But how? More toys and snacks? Less toys and snacks? Duct tape? Shock collars?
I called my mom and she didn't know either. But she did say this:
"Anything that has to do with the gospel--whether it be church or family home evening or prayer time--should be an enjoyable experience. If you are too strict or militant about church activities your kids will develop a bad taste for the gospel. Show your children that the gospel makes us happy. Make it fun!"
I knew she was right, for that is exactly how she raised me and my siblings, but seriously, how do I make sacrament meeting fun?
I was already trying to do that--I brought notebooks, colored pencils, snacks and about two dozen matchbox cars. Sometimes even mini dinosaurs and army guys. But I knew what I was doing wasn't working. Besides, they weren't listening. They were playing.
Recently the teenagers in our ward had an unusual activity involving ice cream. This got the rusty old wheels in my mind turning.
Saturday night I picked up a bunch of things at the grocery store that I don't normally buy. Sunday morning my kids woke up to this sign:
It created quite a stir.
What is this for?
What are we doing?
Ice cream for breakfast? YES!!
I explained the rules.
"Today at church," I told them, "I want you to look around and notice everything you can. Who are the speakers? What did they talk about? What hymns did we sing? I don't want you to miss a detail. I want you to even notice what color of tie the bishop is wearing.
"Then, when we get home and AFTER dinner--yes, I said after dinner, Naomi--we are going to have an ICE CREAM PARTY! However---how much ice cream and how many toppings you get depends on how well you listen at church today. After church I will quiz you and the more answers you get right the more toppings you will receive! Yes!"
(p.s. you will also have to earn your spoon and your bowl!)
My kids were estatic. I told them they could even take notes if they wanted.
"WE CAN TAKE NOTES!?"
They could not have been happier if I told them I just built a waterslide on our roof.
So I brought nothing to sacrament meeting except a notebook and pens. My three girls quietly recorded all that was happening around them. My three-year-old was still a little bit rambunctious, but he was quiet and reverent for the prayers, and that is all I can ask for from him.
When we got home from church Danny was so excited he was about to self destruct. Everyone was ready to show off their knowledge. But first--
a nice, healthy dinner.
ICE CREAM PARTY!
(Notice Danny is trying to push his not-quite-finished food away.)
I let them use their notes.
If you are in my ward and you did anything in sacrament meeting you definitely had at least 20 seconds of fame at our kitchen table. Here are just some of the questions these kids aced:
Who gave the blessing on the bread? (L.M.)
Who blessed the water? (J.P.)
Who was the youth speaker? What did he talk about? (I.S., Families)
Who did Sharing Time in primary? (Sister M.)
What family was sitting on the other end of our pew? (the V. family)
Who said the opening prayer? (Sister N.)
Name two songs you sang in primary.
Name something you learned in class you didn't know before (the Articles of Faith were first written in a letter. Thanks, Bro. D!)
and of course,
What color was the bishop's tie? (Blue)
There were many other questions. The kids passed with flying colors.
Three scoops of ice cream, carmel Magic Shell, chocolate sprinkles, banana slices, a cherry,
and lots and lots of whipped cream.
. . . maybe too much whipped cream.
It was super successful and if you need a Sunday Behavior Correction Program I recommend it.
I know we will do it again.
Not everything I plan turns out perfectly, but this was a slam dunk motivator.