Time to Reconsolidate?

March 22, 2009 | 120 comments
By

I was only a teenager when the new-fangled consolidated schedule hit the church fashion scene. Certainly there are particulars that escape me, but this is the way I remember it:

  1. Sunday morning: Sunday School
  2. Sunday afternoon: Sacrament Meeting
  3. Wednesday evening: Mutual (or MIA or YW or YWMIA or whatever the name du jour happened to be)

It is my recollection that the “consolidated schedule” would reduce drive time and allow more family time.

But now, my schedule looks like this some weeks:

  1. Sunday afternoon: Sacrament Meeting
    Sunday School
    Relief Society
  2. Tuesday evening: Mutual
  3. Wednesday afternoon: Activity Day
  4. Wednesday evening: Enrichment
  5. Thursday afternoon: Scouts
  6. Saturday evening: Youth dance

Obviously some of these vary. This past week we had Standards Night on Sunday evening and a Laurel senior breakfast on Saturday morning in lieu of the night dance. Some weeks we have pack meeting on early Tuesday evening instead of den meeting on Thursday. Next week there is a Primary activity in addition to the usual.

Ultimately, however, it seems that the “consolidated schedule” turned out to be an expansion schedule. Did we get off track, do we need more meetings now than when I was a kid, or was expansion the plan all along?

Tags: ,

120 Responses to Time to Reconsolidate?

  1. Jacob F on March 22, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Ironic post to read as I contemplate attending our 2-hour Stake Priesthood Meeting (which usually goes over time) tonight, after being in meetings at the church from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. With Mutual Tuesday, visits Wednesday, and a meeting every other Thursday, the church really does suck up a lot of my time when I think about it.

    Luckily, most of it (except for Stake Priesthood — I know I should repent!) feels like time well-spent.

  2. Alison Moore Smith on March 22, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    And before you say it, I know that the former is a teen schedule and the latter a mom schedule. And I know men had that extra meeting on Sunday morning…but of course women had RS during the week, too. Still…

  3. queuno on March 22, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    As to your original schedule, you missed Primary during the week (same night as Mutual?).

    While one’s weekly involvement does seem to have increased (have we forgotten ward temple night monthly where one has access to a temple, and in some cases, a quarterly or monthly stake priesthood temple day), the main difference now is that all of the “worship” meetings are in one block; the rest are more or less “optional” activities (I’ll go to the mats defending the use of “optional”).

  4. Stephanie on March 22, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    A couple of weeks ago, my husband or I (or all of us), hit three different church buildings in six days (every day but Monday). That is no small feat considering that each church building is 30 minutes away. Some were optional (the men’s b-ball tournament is not a “need”). And my oldest is only 8!

    I do sense a sort of “consolidation” coming. I am not sure what it will look like, but it appears from focus groups that the church is concerned about overscheduling families.

    One thing our Primary President did when I was in Cub Scouts was to make everything on Wed nights and alternate. So, we had cub scouts twice a month and achievement days twice a month. Mutual is also on Wed nights, so it was one busy family day, but that was it (except for pack meeting, which was on Fridays). She herself had 6 kids – one in each major organization – YW, YM, cub scouts, achievement days – and knew the stress on the family from so many activities. So, she consolidated our ward a bit.

    We also try to have only one youth activity a week. Because of the General YW Broadcast on Saturday, we cancelled YW on Wed.

    Your list doesn’t include presidency meetings or additional calling responsibilities – that is what really makes things crazy!

  5. Geoff J on March 22, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Allison: Ultimately, however, it seems that the “consolidated schedule” turned out to be an expansion schedule.

    I see your point but I think you have skewed to facts a bit too much in making that point.

    For instance, I think the list of auxiliary meetings you added (scouts, mutual, achievement days, dances, etc) would be there in the first list too even if we split our meetings on Sundays still. So the list probably didn’t really expand as you imply.

    Of course the simple solution to having too many meetings/activities is to simply ditch the ones you don’t feel like attending.

  6. Stephanie on March 22, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Of course the simple solution to having too many meetings/activities is to simply ditch the ones you don’t feel like attending.

    Is this really a good solution? What does it teach our children about attending meetings? I know that for a lot of families it is coming to this (skipping scouts is a big one because they have so many campouts, awards ceremonies, etc) But, I think a better solution would be to work toward and push for consolidation so that we can maintain activity.

  7. Ray on March 22, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    #2 says it all. Parents now don’t have any more meetings than they used to have – especially in wards like mine that have almost all mid-week meetings (Mutual, Scouts, Activity Day) on the same night. Your ward is nuts to have them on separate nights, imo.

  8. Ray on March 22, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Stephanie, I have NO problem missing optional meetings. Like queuno said, optional means, by definition, not mandatory. Nobody is going to call me or my kids less active if I or they miss a mid-day activity occasionally – or, if they do, I won’t give a large rodent’s hairy hindquarters.

  9. Geoff J on March 22, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Is this really a good solution? What does it teach our children about attending meetings?

    Yes.

    Why not teach our children which meetings really matter and which don’t? Sacrament meeting really matters. We should always be there to renew our personal covenants with God.

    100% attendance at achievement days? Not so much. If it adds more stress to the family why get all worked up over missing a few? And if anyone gives you grief remind them that it was apostles of God who have told us to use the “family filter” at times.

    Meeting-creep happens in the church. My favorite way to combat it is to ditch non-essential meetings at times.

  10. Christopher Bigelow on March 22, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Remember, the church counts you as “active” if you attend just sacrament meeting once a month!

    Seriously, I don’t understand why the church culture is so all-or-nothing about meetings. I attend most of the basic block most weeks, but I personally delight in missing meetings whenever I can.

    If I weren’t married with kids, I would follow the once-a-month plan. But my wife would freak out, and I admit I do like my kids getting their gospel foundation strengthened at church.

    For me, a little bit of church goes a LOOONG way, and I don’t much enjoy all the repetition, conformity, and righteous posturing that goes on at church.

  11. Yet Another John on March 22, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    One thing to remember on the old schedule that priesthood meeting was also on Sunday and that all three meetings (priesthood, sunday school, sacrament) regularly ran at least an hour and a half. In fact sacrament meeting would often push close to two hours in my childhood ward!

    The biggest difference I see in meeting or activity congestion is not that there is necessarily more church meetings to attend but the proliferation of other activities. When I was a kid Sunday was church, Monday was FHE, Tues. or Wed. was MIA, and the rest of the week was community time. That included ball games, dances, drama and other high school activities, etc. Today our youth (and consequently ourselves) are kept going from Sunday morning to Saturday night.

