Sunday, March 30, 2014

Primary Activity - Missionary Training Center - Overview

 (The adorable missionary boy and girl are from Melonheadz LDS Illustrations)

Last month we had our first activity of the year and it was such a huge success, I had to share it with you.

I started to type up everything we did for our activity and decided it was crazily too long.  It was kinda ridiculous actually.

So, I thought I'd go with a basic overview for this first post.  Just a quick description of what we did.  Then, I'll type up the specifics for all the different parts and link it here.  That way, you can read through this post, decide if you like it and, only then, commit to the anti-brevity.  You know, the super long and probably too detailed (but I'm so excited about it I can't stop myself) posts.

Before you go any further, I want you to know it was a simple activity to put on.  It's going to sound complicated, but it's not.  The reason why is also very simple.  We had MANY members of our ward help us put it together.  As a presidency, we were really just facilitators.  I think that's part of the reason it turned out so darn great.  Here's a post about what we did to get ready and how we kept things stress free.

In the weeks leading up to the activity, we issued the children mission calls which, in addition to their call letter, included a My Gospel Standards card and short missionary themed family home evening.

As they arrived to the activity, we handed out their missionary badges and had tables set up for them to write letters to the missionaries from our ward.  This was our gathering activity to allow everyone who was running late (you know, most of the children who were coming) to get there.  We got into the main part of the activity about 15 minutes after the "official" start time.

For the main activity, we separated the kids into four "missions" based off what language they were speaking and had them work their way through different types of training.

In one station they learned some home skills: how to fold clothes and pack a bag, iron a shirt, tie a tie and sew a button.

The next station was led by the full time missionaries assigned to our stake.  They taught the kids about what a full time missionary does everyday.  I've had them help us out a few different times, so you'd think I'd stop being surprised, but they do an AMAZING job every single time. 

Then they moved to their specific mission training.  We asked members of the ward to act as their "zone leader," leading them to and through each station.  This member was in charge of this station and used it to teach the kids a little about the culture they would encounter on their "mission."  They also had a food item from the region that the kids could try and taught the them to say "I am a child of God" in the language of their "mission."

Last, we had our Missionaries in Action station.  This was set up in the gym and divided into two separate activities.  On one side we had set up some play houses (the plastic playschool type) and on the other side was a simple bike track laid out with cones.  The kids took turns riding bikes around the track, being stopped by "random strangers" who would ask who they were and knocking on doors, again having to answer questions someone they meet on their mission might ask.

Each station took about 20 minutes (we used the bell to signal when it was time to switch) and then once every group had made their way through each station, we came together for a short mission conference.

We asked our ward mission leader to come in and relate all the different skills they'd learned during the activity to what they can do today, right now, in our ward to be a missionary.  He only took five to ten minutes, but did a great job wrapping up and tying everything together.

After our mission conference, we had some cookies in the gym while we waited for the kids to be picked up.

We had amazing attendance (more than double any previous activity) and everyone loved it!  The kids are already asking if we can do it again next year. 

Over the next few weeks I'll be adding additional posts detailing exactly how we put everything together, our preparations, what worked best and LOTS of free printables in case you'd like to do a similar activity yourself!

I would love to hear about your favorite activities, we're always looking for simple, fun, and spiritual ideas.


Here are all the other, more in depth, posts about our activity:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Sharing Time - General Conference

I've used fifth Sundays to review lessons taught throughout the month or cover an extra topic (or holiday).  As this fifth Sunday is coming just before General Conference, it presents the perfect opportunity to get ready for it!

Last October Robert D. Hales gave a fantastic talk about General Conference.  I was particularly impressed with how he described the thought, prayer and downright struggle it takes to seek after the inspiration necessary to write and give each talk.

"Oh, how we need general conference!"

Share this love of conference and the guidance we receive there with your children. 

To me, part of loving conference is loving those who have been called to give us this inspired direction.  And that love cannot come without knowing them.

Well, maybe it can, but it can be deepened by learning about and knowing them.  In my experience (at our house) kids get so excited when they recognize a speaker while watching conference.  It makes it more personal.

To help our primary children learn a little bit more about them, I made up a Getting To Know our Prophets JEOPARDY game.

The kids will have to know (or guess) who the different apostles and prophets are after seeing their picture, hearing their birthplace, hobby, job (before becoming an apostle), or listening to a quote from October's General Conference.

You can download the game in either word or pdf formats (if you download it in word, you can change any of the information).  For both, I have the jeopardy categories and clues in one download and a cheat sheet for you with all the answers in another.

