S. Reeves shared this experience –

Some of you have heard me tell how overwhelmed my husband, Mel, and I felt as the parents of four young children. As we faced the challenges of parenting and keeping up with the demands of life, we were desperate for help. We prayed and pleaded to know what to do. The answer that came was clear: “It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.”

A friend recently cautioned, “When you ask the sisters to read the scriptures and pray more, it stresses them out. They already feel like they have too much to do.”

Brothers and sisters, because I know from my own experiences, and those of my husband, I must testify of the blessings of daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening. These are the very practices that help take away stress, give direction to our lives, and add protection to our homes. Then, if pornography or other challenges do strike our families, we can petition the Lord for help and expect great guidance from the Spirit, knowing that we have done what our Father has asked us to do.

Nothing could have been more applicable to my situation than that was.  I felt so much comfort that I only needed to really worry about those three simple things in order to be doing what is most important as a mother.  Family prayer, family scripture study and family home evening.  Of course, family home evening can sometimes be a bigger struggle than it might sound so I was asked to share some resources with you on how to make it easier.  So, first of all –

K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Smarty!

Family Home Evening was not instituted to stress you out. The point is to gather your family together and spend time together learning and loving one another.  Don’t make it harder than it needs to be!  Watch a Mormon Message together on YouTube, play a game, even just sit in the same room and let your kids do homework together.  Find what works for your family!

I want to walk you through really quickly a “typical” FHE in the Hansen household –

We gather the kids together.  Pull up a hymn on hymns.lds.org and sing along with it.  Pray.  Quick lesson picked from A Year of FHE. Another song. Prayer.  Oreos.  Bedtime.

Oreos are the most important part of our family home evening, the boys don’t recognize it’s FHE without Oreos.  That’s it.  Sometimes I’ll put together my own lesson or we might do something else, but we have short attention spans.  The only part of that whole equation that requires much effort (beyond wrangling the kids of course) is picking a lesson from A Year of FHE, but then I usually just print it out and read it.

I think the most important part of doing a lesson is picking something that really applies to your family’s current situation.  If you have a child struggling with obedience or tattling or something like that, then FHE is a great time to teach those principles.  But my mom warned me, don’t always pick just the things your kids are struggling with, or else they’ll just feel picked on and not want to come.  Lessons about the season (i.e. Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day) are great, or if you can include something that goes along with the month’s theme for primary it’s a good reinforcement.

So here are some of the resources that I really like for putting together a family home evening:

Church Website – The church has put together an awesome page that has links to the gospel art book, the Family Home Evening Resource book, videos, music and teaching helps.  It’s a great place to go to get started

Mormon Messages– When you want a super easy lesson I definitely recommend just picking a Mormon Message and playing that for your kids and calling it good.  They’ll hold their attention well and have fantastic messages.  Easy, peasy. Done.

A Year of FHE – This is my *favorite* FHE resource.  This lady put together FHE lessons and posted them to her blog every week for 3 years.  They are fantastic.  She has lessons on a lot of different topics.  Most weeks I will open up her blog and then scroll through the topics on the right side of the screen, pick one, print it and teach that.  She also has hymns selected to go with her lessons as well as a scripture.  The lessons are so well written out that you can generally just read what she’s written, show some pictures (if you want) and then bear your testimony where she indicates.  I can’t say enough about how much I love her website.

Chocolate on My Cranium – If your kids really do well with visuals I highly recommend this website for her flannel board stories.  She took all of the flannel board stories from the Friend and colored them in so that you can just print them out, cut out the pieces and tell an interactive story.  If you live nearby, my sweet sister-in-law put together a binder with all of these lessons printed out and ironed all of the characters onto felt so that we had easy FHE lessons for a year.  It was one of the best Christmas presents anyone has ever given me.  We’ve gone through all of those lessons now though so if anyone would like to borrow any of the lessons feel free to come by and borrow them!