  12. Desert Fox on March 22, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I agree the need exists to reconsolidate and streamline meetings. However, only the highest levels of Church government can make this kind of change happen.

    I’m not convinced these ruling councils perceive this as an issue that requires action. Local leaders are powerless to deviate from the CHI, so the meeting creep will grow.

    Therefore, the only coping mechanism for members will be to pick and choose what meetings are important, and vote with their feet on the rest.

  13. Billy Destura on March 22, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Old traditions die hard. I’m waiting for the Church to truly trust the family to keep their children/adolescents active in the gospel. I don’t think they trust us yet.

  14. Ardis E. Parshall on March 22, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Commenters at my blog are frequently wistful about some of the activities from our past that we no longer have time for: today’s post on Beehive Girl activities had one current Beehive Girl wondering why they don’t do some of those fun things anymore; earlier posts on Primary activities have had similar remarks. Any post on public speaking or teacher training draws comments moaning that we don’t have any effective program for teaching those skills to members anymore. Part of our Sunday School discussion this morning centered on needing time to teach hymns and part singing because church is the only place anymore where any of us ever sing, and our Sacrament singing has gotten mighty ragged through lack of instruction and practice.

    But what we don’t seem to remember is that we can’t do all of those things — build parade floats and have speech drills and festivals and conduct inservice training and go horseback riding and have regular hymn practices and conduct meaningful gospel discussions … all in a three-hour Sunday block.

    We want it all, but we don’t want to spend any time on it.

    What do we really want the most?

  15. NOYDMB on March 22, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Do they have reason to trust us?
    What has our (collective) track record been?

  16. Ardis E. Parshall on March 22, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    And, by the way, you families with tweens and teens, tell me how it works now: If your kids weren’t going to those church activities, wouldn’t you be running them around to other acvitivies of some kind anyway? I mean, your kids wouldn’t stay home night after night after night, week after week after week, doing their homework and singing “Love at Home” just because Mutual and Scouts and dances were eliminated, would they?

  17. queuno on March 22, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    We ran into some flack over Cub Scouts, because it conflicts with soccer. I feel that both are legitimate uses of my son’s time, and I am *not* going to pick between them (even if the ward leader thinks I must). Since both decide that have a meeting/practice at the same time, we’ve decided to split our time between them. We do Cub Scouts one week and soccer the next.

    A leader expressed regret that we didn’t feel a need to “sustain her” and “sustain the program”. My reply was that if she should discuss her regrets with her leadership, not me.

    We are huge supporters of cub scouts, achievement days, YM/YW, etc. But they need to balanced with the rest of our children’s lives.

    (And I can already see we’re going to run into conflicts over YW basketball. So be it.)

  18. queuno on March 22, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    To Ardis’ point, yes, my children would already be in some other activity. And that’s part of the point. The “optional” activity creep in the Church is not preventing my children from sitting around learning Chaucer in their rooms; it’s presenting a conflict with other legitimate activities not provided by the Church.

    I think Sunday activities are core activities that shouldn’t be consolidated. I think that early morning seminary is an activity that shouldn’t be “consolidated”. I think that participation in YM scouting and YW personal progress is very important, but maybe it doesn’t need to be weekly.

  19. James on March 22, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    I remember many of the things that Ardis talks about that we have abandoned. Church meetings that literally took all day between priesthood, sunday school, a meeting for Home Study seminary, and sacrament meeting. Then there was Primary on Thursday afternoon and MIA on Wednesday evening.

    Currently with two older kids, three in mutual and an 11 year old our schedule is like this:
    Sunday: three hours in the block. Maybe an hour per week for me to attend to asst. stake clerk duties. Once a month, one hour in BYC for 16-year old who is Priest’s 1st assistant.

    Wednesday: Mutual and 11-year old scout patrol meeting. 90 minutes.

    Once per month, RS enrichment for wife that runs about 2 hours. Stake youth dance to two teenagers over 14 at three hours per person. Campouts for boys over 12 overnight that take about 20 hours.

    Total monthly time commitment: 95 total person hours for an average of about 21 hours per month. For full disclosure we live five minutes by car from the chapel. I know that others have a much more significant time commitment to travel to church.

    It all boils down to how invested we are in the church as our social community. If your ward is your primary social community then the current much reduced time commitment is not onerous. If your primary source for socialization is elsewhere, more than a couple of hours on Sunday may be too much.

  20. James on March 22, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    168 total person hours with an average of 21 hours per person per month. Keys slipped.

  21. Tracy Keeney on March 22, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    My husband and I have had this very discussion. He’s a convert, so he never experienced the ‘un’ consolidated meeting schedule. But, we’ve discussed several times, the feeling of being pulled in a million directions for various church meetings, DESPITE the counsel to “simplify”. I do think though, that some of this IS perception. I’m probably not aware of how many meetings my mother went to went I was a kid. She was YW president for awhile, RS president for awhile– so i’m sure she had a plethora of meetings she was going to and I was just oblivious to them.
    The one thing we’ve noticed is that between Stake and ward functions, the weekends are always FILLED with church activities from the different organizations and the “extras” like baptisms. There’s rarely a weekend that one of us isn’t involved in a church activity– my husband as a bishopric member over primary and youth, my son for youth activities, myself in YW– younger daughters in achievement girls.
    Here’s a little glance: our ward calendar’s Saturdays for March.
    7th– open
    14th–
    •Stake YM Mini-MTC (involved my son and me getting him there)
    •Stake YW Camp JC Meeting
    •6:00 PM Young Women’s Fundraiser Dinner (I’m Camp Director)
    21st —
    •10:00 AM Stake Primary Activity for girls 8-11 (involved my daughters)
    •5:00 PM Elders Quorum Road Show
    •6:00 PM Stake Seminary Devotional
    •7:00 PM Stake CES Inservice
    •7:00 PM Stake YW/YM Dance (invovled my son)
    28th —
    •10:00 AM Ward Primary Activity (inolves my duaghters and my husband and bishopric over primary)
    •6:00 PM MT General Young Women Meeting (involves me as Laurel advisor)

    Next month is WORSE:
    April 4th —
    •General Conference (whole family)

    11th–

    •10:00 AM Stake Primary, YW, RS, and SS and Music Leadership Meetings (involves me as Laurel Advisor and choir director– I guess I’ll have to pick which calling I’ll go get trained in)
    •4:00 PM Stake Priesthood Leadership Mtg (involves my husband)
    •7:00 PM Stake Conference Adult Session (involves both of us)

    18th–
    •Youth Temple Day (FP, KC1, LS1, LS2) (My husband and son will go)

    25th — thankfully nothing that involves US. But, there’s a Stake Seminary activity this day, and come August, my son will be in seminary. So if he was already in 9th grade, this activity would have involved him.

