Lately I have been wanting to learn more about our “block schedule” at Church. I want to think more about the advantages and disadvantages of it, and how to work better within it.
This morning I thought I ought to search around a bit for a history of the block program. Instead, I want popped up on my search list was the announcement and explanation given in the Ensign in 1980. Here is the link:
I am always surprised to find out when we are following the manuals, handbooks, letters, etc., and when we are not. I like to see what is tradition and what is policy, or is requested of us. I also appreciate finding out the reasons given for various policies, because they help me serve better within my callings.
For the most part, I was interested to see that we are following out the instructions from 1980 very well! I’m sure there are updates to the program from then too, but for the most part it appears we are right-on. Even down to Emma’s activities being every other week instead of weekly!
I’m now reading the part about administrative meetings. This is the summary of the guidelines:
“Does the schedule preserve an adequate block of time for all families and individuals on Sunday so they can give attention to gospel study, personal spiritual development, gospel teaching in the home, and appropriate acts of Christian service?” And, “Are leaders able, as much as possible, to go to and return from the Sunday block of meetings with their wives and children?”
I saw a great emphasis on families traveling to and from Church together. And, also, that they can travel to and from activities together. Our ward has an activity day, when all primary, youth, RS, and even ward activities are held. I thought that was a little strange at first: why are 8 year olds out from 7-8:30 at night? Why are we having ward family activities on Thursdays? Why have RS meetings on the same day as YW, so we have to cancel YW for the moms to be at the RS meeting? But, that is actually how things are laid out in the 1980 instructions. The other stakes I have lived in weren’t following out those instructions so precisely.
Also, I had the misconception in my head that the block program had consolidated nearly every meeting, and since then we had built up weekday programs all over again. But that isn’t the case; we have no more or less weekday activities than what is already talked about in the article.
So, now, back to my original thoughts and concerns. I see now even more than I did the wisdom behind the program, and I think my thoughts I’m going to share would create problems so I don’t really know that they are a good idea. 🙂 But here they are with concerns — knowing also that sometimes working out concerns and ideas to fix them, even when those ideas don’t work presently, opens up my mind to see other ways to fix those problems in a way that does work within a present situation.
1) Not all women can attend RS right now
2) Not all men can attend quorum meetings right now
3) The primary kids are very squrimy!
4) It’s very hard to staff the primary organization and there is more turnover than what I think everyone has hoped for
5) Right now the YW/YM Sunday school is teaching the same topics as their YW/YM leaders
If it were up to me, I’d try out a pilot program where we had sacrament meeting as normal, and then after that, we held just one meeting. The YW and YM would not have Sunday School, and the adults would not have RS/Priesthood meetings, and Primary would be just one hour long. The older primary kids and younger would start together for opening exercises and some songs, and then the older kids would leave for individual half-hour classes and the younger kids (under age 8) would stay in the primary room for “sharing time.” I think this would relieve some of the exhaustion of Primary presidencies and reduce the number of adults needed to be called for Primary classes. (And therefore, I think we could have higher quality lessons for those older kids.)
The adults would either be in Primary, nursery, YW/YM, and the rest in Sunday School. The focus this hour would be on the children, and the rest of the ward can go to Sunday School. I would also suggest that Sunday teaching (not leadership) callings in any organization be assumed to last one year, with Primary turning over at the new year and youth turning over at the school year, perhaps at the end of the school year. On an individual basis, many teachers might want to continue past a year, but each calling should be evaluated yearly to see if the adult would be benefited by the adult scripture study discussions. This would be good for those individuals but also strengthens them to serve the children and youth in the ward in the future. The feeling of being “lost” in primary would hopefully be reduced greatly, and also hopefully we would have far less people saying “no” to primary callings! (Also, I find that my children’s teachers turn over more than once a year as it is anyway!)
This would get rid of the redundancy of the youth Sunday School and YW/YM lessons that goes on right now, too.
So what of RS and Priesthood you ask? Those organizations seem to me to be crucial to the work of the Church and the life of the individual. But right now there are so very many that aren’t able to go to them! I have been to RS very little since becoming a mother. I want the association of those other women. I want to learn their mothering skills and have their support. I want to hear and help teach the lessons on the gospel. I love serving in YW too, though, and I don’t resent the time spend in that calling or my past Primary calling. But I want to be in RS, too!
Same goes for the men in the church too of course. And I hear the elder’s quorums are often depleted of the best men for YM leaders and teachers, and so many elder’s quorums barely function. That doesn’t seem to be the way we’d like it to be. I don’t like seeing the organizations meant to strengthen and empower the parents being done half-way. I see the reason to support the children and youth programs, but I think the adults need that strengthening in order to focus on children and youth better. And there is work that needs to be done by adults for adults too.
I also feel like my daughter never sees me sacrifice time for RS. I am watching so many youth being taught that soccer practice or homework have a higher priority over mutual nights or temple trips. Even the best of the best are being taught that in their homes. It has dawned on me that the youth don’t see their parents making the sacrifice of time to attend their meetings, either.
So I wonder if we might have RS and Priesthood meetings not a part of the block program. Perhaps still on Sundays, but alternating so that a parent can be home with kids? A small nursery provided? Hard to say how to do this, but I wonder.