Sugardoodle – We all love Sugardoodle.  They have so many cute ideas!  They’re getting ready to re-do their website in the next month, so I don’t know if this will remain how to get to their FHE lessons, but for now if you go to their home page, click on the “Other” tab there’s an option for “Family Home Evening Index”, and there are a ton of great FHE ideas there.

My FHEs – Of course I have to throw in my shameless plug for my own website. I’ve put together a few different FHEs when I had something that I really wanted to teach my kids but couldn’t find *quite* the right lesson out on the web.  I’ve been trying to post them to my website so that other people can use them too.  I have lessons about being a missionary, a general conference preparation lesson (we do this one twice a year just before conference), saying sorry, and even an Angry Birds lesson about teaching kids how to control their emotions (that one gets requested often).  I’ve tried to follow the “A Year of FHE” format and include an opening and closing hymn that goes with the lesson, an easy to follow lesson outline and a predefined spot to bear your testimony.  There aren’t a lot of them, but I love to see people use them!

My one piece of advice if you use the lessons that people post on their blogs is to just leave them a comment to say thank you for their time.  I know, at least that the lessons I put together, it usually takes me the better part of a day to complete them and it means a lot to me when someone will comment even a simple, “great lesson, thanks!”

I promise that if you make Family Home Evening a part of your family’s weekly routine you will see the blessings in your family.  It will help draw you closer together and strengthen you and your kids against the difficult trials that might come against you.

Primary Secretary Resources: Part 4: Reminder Wristbands and Conducting Sheets

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Ok guys, not to toot my own horn or anything, but the resources that I’m handing off to you in this post are sheer and utter brilliance.  There.  I said it.  TOOT!

But seriously, as I was preparing these files to share them I was actually sad that I won’t ever get to really use the finished product for myself.  I put a TON of work last year into making this whole process easy and seamless for this year and I’d forgotten just how easy I had made it.  So I hope this saves someone some work!

So here it is.  I  put together reminder wristbands for opening exercises assignments and conducting sheets which you can pre-populate for the entire year by simply filling out one simple Excel sheet.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  You don’t have to use both the wristbands and the conducting sheets, you can use just one or the other but since they both feed from the same spreadsheet I thought it would be easier to put them both together in one post.

I went with wristbands for our reminder papers because it’s the easiest way to make sure that the reminders actually get home, especially for Jr. Primary kids.  I take our wristbands, cut them out and tape them to the kids wrists (although I don’t always make the Sr. Primary kids have them on their wrists, I think they probably feel too cool for that).  It has all the information their parents need, but I still send the follow-up email just in case.  The conducting sheets are pretty basic, I went with a half-sheet format because (as I’ve said before) I hate paper and don’t like to waste it.  I didn’t think we really needed a full sheet of paper every week that said most of the same things so I went pretty minimalistic.

So here’s how to put these together.  Download the files by clicking here.  Start with the excel spreadsheet and assign out all of your talks, scriptures etc.  for the year.  I left all the weeks in but you will want to delete the rows that correspond to General Conference, your stake conference weeks and any other week that you wouldn’t have opening exercises (maybe your Primary program Sunday?)  Then start making your assignments.  You can fill this in manually, but there is an easier way.  If you have the MLS data from doing the birthday cards you can use that data to help populate this document.  My personal philosophy is that every child should be given the chance to have all of the different assignments.  I was a very shy child (ok, I’m still relatively shy actually) and I would have *never* volunteered to give a  talk or a scripture, or been likely to be picked out as someone who’d do a great job.  But because I was given the assignment to do these things at different points in my Primary career I got better at them.  I think that’s one of the great blessings of church membership is being given assignments we are not qualified for so that we can learn. Anyways, you can go through and manually select which kids you think should have each assignment each week, but I felt like Excel could have as much inspiration as I could, and do a better job making sure each kid got an assignment.  So here’s how I sorted out the assignments –

  1. Take your list of Jr. Primary kids (first name and last name) and paste into a blank excel document
  2. In the column after last name enter this into the next cell

    =RAND()