    As you can see, every single weekend has church activities (and I didn’t even list them all– those were just the ones that involved my family). And with Visiting Teaching, Home teaching, presidency meetings, stewardship visits, Mutual nights, achievement days, monthly ward activities, baptisms etc, etc— church involvement takes up a lot of time. And that doesn’t even include prep time for your callings, planning lessons and such. I don’t MIND my life being so consumed by my church activities, BUT, I’ve come to realize that I CAN’T do it all. And the truth is, I don’t HAVE to. God doesn’t expect me to do ALL of it. I’m supposed to consider my family’s needs, my husbands work schedule, FAMILY TIME, etc and fit in what I can– making sure to get in the most important things — Sunday meetings and kids getting to Mutual night.
    Generally speaking– we probably DO make it to 90-95% of things. I think that’s pretty darn good.

    A couple years ago we couldn’t find ONE weekend when we could get to the temple because there was ALWAYS something going on and we felt obligated to go. We finally realized that we were being ridiculous. Surely, the Lord would rather have us go to the Temple, than to the ward activity (that we really didn’t want to go to, but felt like we needed to in order to support our activities chairman).
    We can’t do EVERYTHING, and be at EVERY activity/meeting/function– and that’s OKAY!!

  22. Sheri on March 22, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Our ward boundaries changed at the beginning of this year. Previously we had Mutual on Wednesdays, Cub Scouts on Thursday and Activity Days every other Friday (late afternoon usually). In our new ward they do Mutual, Cub Scouts, and Activity Days all on Wednesday night. It has been a big help and we have spent more time together in the evenings as a family (well until my husband and Mutual age daughter started practices for the Stake Musical!)

  23. Kevin Barney on March 22, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    I’m an advocate for reducing the block and other meetings. But until that happens, I self-medicate by blowing off meetings I consider unnecessary.

  24. Stephanie on March 22, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    #8 and #9 – because why should it be mandatory for the leader and not for the youth? If the meeting is not essential, then why waste a leader’s time preparing for it?

    Enrichment night is a good example of consolidation, IMO. Quarterly meetings for everyone (more on the “mandatory” side) and optional interest groups. There is a clear distinction. I rarely go to interest groups and don’t feel bad about it. I feel the new program does a good job of meeting needs (some people have more time and want to attend stuff like that) while reducing the burden. I now have 8 more nights a year I get to spend at home.

    I’ve been a cub scout leader. It was my calling and I hated it (and am likely destined to do it again soon). It took a surprising amount of time – way more than I thought it would. I guess I don’t see why it would be okay to waste my time with “optional” meetings but not the kids or their parents. I’m a parent of (almost) five. I’m busy. It’s a sacrifice. If cub scout meetings aren’t important enough for everyone to be at, let’s not bother. If it truly comes down to what Desert Fox proposes:

    the only coping mechanism for members will be to pick and choose what meetings are important, and vote with their feet on the rest

    well, why should just the attendees get to vote? Maybe I’m just bitter from years of putting on activities (okay, I guess I’m just at 6 so far but a calling without having to host activities would be nice – particularly since I’ve been having babies the whole time), but I think that if it’s coming down to this and attendees are so busy that they are picking and choosing but the leaders still have to faithfully push on, we should focus on reducing the number of meetings so it doesn’t waste the leaders’ time either.

  25. Stephanie on March 22, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Well, #13, I remember a quote from a recent conference (past 5 years) that said that if all families were strong, we wouldn’t have a need for auxiliaries. So, I think you are onto something. Basically, we hold these activities for the kids who don’t come from strong homes, which makes it even more of a service.

  26. meggle on March 22, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    I was feeling kind of bad about my beehive daughter missing YW activities on Thursday nights for soccer practice until my teacher son called me after 45 minutes last Thursday to ask if I could please pick him up, because they “weren’t doing anything” (excuse the run on sentence- too tired to edit). When I asked him what he meant, he explained that although most of the quorum had shown up at some point, several had left the building, others just couldn’t be located, and so the leader just didn’t bother. Hmmm. Granted, this is the YM, and my daughter is in YW, but if we want our teens and tweens to attend their midweek meetings, we ought to make them worthwhile (or at least make sure they happen).

  27. Keith on March 22, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    I recall President Hinckley saying at General Conference how they’d been examining the church, trying to take it apart, see how it might be put back together differently. (At that time they didn’t see any other ways to do things, though the one thing they did do at that time was to get rid of the traditional model for missionary farewells.)

    I’m wondering whether the whole thing of how much we meet, how much time people need to be together, programs we need or don’t need, might be seen differently by those who aren’t married, or don’t have children, or who might be the only member in their family, or a recent convert, or people where the church is relatively new and small, etc. I know some commenting on this–me included–fit some of these categories, but much of the discussion has focused (probably rightly) on the impact this has on families. Would there be a need for people in these other circumstances to have more contact, not less, with Church members?

  28. Ugly Mahana on March 22, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Growing up, all ward youth activities took place on the same night. I think that was wise. Seems like a local solution is available, so I’m not sure that this problem needs a church-wide solution.

  29. Stephanie on March 22, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Would there be a need for people in these other circumstances to have more contact, not less, with Church members?

    I think that’s a big reason why RS changed to the new Enrichment schedule – to try to meet the needs of both women who want more contact and women who need less.

  30. Keith on March 22, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Here’s President Hinckley’s comments from October 2002
    General Conference: “I need not tell you that we have become a very large and complex Church. Our program is so vast and our reach is so extensive that it is difficult to comprehend. We are a Church of lay leadership. What a remarkable and wonderful thing that is. It must ever remain so. It must never move in the direction of an extensive paid ministry. But we know that the administrative load is very heavy on our bishops and stake presidents, as well as some others. An awareness of that fact has led the Presidency and the Twelve to hold a number of meetings, some of them long and interesting, in which in effect we have taken the Church apart and then put it together again. Our objective has been to see whether there might be some programs we could do away with. But as we have analyzed these, we have not seen much that could be dropped. To drop one is like giving away one of your children. You haven’t the heart to do it. But I wish to assure you that we are aware of the burdens you carry and the time you spend.”