I also have the traditional 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 points to put on the back side of each clue if you'd like (only as a pdf).  Or you can just leave out that part, the kids won't know any different and it'd be 25 less sheets to print.

Microsoft Word: Jeopardy - Cheat Sheet
Adobe Acrobat (pdf): Jeopardy - Cheat Sheet - Point Sheets

I included part of another of my favorite quotes from Elder Hales talk in the quote section of the game, he said:

"We make a serious mistake if we assume that the conference is above their intellect and spiritual sensitivity. To the young members of the Church, I promise that if you will listen, you will feel the Spirit well up within you. The Lord will tell you what He wants you to do with your life."

This is what I want the kids in our primary to know.  Conference isn't just for us "old" people, it's for everyone.  The direction and inspiration found there can teach each and every one of us more about where we should be headed and who we can become.

Have a fantastic Sharing Time and General Conference!


ps.  If you want to check out a few other ideas I posted before last conference, click on over here.  Or you can look at my general conference pinterest board for even more fun.

Monday, March 17, 2014

March Sharing Time - I Can Show Respect for the Savior by Being Reverent

Every month I try to find a few General Conference talks that go along with the different topics we get to teach.  Every month I find good quotes, great articles and I get to learn more about the gospel I love.

This is the first week, the first topic where I'm pretty sure the talk I read came before the topic.  I picture someone putting together the different topics for the 2014 Sharing Time Outline, praying about what the primary children (and we as their leaders and teachers) need to hear and remembering this specific talk (disclaimer: this is pure conjecture on my part).

In 2009 Margaret S. Lifferth gave a talk titled "Respect and Reverence."  It's awesome and perfectly, well, perfect.  Especially for this week.

"Respect for others and reverence for God are close cousins.  They are rooted in humility and love.  President David O. McKay said that "reverence is profound respect mingled with love," and Elder L. Tom Perry taught that "reverence flows from our admiration and respect for Deity."

She also teaches that we need to set a good example of reverence to be able to teach it well.  We all know that the children are watching.  Always watching (I keep hearing Roz from Monsters, Inc say this to Mike in my head).  They hear us (somewhere between most of and some of the time), but they will remember the things we do.

I love it when we are given exact examples of how we can DO and this talk does that for both parents and leaders.

I also love giving the children an opportunity to teach me and each other.  Before you start your sharing time, choose different pictures of sacred places to show the children.  Ask the children to tell you three things (I got these questions from a Sharing Time on lds dot org) as you make your way through them:

1. What happened here?
2. How would you feel if you were in this place right now?
3. How would you act in this place?

Make sure that you end with a picture of a meetinghouse (even your own if you already have a picture of it...or want to take one) so you can expand on how we act there in the next part.

Ask the kids if they know what it means to be reverent.  I'm sure most of them have been told to be reverent on several (maybe times several) occasions.  It would be interesting (especially in junior primary) to ask them what they're bodies should be doing when they're reverent.

Then, maybe the most important question, ask them WHY they need to be reverent?  Why in the world do we talk about it so much?  What's the big deal?

This question leads to another, how do our testimonies grow?  We have been taught that we can only learn spiritual things through the Holy Spirit.  Boyd K. Packer said, "Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings.  Such words as quiet, still, peaceable, Comforter abound in the scriptures; "Be still, and know that I am God." (Ps. 46:10).

That is one of my very favorite scriptures.  I was jogging one day, lost in my thoughts, and not listening at all to the conference talk I had playing on my ipod, when I heard a speaker quote that scripture.  Heard isn't a good enough word, it was like the volume was turned up all of a sudden and those words vibrated through me.

We have to "be still" to hear the quiet whisperings of the Holy Ghost.  We also have to "be still" so that those around us can have the opportunity to feel that inspiration.

For the second section, instead of having the kids write down different ideas (which I think is a great idea, it would just take too long to pass out paper, pencil, get them to write them and then collect it all), have a basket-full of ideas the kids can come up and draw from.  As they draw one out, they can decide whether it's something that shows reverence at church or if it's something we should wait to do at home.

I'd like to take a minute and say I think it's important that we aren't saying the two groups are "good" and "bad" things, because they really aren't.  They are activities that show reverence at church on Sunday verses activities that we can do another day of the week (or even later in the day at home).

I'm a very visual person and so I'd use a board to put up a picture of a church building and a picture of a house.  Then as they draw out each activity, they can decide which place it would best fit.  Throughout the activity, the kids will have a visual representation of all the different ways they can (and can't) be reverent.