  3. Fill that formula down through all of the cells in that column (Hint: If you didn’t know this, you can copy a formula like that by clicking on the little black square at the bottom right corner of the cell and dragging it down through all of the cells you want the formula to be in – nifty huh?)
  4. Then click on the “Sort and Filter” option, select the option that says “Custom Sort”blackbox
  5. When the next dialog box pops up and gives you the option of which column to sort by select Column Csorting

That’s it!  You now have a randomly sorted list of your Jr. Primary kids.  What I did is take that list and divided it into three parts and pasted one part into the talk column, one into scripture and one into prayer.  Then at the points where I ran out I just took the kids who had a prayer in the first part of the year and put them in the talk column for the next part of the year, scriptures to prayers and talks to scriptures.  You can do that as many times as you need.  Then do the same for your Sr. Primary kids.  I tried to go through and make sure that I didn’t end up with siblings all having assignments during the same week, or giving all of the talks in a month or anything like that.  Also, make sure you look through your Sr. Primary assignments and take out the kids who are graduating after they’ve gone on to Young Men’s or Young Women’s, but this should give you a really good start.

For the conducting and sharing time columns I’m going to assume that your ward does like my ward and has a rotation that doesn’t change too much from one month to the next.  To avoid having to type everyone’s names in 52 times just enter the first three or four weeks’ assignments (or whatever gets you through a full rotation), select the filled in boxes and then use that nifty black box again to fill that pattern in through the rest of the year!  Oh, and remember my hatred of paper?  I’ve formatted this file so that if you delete at least 5 rows (2 General Conference weeks, 2 Stake Conference weeks and 1 Primary Program practice), it will print one page for Jr Primary and one page for Sr. Primary – not bad for a full year’s schedule!

Ok, so once you have all that filled out, save the file and you’re ready to move on to the wristbands. Note: even if you don’t want to use my wristbands and just want the conducting sheets read over this part, it has information you’ll probably want later.  Open up the wristbands file and connect to the excel file, just like we did with the birthday cards.  Be sure that you select the worksheet labeled “Assignments” and not the one labeled “Themes” – it should be the one selected by default anyways, but just in case.  At this point you’re pretty much set, except for one thing – when I made these wristbands I had my contact information for the parents printed on each wristband.  Since I don’t really want all of the parents from every ward that uses these to be calling me if Suzie won’t be there to give her talk, I replaced my information with dummy text that says “YOUR NAME AND INFO HERE”, so I should probably show you how to change that.  It’s actually really easy –

  1. Open the “Mailings” tab and de-select the option that says “Preview Results”no_preview
  2. You are now looking at the wristbands in template form.  Delete everything that says “YOUR NAME AND INFO HERE” and replace it with your information.  You can also change anything else on the wristbands that you’d like.  So long as you don’t delete any of the things that have the dashed line under them then you’ll still have the child’s name, the date of the assignment and the scripture/theme for that particular month.

That was it, not so bad right?  So, on to the conducting sheets!  These should be so stinking easy at this point it’s ridiculous.  Open the Publisher file, connect to your excel file (again, make sure you select the sheet that is labeled “Assignments”) and you could be done!  The one thing that you’ll probably want to change though is that I put the start/end times for our singing/sharing times that you’ll want to change.  Use the same steps to get to the template as you did for the wristbands and you can change anything you would like 🙂

I could have made everything a little more full featured by adding in a column where you could add graduations and baptisms, or pre-fill the musical numbers but I wanted to make things super easy and generic.  I figure you’re usually pretty aware of baptisms and graduations so they’re easy to pencil in when you’re getting ready to conduct.  We also just would pick our reverence child when we’d get to opening  exercises and just pick someone who was sitting nicely (or perhaps who might need some motivation to be sitting nicely 😉 ).  The musical numbers also weren’t assigned out at the beginning of the year, we always intended to just have people sign up, which is why the wristbands are just blank as well as that slot on the conducting sheets.  I’m sure everyone’s ward has a slightly different way of doing things but having a prayer/scripture/talk seemed to be pretty standard format so I stuck with those and I’ll let you figure out the rest.