  31. queuno on March 22, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Re why shouldn’t leaders consider meetings as optional, if the Cubs aren’t going to participate.

    Basically, leaders are called to administer a program, participants aren’t. That kind of sucks, I agree. For leaders, it isn’t optional. It’s not fair, I agree.

    I would *love* it if church leaders would honestly survey the targeted participants before planning an activity that many can’t attend. However, it’s common practice for Church Cub Scouts leaders, EQ presidents planning parties, activities committes, etc., to unilaterally plan something without consulting with anyone else.

    It’s common practice for Church leaders to unilaterally assume that a Church programming decision automatically supercedes non-Church programs. That’s also wrong.

    Yes, perhaps parents and not leaders have too much power. Perhaps my stance would be different if I were the leader.

    But if *I* were the leader, I’d distribute a list of upcoming meetings to the parents with targeted activities, perhaps up to a month in advance. (Our new Cub Scout leader does this, and it’s great. If my son has already completed the requirements we’re doing at a particular meeting, then we go to soccer.) I’d actually work with the parents on a good time to meet. I would allow parents to determine what they feel as useful for their families. And if they don’t want to participate in something, don’t browbeat the parents into making your activity a priority.

    I have a dear friend who is a bishop, who doesn’t believe parents get any say in administering programs. That’s his prerogative. If I lived in his ward, we’d be skipping a lot more activities that we can’t schedule.

    (Sorry if I’m coming off as exasperated, but practices I see as common in other youth activities NOT run by the Church are routinely by ignored by Church people in the name of “we’re just following the leader, don’t question the leader”.)

  32. queuno on March 22, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Just thinking about something in priesthood meeting today. The YM president stood and said that this Saturday, they were having an all-day, double-elimination, YM basketball tournament. This, 6 days before the event. There was no schedule provided (“that’s TBA and we’ll let you know”) of games or brackets. There was no mention of how this might affect the YW Broadcast. It’s not on the stake calendar.

    I don’t have a YM or YW yet (just a few months away, though), and I find this sort of scheduling *inexcusable*. Some of my children’s activities are planned months in advance, but we bend over backwards to attend what we can. But this last-minute, “don’t ask, we’ll inform” type of event planning has GOT to go.

  33. Alison Moore Smith on March 22, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    queuno, I’m quoting you as the authority when I skip my next meeting.

    Geoff J #5: note that post #2 was mine. :)

    I was posting MY schedule in both instances.

    Still, when I was a kid, Primary was on Tuesdays right after school. Now it’s for two hours on Sunday plus Activity Day/Scouts, plus Primary activities.

    When I was a teen, Mutual was on Wednesday night. Then with consolidated it switched to Sunday. Then they added back one weeknight a month and then every week. So Mutual practically doubled. RS increased too, but has decreased somewhat with the changes on homemaking/enrichment.

    So is this only easier for the men?

    Ardis #14: Having mutual/scouts/activity day during the week has not, somehow, given my kids the idea that they have ENOUGH out-of-home time. Probably none of you are surprised that they still want to perform in plays and musicals, take music lessons, swim, take gymnastics and karate classes, and play on soccer teams.

    Sometimes I feel like the church meetings were designed for kids who “need to keep kids off the street,” rather than for people who have plenty to do.

    I guess it’s the homeschooler in me, but we have plenty of things we’ve figured out on our own. We really don’t need more of our time structured for us. If we want to learn public speaking or ballroom dance, we’ll find someone who makes a living as a public speaker or someone on the BYU ballroom dance team–not the 2nd counselor in the YM presidency (unless they have actual expertise in that area).

    Anyone else remember Elder Poelman’s General Conference talk a few years back that was edited before release? If memory serves, the edited part was along the lines of not need church meetings one day because families, as the central unit, would hold their own?

  34. Ray on March 22, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    “Local leaders are powerless to deviate from the CHI.”

    No they aren’t, and the CHI doesn’t specify exactly when most optional meetings are to be held.

  35. queuno on March 22, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    And yes, I believe we need more speech and presentation training at Church, particularly for the youth. I believe that every young man should receive his Eagle and his Duty to God. I believe that every young woman should receive her Personal Progress. I believe that every youth should graduate from seminary. I believe that scout camps, girl camps, and youth conferences are important. I believe that we should do more service to the community. I don’t believe that youth dances are unnecessary.

    But if it isn’t helping fulfill a “core goal” of the youth programs, then maybe it should be eliminated. As much as I hate to say it, that means stake musicals, stake basketball, and stake roadshows are probably on my family’s cut list (our kids are already in sports, musicals, and plays at school; do they need to duplicate it at Church?).

  36. queuno on March 22, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Alison – Feel free to quote me as saying that you are free to skip “optional” meetings.

  37. Sam B. on March 22, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Alison,
    But what if you don’t know that you want to learn public speaking or ballroom dancing? The nice thing about a system where you *generally* go is that you are introduced to things you aren’t familiar with; some may be a total waste of your time, but some may be the passion you didn’t know you had.

    That said, your (ward’s) schedule is absurd. Our stake has YM, YW, cub scouts, and activity days all on Friday night, and they appear all to be at roughly the same time (I don’t know for sure, because my kids aren’t old enough for any of that yet). That, plus Sunday, plus the occasional outside activity/meeting are about all that we have. Other, of course, than the various singles wards. When I was in the singles ward, there was something church-related you could do at least 5 or 6 nights a week, but that’s a whole different thing.

  38. Billy Destura on March 22, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Taking a step back and getting the big picture, I like what Elder Holland said at the 2009 Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting:

    “I’ve often thought, and I’ve said to my own children, that those parents who kept going past Chimney Rock and past Martin’s Cove (and sometimes didn’t get farther than that) and those little graves that are dotted all across the historic landscape of this Church—they didn’t do that for a program, they didn’t do it for a social, they did it because the faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ was in their soul, it was in the marrow of their bones. That’s the only way those mothers could bury that baby in a breadbox and move on and say, “The promised land is out there somewhere. We’re going to make it to the valley.”

  39. Alison Moore Smith on March 22, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Oh, Ray et. al. I completely agree. I have asked to have scouts and AD on the same day, but basically the leaders of these groups get to choose when/where they hold them. If those three things could just be same time/same place, it would make my life so much easier.