Here are some ideas (you could copy and paste these into your word program, adjust the sizing, and print):
1. Sit quietly in your chair
2. Fold arms and close eyes for prayer
3. Thoughtfully answer a question
4. Ask a question about the lesson you're being taught
5. Ask your neighbor politely to let you listen
6. Sing during singing time
7. Jump up and down to get your teacher to call on you
8. Raise your hand when you have a question
9. Talk with your friends about what you're going to be doing during the next week
10. Check your phone to see if you have messages
11. Volunteer to read a scripture
12. Whisper a funny joke you just remembered to the person next to you
13. Scream the words during singing time
14. Poke the person next to you and then pretend you don't know what happened
15. Look around to check and make sure everyone has their eyes closed during prayer
16. Raise your hand to tell your everyone about your fun Saturday in the middle of a lesson
17. Ask a question about what everyone thinks your crazy dream meant in the middle of a lesson

If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment.  We'd all love to hear them!

I also love the idea of having the kids come to a consensus by either folding their arms for a Sunday reverent activity and wiggling their fingers if it's not.  It'll keep them all listening and actively involved.

The more I learn about the gospel and try to follow Heavenly Father's direction, the more I realize that this is a SLOW process.  I can look back and see change, but I almost never do from day to day.  Sometimes it can get a little hard to keep trying when it feels that we aren't making much of a difference (both in our own lives and in primary), which is why I LOVE this quote from Elder Packer speaking about Reverence,

"While we may not see an immediate, miraculous transformation, as surely as the Lord lives, a quiet one will take place.  The spiritual power in the lives of each member and in the Church will increase.  The Lord will pour out his Spirit upon us more abundantly.  We will be less troubled, less confused."

That sounds pretty good to me!!


Monday, March 10, 2014

March Sharing Time - Jesus Christ was Resurrected, and I Will Be Too

Elder Russell M. Nelson testified, "Gratefully and positively, I affirm that there is life after life, first in the spirit world and then in the Resurrection, for each and every one of us, I know that God lives and that Jesus the Christ is his Son.  He is "the resurrection, and the life" (1 John 11:25). He lives.  He is my master."

We know...or at least, through personal revelation we CAN each know that Jesus is our personal Savior.  He died for every single person who has ever been or will ever be on the earth.  He also lived again for each of us.

Because He was resurrected, we each can be.  No matter what choices we make in life.  How amazing!

This week is all about "gathering" evidence of Jesus literal resurrection. 

In the same talk, Elder Nelson also said, "Testimonies of thousands, from ancient and modern times, attest to the truth that the resurrected Jesus is the Savior of mankind."

After listing 19 separate examples of witnesses to Jesus resurrection, he stated that "...the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most carefully documented events in history."

I'm sort of an over-prepare-er.  Even as I strive for simplicity, I don't want to upset the balance so much that I end up completely stressed out.  So, in honor of seeking that balance, and to make sure no one is left standing with not enough lesson, I think the Sharing Time Outline witnesses needs to be beefed up a little bit. 

You can choose how many witnesses you'd like to use, and the method of presentation, just remember that the goal isn't to "get through it all."  The goal is to share your excitement with and love for the gospel with the children we're blessed to teach.  I like to have a little more prepared than I think I'll need just in case things go faster, it helps me to feel more in control and relaxed (as relaxed as I get anyway). 

While you could certainly use Elder Nelson's list of witnesses (from his talk, linked to above) to pick and choose, I also found a list on lds dot org.  Scroll down through the main lesson to Sharing Time Ideas #1. 

It lists items linked to specific witnesses used as "clues" that you hide around the primary room.  If you have many of the items laying around your house just waiting to be quickly gathered together, I'd say go for it (or if you're an over-the-topper who loves to spend lots of time putting lessons together), otherwise, you can use my printables instead. 

I used most of the witnesses listed in the idea from lds dot org, each one is quarter page size and looks like this:

I named each witness, wrote a sentence of how they might have borne their witness for the children to read, and listed the related scripture reference.  I've got them in both Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF.

Hide each name or item around the room.  Have the kids take turns searching for "witness evidence."  As they find them, you can either read the witness statement or also use the reference (have the kids look it up and read through the scripture to verify the story).  It might be fun to match each name and scripture to a specific picture that you put up on a board around a picture of the Savior (sort of like the picture at the top of my post).  You can either find matching pictures in the library (I'm sure they've got ones that would work great, I just don't have numbers for you) or you can use these ones I found on lds dot org.

Try and get the kids to pretend they were the witness you're talking about.  Ask them what they would have done or how they would have acted in that situation.  How would it have made them feel?

I love the song "Did Jesus Really Live Again?" and think it makes a perfect end to the lesson.  It's also a great testimony (or jumping off point for yours) of Jesus resurrection.