You should now be ready to put together everything you need on a weekly basis for a full year’s worth of primary!  What I did this last year was take the wristbands (for the following week) and paper clip them along with the birthday cards to the conducting sheets.  Then it was all put together on Sunday to just grab out of our basket and go.  It was a huge project to print and cut and paper clip all of these weekly packets, but it was SO worth it to have a stress-free Sunday each week!

I have a few more resources that I need to finish putting together, but I’ll have to redesign them as they used some artwork that I was told I did NOT have permission to re-post, even with attribution.  So, it might take me a little while to get those up since I lack artistic talents.  I’m also thinking that if anyone is interested I could post PDF versions of all of these mail merge resources for people who are more comfortable just filling things in with a pen.  Until then, I hope you enjoy what I’ve posted so far!

Primary Secretary Resources: Part 3: Lesson Schedules

This will be a pretty short post, but I wanted to share this.  I’m pretty picky about formatting and paper.  Mostly, I don’t believe in paper and like to avoid using it whenever possible.  But when I do actually print things out I like them to fit nicely on a single piece of paper.  So, last year I found these lesson schedules on Sugardoodle that were AWESOME.  The lady who had put them together had obviously spent a lot of time getting all the information in there.  However, they didn’t fit on a single page, so I spent considerable time to make it fit on a single page (like I told you – picky).  After taking all that effort to get those schedules formatted just so I wanted them to be usable for more than one year!  So, even though it was totally not going to benefit me personally, I spent a couple hours yesterday morning updating the documents with the dates for next year and the different manuals that are associated with them.  Obviously they will have to be adjusted to fit each ward’s individual schedule for stake conferences or primary program practices, but I think this should give you a good start.  Oh, and for the older classes the names of the lessons are linked to the actual lessons on LDS.org.  So if you want to just upload the schedule to a Google Document and share that with your teachers they can just click to get to the manual instead of having to look up the lessons.  Hopefully that’s helpful to someone.

Enjoy!

Click here to download the lesson schedules for 2014

Primary Secretary Resources: Part 2: Reminder Emails

Ok, so I’m sorry that this installment doesn’t have any cool downloads associated with it, but this is just a tip that I have for those running the Primary.  I hate calling people.  Like really, really, really hate it.  I always feel like I get flustered or call at the wrong time and they’re eating dinner or whatever.  I just don’t like doing it.  So I decided early on in my secretarial career that I would just email my weekly reminders out to people.  Personally, I like getting emails better too because I’m reading them at a time when I have access to my calendar and no one else is vying for my attention and it’s more likely to be remembered.

So, since I was sending out 6 emails every week with the same information I found an easier way to do it.  I looked for a little while to see if I could find an automated emailing system that would just automatically blast out my reminder emails on Sunday night for me without my having to think about it, but no such luck.  What I did come up with was that I could create canned responses in GMail and just fill in the blanks each week.  At the beginning of each month I have to remember to replace the text in the scripture and the talk email with the new scripture and theme for the month, but that’s really not that big of a deal.  Instead of having to think of what to say each week I just pop in my canned responses and I can send out all 6 emails in about 5 minutes.

I was going to include a tutorial for how to do this in GMail, but I decided to Google it and WikiHow had already put together a much better tutorial than I could, so I’ll just direct you there 🙂  But I will include below the canned responses that I have so that if you want to copy them verbatim and use them for yourself, or use them as a baseline for what you want to put in your emails you can feel free.  The only caution I have with using these is to make sure that if you’re emailing a single parent I always try to be careful about making sure that it doesn’t still say “Brother & Sister”.  Anyways, without further ado, here are my canned responses:


Primary Talk

Hi Brother & Sister ___,

Just wanted to send you a quick reminder that _______ is assigned to give a talk in Primary on Sunday. This month’s theme is We Are to Thank God in All Things.

Please help your child to be prepared to fulfill this assignment. We always welcome the parents of kids who are participating in sharing time to come and assist their child or be there to watch. If you won’t be there on Sunday or if you have any questions, please let me know!