    That said, I have to give praise to my new ward. We have been here since September and I never cease to be impressed. We have not yet attended an “optional” meeting that was unplanned or without at least a decent purpose–and that, miraculously perhaps–includes the YM. Not one. We usually get schedules way in advance, the leaders are prepared, the youth are involved, and there is also a lot of service.

  40. queuno on March 22, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Sam (37) – That’s all great, obviously. But what should my children put on the back burner in lieu of committing time to a “fun” stake activity not backstopped by any program goal: A merit badge college, working on a school science fair project, or going to early morning seminary?

  41. bfwebster on March 22, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    OK, I haven’t read all of the zillions of comments, but your schedule of the ‘old days’ is incomplete. Here was a typical schedule:

    8:30 to 9:30 — Priesthood
    10:00 to 11:30 — Sunday School (including Jr. Sunday School)
    5:00 to 6:30 — Sacrament meeting.

    During the week:
    — Relief Society
    — Mutual
    — Primary

    The ‘consolidated schedule’ cut Sunday meetings from 4 hours to 3, plus eliminated Relief Society and Primary during the week. It also meant that the whole family came to church just once on Sunday, instead of up to 3 times. All the other meetings you cite (leadership meetings, etc.) were there, except more often (we used to have stake conference every quarter). ..bruce..

  42. queuno on March 22, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    basically the leaders of these groups get to choose when/where they hold them

    And that is why we fail.

  43. Alison Moore Smith on March 22, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Posted by: Sam B. The nice thing about a system where you *generally* go is that you are introduced to things you aren’t familiar with; some may be a total waste of your time, but some may be the passion you didn’t know you had.

    Sure, but how far do you extend that? How many meetings do you call in the name of “exposure”? I had fun in lots of church things as a kid, but when all was said and done, the things I pursued were things I was introduced to by my family and/or at college. And how much exposure or opportunity did I miss by being in another church meeting? I don’t know what the opportunity cost was. And let’s not forget that sometimes mediocre “exposure” is worse than none at all!

    When I was in the singles ward, there was something church-related you could do at least 5 or 6 nights a week, but that’s a whole different thing.

    My second daughter is about to graduate from high school. Yesterday (at the senior breakfast) a man in the bishopric of the local single’s ward introduced himself to the girls and told them about the ward. They have church on Sunday and activities Sunday-Thursday nights! Great for the young adults, not so great for the bishop and his family!

  44. m&m on March 22, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Hm. I’m not convinced that the programs are all about serving those who are weak. I may be wrong, but I think there is something to building community and friendships, too. It’s not just about the content of the meeting, it’s about gathering. And I think our youth can benefit and may even need each other more and more as pressures and opposition mount. We need each other.

    Sure, there needs to be a balance (like having things on the same day, which is what our ward does), but to me, there is more to all of this than what particular skill will be taught or addressed at any one meeting. I remember hearing once (will see if I can find it) that if you already know something that is being taught, then you can come help and contribute and share what you know!

    I go to Enrichment as much to build relationships that I can’t build at church as anything. I send my kids to activity days and scouts not just to learn skills but to associate in a more casual way with other members, and to have other mentors in their lives.

    Zion is a community affair. There is power in gathering, imo…a power that, when executed the way it should be, doesn’t necessarily come from other extracurricular activities. If we all just do our own thing…?? I think we miss something by thinking it’s only about what WE might get from the activity individually. I just think there is a collective benefit from being together, learning together, learning from each other.

    Of course, assuming that is a reasonable point of view, that also requires careful, prayerful, and purposeful planning. Which is something our leaders stress regularly.

  45. Spitfire on March 22, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Allison~

    My ward in PA was part of the pilot program a looong time ago. It happened back when oil/gas prices were sky high (nothing like now!) & we went to a consolidate meeting schedule on Sunday’s but in our ward, that really just meant meeting all together for both Sacrament mtg, SS & then Priesthood/RS. We had seminary during the extended period. But we continued to have Mutual/MIA & Primary activities during the week. So, really for us, the only thing that changed was not returning to church a 2nd time on Sunday. Then oil prices really hit the roof & they locked up the church all week with the exception of Sunday, NO meetings at all during the week @ the church. So…mtgs (leadership) were held in homes.

    I do agree with you that it seems like we are perpetually meeting to the point of when do we really have family time? We can not realistically expect children/teenagers to NOT participate in school functions or activities, so when is there anytime left?

    I remember learning in chemistry that the very nature of “gas” is to fill the space or void that it is in. Guess the “gas” has filled the void!! LOL

  46. Hans on March 22, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Here was my Sunday schedule (pre-block) when I was a music graduate student at UCLA (late 70s):

    8:00am – Priesthood Mtg. – play piano in opening exercises
    9:00am – Catholic Mass – play organ (paid position) at Westwood VA Hospital
    11:00am – Lutheran Worship Servide – play organ & conduct church choir (paid position) at Lutheran Church of the Master (6 blocks from LA Temple on Santa Monica Blvd.) After service, pastries and goodies (no coffee for me, of course!) in church hall.
    2:00pm – Ward Choir Rehearsal at Mar Vista Ward – conduct choir
    3:00pm – Sacrament Meeting at Mar Vista Ward – play organ
    ************************************************

    After change to block schedule, had to give up Catholic Mass & Lutheran Worship Service
    so…
    Saturdays – sang in Seventh Day Adventist choir – Bass section leader – paid position. Occasionally play organ, direct choir (paid position). Afterwards, vegetarian pot-luck! :)

  47. Geoff J on March 23, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Allison: I was posting MY schedule in both instances.

    Ahhh… Thanks for clarifying. That does make more sense.

  48. barndoor benji on March 23, 2009 at 12:36 am

    mm nobody said it was for weak people. All the meetings and driving are too much sometimes. If the church hired me full time like a GA I wouldn’t mind but I have a job too.

  49. Serena Davidson on March 23, 2009 at 1:25 am

    You know I love you, Alison. You know I do. You are the one who taught me to come out of the shadows and speak my mind. You are the one who invited me to respond. Here goes.

    Suppose backsliding Israel had owned laptops? Had access to the internet? The Old Testament might have included a record of a blog that ran something like this:

    “I am sick and tired of manna, day after day, week after week, year after year. Aren’t you? It’s always the same thing: vanilla-flavored. Never chocolate. Never strawberry. Never pina colada. Why don’t we have some variety? An opportunity to give input about the flavors? I don’t think I can stand it another day.”