Did Jesus really live again?
Yes, when the third day came,
He wakened and he left the tomb.
He called Mary's name.

Did Jesus come to those he loved?
Yes, people touched his feet,
And of the fish and honeycomb
He did truly eat.

And there were nail-prints in his hands
And a spur wound in his side.
Did Jesus really live again
After he had died?  Oh yes!  And so shall I!


Sunday, March 2, 2014

March Sharing Time - Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ I Can Repent and Be Forgiven of My Sins

First, wow.  This week covers a lot of stuff: the atonement, our need for repentance, and forgiveness.  Huge.

Second, I am again so thankful for the opportunity to read amazing teachings.  Each week I learn, but some weeks I feel are especially for me.  Both of the talks I read this week hit home and touched me in different ways.

Third, THE GOSPEL IS AWESOME!!  Just thought I'd put that out there.

Speaking of the atonement, President Boyd K. Packer taught us that, "All wickedness could not quench that light.  When what was done was done, the ransom had been paid.  Both death and hell forsook their claim on all who would repent.  Men at last were free.  Then every soul who ever lived could choose to touch that light and be redeemed."

Together agency and the atonement allow us the opportunity to be cleansed over and over.  As often as we have need.  Some days, maybe even most days, I need a lot (and even that seems like an understatement).

The Sharing Time Outline asks us to read Doctrine and Covenants 19:16 which says, "For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent."

Unfortunately, it's much easier to say that He suffered for us so we don't have to than it is to put it into practice.  For some reason, we seem to be attached to our sins...or maybe that's just me.  I want to give them to Him, but I can't seem to do it with the fervor and ease that King Lamoni does when he gives away all his sins to know God.

Another great example is Alma the Younger.  He spent three days being wracked with torment until he finally remembered his father's teachings about the Savior.  Immediately he cried out for forgiveness and then, amazingly, remembered his pains no more.

Teach the children about these examples and then teach them that it is "...our responsibility to do the WORK of repentance" with a fun object lesson.  A fantastic object lesson.  I was telling my husband about it and I got a little teary's that good.

I found this fantastic idea on the blog, By Common Consent.  You will need a T-Shirt you don't mind ruining, a few costume like accessories, hangers and these printouts.  I'm going to give you a basic overview, but to see a more detailed description and pictures, click on the blog link above.

Write, "I told a LIE" on the T-Shirt and either have it on and covered, or put it on as you get to this point in your sharing time.  Tell the kids that you feel bad, but you know what you can do, and then, one by one, pull out a hanger with an accessory and printout hanging off of it.  Put on the accessory and ask if it covers, hides or gets rid of the sin.  Do this one by one, slowly trying to "cover up" more and more of your sin.

Finally, pull out your last hanger, empty except for the words "The Atonement" and ask how in the world this empty hanger can help?

This is where I'd change it slightly.  On the back of the your paper, have the 5 steps mentioned in the Sharing Time Outline.  In my download this week, I list the steps and I thought of two different ways you could use them.  First, print them off on their own sheet of paper, cut them into step strips and either tape or sticky them onto the back of the sheet of paper that says, "Jesus Christ Atoned for our sins."  Second, print it onto the back of the Atonement sheet, cut it into strips and then sticky or tape it onto your hanger so that when you turn it to the Atonement side, you can still read the sign.

Whichever you choose, as you go through the steps, talk about how each of your ideas to "hide" the sin didn't really work and now, you have to do some of that WORK.  I already realized I'd done something wrong and I really did feel bad about it (that's why I tried to hide it), but now, I've learned I have to confess what I've done wrong and stop trying to hide it.  I have to fix it if I can (ask for examples of how we could fix a lie) and last, promise to not do it again.

After pulling each step off the hanger, it truly is empty (if you've chosen to print steps directly on the back of "Jesus Christ Atoned for our sins"), so ask again, HOW CAN AN EMPTY HANGER HELP?!  Take off the shirt/sin and put it on the hanger explaining that choosing to repent through the atonement is the ONE and ONLY way we can truly get rid of our sins.

President Packer concludes his talk with this inspiring testimony:

"I cannot with composure tell you how I feel about the Atonement.  It touches the deepest emotion of gratitude and obligation.  My soul reaches after Him who wrought it, this Christ, our Savior of whom I am a witness.  I testify of Him.  He is our Lord, our Redeemer, our advocate with the Father.  He ransomed us with Him blood.

Humbly I lay claim upon the atonement of Christ.  I find no shame in kneeling down in worship of our Father and His son.  For agency is mine, and this I choose to do!"

I couldn't say it better.

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