Screening Your Screen Time
Technology can have a strong influence for good or evil, depending on how it’s used.
Melanie Sarao (Charlotte, North Carolina)
- Ricks College, BYU-Hawaii
- Central Florida Mission (Spanish speaking)
Have you ever been the parent sitting in sacrament meeting not hearing a word from the pulpit because you’re on behavior patrol? You take on the role as entertainer and referee just to get through the meeting without one of your clan of mini-creatures screaming at a sibling. As the shushed voices start rising and the endless picking at each other worsens, you notice the lone Cheerio rolling down the aisle ominously like a tire rolling away from a car crash. All reverence is lost. You don’t feel the presence of the Holy Ghost anymore in your frustration. The members around you are politely facing forward even though they can no longer hear the speakers. Have you had one of those days? I have. Too. Many. Times.
For a long time, I came home from church hungering instead of being filled. It was nearly impossible to get anything from Sunday School or Relief Society after having lost the gentleness of the Spirit in the first meeting. The entire purpose of going to church on Sundays is to be fed and nourished spiritually so why was my spirit being starved? My answer came: I wasn’t prepared for Sacrament meeting and if I wasn’t prepared, neither were my children. I want my children to be spiritually fed as much as I want that for myself. With that in mind, here are five ideas to help your children prepare to be attentive at church without taking away from their spiritual nourishment.
Music is one of the biggest conveyors of the Spirit. In every ward of the church, there is a music person called who selects the hymns for every week. What if you ask for that information and teach your children the hymns that will be sung during the week? Would they be more excited to participate if they knew the melody and the words? How about adding a devotional during the week regarding the message of the hymns to be sung? The kids will be better prepared to feel the Spirit and to hear its voice as messages are delivered from the pulpit.
During the week, you might tell stories about one or two ancestors and ask your kids if that ancestor were sitting next to them in church, what would they appreciate most about what is being taught? Is there a gospel principle being given that could have blessed that person in their life? Draw a picture of the ancestor and what blessings the gospel could bring them.
If you really want your kids to focus during Sacrament meeting, have training times during the week where your kids sit quietly for a little while and listen to a conference talk or sacred music. Prepare them for reverence by practicing and make sure you let them know just what is expected of them and how much it means to you when they start doing it during church. They will notice how the feeling in the home changes on the Sabbath day when everyone returns home well nourished.book.
For younger children, put The Friend magazine to use. I created a binder with plastic page protectors and filled them with articles, games, puzzles, and activities from older issues. I used dry erase markers that you could wipe right off the page. I also made copies of paper coloring pages and kept a zippered pocket of crayons tucked inside. You can change these out as often as you’d like to keep it “new”.
Sacrament meeting “blackout”. You can easily create a Bingo board of many gospel topics or words. When the children hear the word, they get to mark the square and extra points if they can write something about what was taught. Perhaps something special later in the day would be appropriate for anyone who chooses to listen with their hearts.
Commenting on the Sabbath day, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said “The wards and branches of the Church offer a weekly gathering of respite and renewal, a time and place to leave the world behind—the Sabbath. It is a day to “delight thyself in the Lord,” to experience the spiritual healing that comes with the sacrament, and to receive the renewed promise of His Spirit to be with us.” 1
If our children are going to learn to draw strength from the Savior and “delight in the Lord”, they need to understand the importance of sacrament meeting. We all need this Sabbath preparation as we go out into the world each week to fulfill our divine missions. May we as parents always remember that we rarely have perfect days but our steady examples of observing and preparing for the Sabbath and honoring sacrament meeting will bless our families now and forever.
1. “Why the Church”, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Twelve, General Conference Address October 2015