    Comments:

    #1. I hear you. My kids are getting so they won’t even pick it up any more. They’d rather go hungry. I talked to the bishop about it to see if he could instigate some changes. He asked the higher-ups, but they said nothing was in the works.

    #2. It really bugs me that it falls on the ground. It gets dirt on it! I think it would be so much better if it fell into a large sterilized vat, or better yet, came in one-serving size sealed packages.

    #3. It would be best of all if it came directly to the door and we didn’t have to go to the town square to pick it up. You’d think in this modern day and age, a better system of delivery could be arranged.

    #4. All that bending over hurts my back. I think if they’d just send it one day a week and let us gather a week’s worth at a time, my back would feel better.

  50. Peter LLC on March 23, 2009 at 6:55 am

    If the meeting is not essential, then why waste a leader’s time preparing for it?

    This.

    In the several years of my present calling, I’ve yet to attend a meeting at which all those who should have attended were present. So to all you who vote with your feet: thanks for nothing.

  51. Mark Brown on March 23, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Here is my family’s schedule:

    Monday through Friday, teenagers leave for seminary at 5:20 ack emma. They go directly from seminary to school, and since they are all involved in either sports, music, or forensics, they are at school until 5:30 p.m. They also have jobs, so we usually don’t see one or another of them until well after 10:00 p.m.

    On weekends it’s not quite so hectic, but between scout campouts, service projects, and dances, the kids are involved with something at church 3 of 4 Saturdays a month. Sundays really are about the only day was have some unhurried time together. That is when we hold FHE and do things together, so we have learned to guard Sunday time ferociously.

    I think it is worth remembering the reason for the consolidated schedule in the first place. The idea was that if the church really believes what it teaches about the primacy of family and the importance of parents teaching their children, it needs to allow time for that to happen. Pres. Kimball said that he was surprised and frightened when he realized how much time and money church activity demanded from the Saints. Whether families actually step up and take responsibility is secondary. If we truly think that no other success can compensate for failure in the home, we have to at least allow time so the home has a fighting chance.

    I will confess that as the parent of teens, when I add up the hours the church has my kids and compare it to the spare moments I can find at 5 in the morning or 11 at night, sometimes the church’s teachings about the importance of the home seem like a sick joke. My experience has been that church meetings display one of the properties of a gas — they have a strong tendency to expand and fill all available space.

  52. lamonte on March 23, 2009 at 7:24 am

    When I was a boy living in a Mormon community in southern Idaho, where one’s entire life revolved around church, when 98% of my neighbors were church members (even if only 30% of them were active) and when I lived a block and a half from church, the old schedule made some sense. When I went off to college in Northern Idaho and found there were some wards in rural locations where the members came to church early in the morning (for priesthood) and then had to stick around the building all day waiting for sacrament meeting in the afternoon – which meant they brought a pot luck lunch – it made sense to change to the block schedule.

    When I moved to an area where the church makes up only a small portion of the local population and multiple wards share the same building requiring serious coordination of schedules, the block system made even more sense. When my wife and I were raising our sons, a 3-hour block of meetings, plus early morning seminary, plus weeknight activities for youth and adults, plus weekend ward and stake activities seemed overwhelming at times. When I added to that schedule the requirements of my calling as bishop, I often wondered how we managed. Now that we are empty nesters, my wife’s calling as an auxilliary president and my calling teaching temple prep classes, plus our commitment working as ordinance workers at the temple two nights a month – not to mention our callings as home and visiting teachers and my participation in the ward choir – seems more manageable.

    If the church decides to change – maybe based on some of your suggestions – I’m sure we’ll find a way to adapt.

  53. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 8:05 am

    queno #31, my problem with your comment is that it still seems to be an us vs. them scenario. The leaders and the church are on one side, and the parents/kids on another. But, the leaders are the parents!

  54. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 8:07 am

    So, as a parent, this is what I would ask the “church” for: please don’t call me to be a leader and ask me to hold activities that are non-essential or too much for the kids. If it’s too much for them, then it’s probably too much for me.

  55. ron on March 23, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Ironic that the current schedule was supposed to cut down on trips to church. If you’re active with kids, it obviously hasn’t done that at all. Unfortunately, it has cut down on socializing after church, eliminated a great mutual program that is now almost non-existent, and has turned Relief Society into something a lot of otherwise wonderful church women don’t care to attend. And if you have any kind of physical impairment, sitting for three hours becomes almost unbearable. I never thought I would say this, but I would love to have the old schedule back.

  56. Leon on March 23, 2009 at 8:37 am

    I live in a Virginia and our building has 4 wards that meet. For years our meetings on Sunday are 2 1/2 hrs instead of the 3 hrs. Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society/YM/YW are each cut by 15 minutes. It seems that it makes very little difference to loose those 15 minutes, but it is amazing how much we all enjoy the 1/2. Yes the “optional” meetings are mentioned as optional, but anyone knows that if someone is not attending regular weekly or bi-weekly meetings then in the Presidency meeting there will be “discussion” on how to better fellowship this person. I am convince that we are being kept so busy doing “good” things that we are worn-out when it is time to do the important things. Family prayer and scripture study every morning will go further at helping my kids testimony grow than 90% of the youth “activities” they are involved in. Problem is that not enough do the family piece so the church tries to make options available to help. I am not wise enough to know what the church should do, but I know that for my family, we attend most things, but have no guilt missing when we have a more important event.

  57. Mark Brown on March 23, 2009 at 8:40 am

    The old schedule is gone forever because it relied on each ward having its own building. Many of our buildings have two or three and sometimes four wards meeting in them. The logistics would be impossible. This current approach saves the church millions of dollars. Even if some of or memories from the good old days are real (although I suspect that we are filtering this nostalgia through rose-colored glasses), it seems like a small sacrifice, in comparison.

    Our building houses only two wards. Last month we tried to hold a linger longer in the gym while the ward that meets after us was holding sacrament meeting. Or, more accurately, trying to hold sacrament meeting. Linger longer in gym + sacrament meeting in chapel = reverence FAIL.

  58. Red on March 23, 2009 at 9:33 am

    I’ve been frustrated with these issues for years! I’ve learned two things:

    1) No one else is going to protect your family time for you. Everyone else has an agenda and it always involves more meetings. If no one else is going to protect your family, guess who has to do it? You do.