Thanks,
-Brittny


Primary Scripture

Hi Brother & Sister ___,

Just wanted to send you a quick reminder that ___ was assigned to give our scripture in Primary on Sunday. This month’s scripture is “He commanded them that . . . every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God” (Mosiah 18:23).. Your child does not need to have the scripture memorized, just be willing to read or repeat the scripture at the front of the room, and then lead the rest of the primary in reciting it together.

Please help your child be prepared to fulfill this assignment. We always welcome the parents of kids who are participating in sharing time to come and assist their child or be there to watch. If you won’t be there on Sunday or if you have any questions, please let me know!

Thanks,
-Brittny Hansen
801.851.0250


Primary Prayer

Hi Brother & Sister ___,

Just wanted to send you a quick reminder that ___ is assigned to give our prayer in Primary on Sunday. Please help your child be prepared to fulfill this assignment. We always welcome the parents of kids who are participating in sharing time to come and assist their child or be there to watch. If you won’t be there on Sunday or if you have any questions, please let me know!

Thanks,
-Brittny


So, that’s it! Hopefully someone finds this tip useful 🙂

Primary Secretary Resources: Part 1: Birthday Cards

On Sunday I was released as the secretary from our ward’s primary presidency.  It came as a bit of a surprise since we had thought we were going to be in for three years and were just getting geared up for our third year.  But apparently it was our time to go on to other things – hopefully it means that we were doing things so right and awesome that it was time for us to grow in other capacities and not that we were failing so miserably that they needed someone else to take over 😉

Anyways, last year I started putting together all of my resources in a hope that I could make them so easy peasy to use this year that I didn’t hardly have to think about it.  So now I have a bunch of resources to make my life easy, and I don’t need them.  So I thought I would share them with all of you and hopefully make someone else’s life easy instead 🙂  We have a primary with over 120 kids (plus 45 kids in our nursery) so anything I could do to make things run super smoothly made a huge difference in our ward.

One thing that I decided to do at the beginning of the year was to put together all of our birthday cards, conducting sheets and opening exercises assignments wristbands for the entire year and have them all set to go in our cabinet at church.  It was a LOT of work at the time (and of course, the week that I finally got everything finished was the week just before they split our ward – so I had to reshuffle a lot of things again 😛 ), but it helped SO much with keeping our primary running smoothly.  Plus, it made it so that if there was a week that I was out of town I wasn’t racing to get things finished at the beginning of the week and passed off to the right counselor – everything was already in place and they just had to pick up the little packet when they got to church on Sunday and there was no frazzle in my absence.

So, I thought I would start by sharing the birthday cards that I made for our kids, and the spreadsheet that I used to generate them so that I wasn’t custom making 120+ cards.  We decided to give each of the kids a birthday coupon that they can show to the bishop to get a treat on the week of their birthday.  We thought this was a good way to let the kids get a chance to meet with the bishop for a brief second and let him wish them a happy birthday.  It just felt more meaningful than handing them a piece of candy during sharing time.    Here’s a preview of what it looks like –

2014 birthday coupon

The imagery that I used is from Megan Turnidge‘s scrapbooking site.  I tried to contact her to secure definite permission for using it in this project, but I haven’t received a response.  Since I only used her free birthday scrapbook pack I feel like it’s probably ok since you could just as easily go download all the graphics yourself.  I don’t think I’m violating her terms of use, but I’m definitely on the border line so I would have liked to have had her explicit permission (I try to be very sensitive to how I use other people’s intellectual property).  Anyways,  I totally recommend that you check out her stuff, it’s super cute!  Also, if you want to use the same font I got it from Kevin & Amanda’s Fonts for Peas site and the font is called Pea Marcie (you will need to download that font if you want your card to look like mine, otherwise it will just use whatever default font Publisher feels like using). I started with a Microsoft Publisher document and made a little card with a space for the child’s name, birthdate, and whether they were in Jr or Sr Primary.  Then I put together an Excel spreadsheet with those fields and pasted in all the information from MLS.  Then I did a mail merge and voila!  One hundred and twenty birthday cards done without my having to fill in all the information manually.  It’s like magic!