    2) There is no need to educate or convince others that their meeting is unnecessary or meaningless. No one wants to hear it: in most cases they CAN’T hear it. Just don’t attend (quietly). When you are running the meetings (in leadership positions) do what you can to consolidate.

    And then let the rest go. Church activities are meant to serve me and my family, too. When they’re not helping, I have the right and the responsibility to choose family time instead.

  59. Sam B. on March 23, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Allison,
    In my experience, the bishop of a singles ward show up Sunday and to an activity every month or two, maybe. The singles wards largely run themselves, activity-wise. Your mileage may, of course, vary; I’m basing this on singles wards I was in at BYU and in New York. On that level, the bishop wasn’t any more impacted than he would have been in any other ward (which is to say, he undoubtedly put in more time than I would want to, but that was largely the non-delegable bishop stuff; showing up to a picnic every other month isn’t super-oppressive).

    And Allison and queuno, you certainly do have to figure out where your balance is. When I was in high school, I had my priorities. Music was high, seminary was low. Mutual fell somewhere in between. I definitely didn’t go to every activity that was planned, but I did learn stuff that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned (and I did skip stuff that, in retrospect, it would have been nice to learn). I wouldn’t demand that you go to every single activity, by any means, but I do think everybody should occassionally do something that is 100% outside of their interests and experience. If it’s not a good fit, then that person will find that out. And if it is, there’s one more time-sucker that will enter that person’s life.

  60. east-of-eden on March 23, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Interesting comments from all….

    My DH is privy to the ward and stake calanders. He tells me there is something scheduled for every weekend, and almost every day of the year in our ward and stake. In fact, this past President’s Day the YM of our ward scheduled an activity on a Monday night, because that was the only night open…..they justified it by inviting their fathers to their movie night and called it a family activity.

    The bottom line, at least for us, is that there is too much going on, and we know we can’t nor want to go to all of it, so we don’t, and we don’t feel guilty about it either. Of course, speaking out about your frustrations about the number of meetings, will get you branded an heritic in our ward — so I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and do the things that will keep me temple worthy and not worry about the rest.

  61. Owen on March 23, 2009 at 11:52 am

    What else would we be doing with the time we’re talking about?

  62. Alison Moore Smith on March 23, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Oh, Owen, do you really want that list?

  63. bkw on March 23, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    One of my complaints is that we are not allowed to permanently combine with other wards for Scout activities. Between the 3 wards in our building, there are 9 Deacons, 3 scoutmasters, 3 assistant scoutmasters and 3 bishopric 2nd counselors. The boys get little out of it and the 9 men who are faithfully there every Wednesday night know their efforts are being duplicated by others. Wouldn’t it simplify to combine into 1 troop of 9 boys with one scoutmaster and one assistant?

    Then maybe I could get my garden planted and my lawn mowed on occasion.

  64. John Taber on March 23, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    The impression I got from President Hinckley in fall 2002 (from General Conference, and about a month later in Philadelphia) was that they’d made the “easy” changes, but that other things were yet to come. I believe they still are – though the Sunday block will probably remain three hours long after the dust settles.

    I have a problem with the myriad of weeknight activities choking family time. I especially have a problem with the discrepancy between the Church’s footprint in Utah vs. elsewhere in the western states vs. the rest of the USA vs. the rest of the world. (And I’m sure all of you could come up with plenty of gradations in between.)

    To me that doesn’t just include how things are implemented for a given ward or stake in a given place, but the larger-scale programs (like Deseret Industries) and Church commercial ventures. Most of them, when set up, served the majority of members, but haven’t expanded much geographically. Meanwhile, the Church continues to grow upward and outward.

  65. daveescaped on March 23, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    No offense to Jacob F (first post) but I believe he is describing something coincidental but not ironic. It would perhaps be ironic if he had found your post on a blackberry while stuck in a long fireside teaching us that we are all to busy and over-programmed. Something like that.

    What I think is most concerning about our proponderance of meetings and activities is that underachievers like myself (and we are many but I’ve never bothered to count) tend to quietly and passively inactivate themselves. I’m not talking about Budweiser and 10% pay raise type inactivity. I mean church attending, Ensign subscription lapsing, sometime sabbath boating, never-was-one-for-pageants, hometeaching slacking, make-me-the-sunday-school-secretary-for-life, responsibility avoiding kind of inactivity. The kind your wife tells her friends about but not the Bishop. And that kind of inactivity is common, correctable and spiritually damaging. IMHO, too much programming and meetings leads to (in some) spiritual sloth that can only result in an eternal timeshare (rather than a mansion with many rooms).

  66. John Taber on March 23, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    bkw #63:

    When I lived in Raleigh, I attended one of three wards in the stake center. (There had been four from time to time, and there’s now a Spanish branch there. When I was there Spanish speakers were steered to one of the three wards.) In the same neighborhood as that building there are several other churches. Each is about the same size as the stake center, and each probably serves about as many congregants as the stake center does as a whole.

    I highly doubt that any of the other churches, if they sponsor Scouting, has more than one pack and one troop. I seriously doubt any of them has a varsity team or venture crew.

  67. Jay S on March 23, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    From everyone I have talked to – church meetings take up much less time now then they used to. The problem, at least with many of the youth activities, is that parents are required to schedule and take children, even in areas where the chapel is less than a mile away. So instead of the kid riding his bike to scouts – the parent has to spend 20 minutes dropping off and 20 picking up.

    As to the necessity of youth activities, I think they are very important, especially in those areas where you don’t have a large number of lds kids at school. While not arguing that all activities are better than no activities (ie the example given where “they aren’t doing anything”, or just playing basketball), having an opportunity to learn and associate with other youth can be extremely valuable. YM was probably the only reason I am active today. And while many of the traditional YM activities (ie basketball, etc) weren’t particularly interesting to me, we did other things that were sufficiently interesting to keep me coming. And while about 10% of my high school were LDS, I didn’t really associate with them, as they weren’t doing the activities I was involved with.

    I while I can’t speak to the YW organization, ideally the YM program should provide learning and spiritual opportunities, while building a sense of brotherhood. I suppose this sense of fraternity was why our YM organization was so good. For the most part, our leaders were very good at letting the youth plan and coordinate the activities. The advisors did just that, advise. They would put limits when our enthusiasm left its bounds (no we can’t all go on an ATV run to Mexico, but we can go to mexico and go fishing), but the planning and execution of the activities were largely in our hands.