If you’d like to take advantage of these templates but don’t know how to do a mail merge, don’t be intimidated!  I’ve tried to make this as easy peasy as possible so that, even without much technical skills, you can quickly make these birthday cards too 🙂  I promise it’s not nearly so scary as it sounds or looks, I even tested the steps out on my much less technically inclined sister (thanks Taylor!) and she didn’t have any problems with it.  I hope you’ll give it a try!  Here are the steps you’ll need to take –

  1. Download this zipped file: Birthday Coupons.  There’s an Excel file and a Publisher file (if you’ve never used Publisher before still don’t be intimidated!  You really won’t need to know anything about Publisher for this to work.  If you’ve used Word or Powerpoint before it’s very similar, but you don’t even have to know that much about it to make this work for you)
  2. Open up the Excel file and enter in the data for your primary.

    If you want to pull this data from MLS it’s actually pretty simple.  I would include screen shots but since I’m no longer secretary I don’t have MLS access to get the screen shots.  But to the best of my memory this is what you’ll need to do.  Go into MLS and find the Custom Reports menu item.  Then make a new report that filters for just primary children, and include the fields first name, last name, birth month, birth day (not the full birthday just the number of the day the child was born), birth year.  I don’t think they have a field for Jr vs Sr Primary, but if they do then add that in as well.  Run that report and I would recommend sorting the report by birth day and then birth month (just click on those field titles in those order to order the report).  Under the File Menu there should be an option that says “Export” or “Export to CSV”.  If you export the report as a CSV and either email that to yourself or pop it on a USB drive, you can take that home and copy the information and paste it straight into your excel spreadsheet rather than having to type it out yourself, just don’t overwrite the header row or your first card won’t print out and you’ll be frustrated.

  3. Save the Excel file. Make sure you know where you’ve saved it – you can save it where it was before, just make sure you know where that is whether it’s on your Desktop or in the Downloads folder or wherever.  Then close the file.
  4. (Psst, the hardest part is now done!)
  5. Open up the Publisher file.
  6. A pop up box should appear like the one below asking if you want to reconnect the data source – click yesaccess data
  7. Another pop up box should appear saying that reconnecting the data source failed (don’t worry, that’s what’s supposed to happen!) and it should have two option buttons, click the one that says “Try to reconnect the data source” and click continue.reconnect
  8. A file finder box should pop up asking you to try and find the file.  Connect to the excel file that we saved in step 3.
  9. Another box should pop up asking you what sheet you want to use, it should already have sheet 1 selected, but if not select that and click “Ok”select_tables

That should be it!  You should now have birthday cards for all the kids in the ward!   That wasn’t so scary was it?

You can preview and edit the individual cards by going to the mailings tab at the top and scrolling through the recipients:
preview_cards

Or print them by going to Print and selecting “Print All Records”.  Or you can enter in which records you want and print them out a few at a time (I did this when I did them the first time because I was always worried about printing 30 pages and having run out of one of the colors of ink after page 5 and having wasted 25 pages of cardstock!)
print_records

Hopefully this saves someone lots and lots of time, or lots of people a little bit of time 🙂  If you want to change what I’ve done please feel free to do so!  The layout is all controlled on the master page, which keeps you from having to make changes to each individual card, and also keeps your file size a little smaller.  You can access to Master Page by going to View -> Master Page
master_page

If anyone has a cute template that they would like to share I’d be happy to post it here, or you’re welcome to post it on your own website.  If you use my mail merging-ness I would appreciate a link back to this tutorial.  And let me know, I’d be happy to link to you as well!

If I haven’t scared you off with the complexity of a mail merge then tune in for the rest of the series where I will provide downloads for door signs, binder covers, conducting sheets, and reminder wristbands!  As well as including all my other tips and tricks of the trade from my couple of years as a Primary Secretary 🙂