  68. Jim Fields on March 23, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    The older I get the more meetings I seem to attend. I guess if I weren’t to accept any more callings I would just have three hours on Sunday.

  69. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Good point about consolidating scouts in a building.

  70. It's Not Me on March 23, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    #13 – “Old traditions die hard. I’m waiting for the Church to truly trust the family to keep their children/adolescents active in the gospel. I don’t think they trust us yet.”

    I wonder why. Call me a cynic, but when less than 1/2 the members attend sacrament meeting, 1/5 of the Elders do their HT, a minority (IMO) read the Ensign, read scriptures, etc., why should the Church completely “trust” us to get our act together without weekly exposure to some structured religion?

    Of course, we have our agency, and we can come and go as we please. The problem, however, is that we want an official stamp of approval for our decisions as to how to live our religion. We don’t want the guilt.

  71. jimbob on March 23, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I didn’t read all the comments, so forgive me for any duplication here.

    The church exists to support the family; the family does not exist to support the church. Like all axioms, that’s not completely true in all situations, but it’s true often enough to warrant mentioning here.

    If you don’t like all the meetings, find those that are relatively indispensable and dump the rest. If the YM/YW/Cubs/Quilting Group leaders look askance, let that be their problem, not yours.

  72. Kallie on March 23, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    You didn’t even mention the Family History Center, temple attendance, food production and storage, never-ending humanitarian efforts or other callings that zap every molecule of time. It’s beginning to all seem like busy-work to me; something we do to keep ourselves off the streets or away from the computer, but guess what? I don’t do drugs. I’m not on the computer too often, and I never stray. I just want to feel some of this life is mine, not the Lord’s. I’m anxiously engaged 24/7, and ready to commit suicide over it.
    Our Visiting Teaching visits are supposed to be fifteen minutes, but never are less than an hour. Since we have four women to see, it seems to take forever, and I know they don’t want us there anymore than we want to be. How? Because half the time they aren’t even home. They “forget” and we have to reschedule. It seems we finally finish, and then, another month is here, and we must start all over again. I hate it. I’m beginning to hate it worse and worse. I start breaking out in hives as each Sunday approaches. Weekends are always baby showers, weddings, scouts, mutual or primary, and all church related. We can’t even consider a vacation that isn’t in Nauvoo, the Yucatan or Israel. Why am I in this church when I hate and resent it so much, and why am I sending out missionaries? Do I really want anybody else to have to run this constant marathon?

  73. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Our Visiting Teaching visits are supposed to be fifteen minutes.

    Really? That is good to know. I thought it was supposed to be 30-60 minutes.

  74. MC on March 23, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    72- “We can’t even consider a vacation that isn’t in Nauvoo, the Yucatan or Israel.”

    I guess I must have missed that General Conference talk. Get a grip.

  75. JrL on March 23, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    The comments have made me reflect on my own perceptions of time commitments growing up in Utah and then living in Virginia pre-consolidated schedule. The difference on Sundays is dramatic, of course; as many have noted, the schedule reduced to 3 hours what had taken 5 (for men): 8-11:30/4-5:30 (5 hours; two trips, perhaps plus a third to get the women of the family to the building for Sunday School). The weekly weekday program wasn’t much of a change for teens (it was always weekly Mutual, before and after consolidation). But for children under 8 (and for some years for girls until 12) it went from 1 1/2 hour primary to nothing. Cubs continued pretty much as it was, and Activity Days showed up later (in time for my daughter, fortunately!).

    What amazes me, though, are the other, “optional” activities. Sure, my stake’s calendar looks a lot like the one described in 21. But other than youth dances (less frequent than when I was a teen) and youth conferences, our calendar now lacks almost all of the major activities that my stake had when I was growing up: roadshows, stake play, leagues in multiple sports, speech festival, quartet festival, etc. And, of course, it doesn’t include quarterly stake conferences, quarterly priesthoodd meetings, three-day general conferences, and other meetings. Yet my Church life still seems so much busier. Why is that? Is it just that I’m an adult? Who ran all those events when I was a kid?

    Like many commenters, I agree that families can and should “opt-out” of some activities or meetings. But I see a real danger in extrapolating that we should get rid of many of the meetings and activities that bring us together. I’ve spent much of my Church life in positions with some relation to the youth. Many (most?) of the youth we served did not come from families that provided them the kind of activities and support that I received and hopefully have given at home. If all the strong families opt out and we cancel activities when they do, the youth from weak families are left with little or nothing. Those of you who advocate less, what do you propose that we do differently to serve those youth?

  76. John Mansfield on March 23, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    So, why are people treating every activity that involves any family member as something that requires the time of all family members? I go on some of the campouts with the scouts, but for most of them, the boys are gone, and it is as much of a commitment of the time of the rest of us as if they were at school. When there is a Saturday morning Primary activity, I drop off the children that are going to that, go run some errand, and come back an hour and a half later. Not every hour of your children and spouse’s lives requires your commitment and approval.

  77. Mark Brown on March 23, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    John Mansfield,

    To answer your question, I quote elder Packer:

    “Every time you schedule a youngster, you schedule a family—particularly the mother.”

  78. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Thank you, Mark.

  79. Mark Brown on March 23, 2009 at 4:32 pm
  80. Alison Moore Smith on March 23, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Thank you, Mark! And, frankly, I just don’t have that many errands to run!

  81. John Mansfield on March 23, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Is that your experience, Mark Brown? That whenever a child is at Girls’ Camp or seminary or MIA or school or playing at a friend’s house or in his bedroom reading a book, your family, especially your wife, is all sucked into the whole thing?

  82. Mark Brown on March 23, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    John,

    The point is that we are not at home as a family, which is what the church purports to be all about. When the kids leave for seminary at 5:20 and don’t get home until after 10 at night, it is very difficult to have family prayer and family gospel study on any kind of a regular basis. In the past, we gotten everybody up at 5, but it’s so hurried that it’s pointless. And we’ve tried having multiple family prayers morning and night, as family members come and go, but I think that is missing the point.

  83. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    He actually says it twice with “remember” at the beginning of the sentence. Here’s another good quote from that talk:

    Consider the mother who, in addition to her own Church calling and that of her husband, must get her children ready and run from one activity to another. Some mothers become discouraged—even depressed. I receive letters using the word guilt because they cannot do it all.

    Attending Church is, or should be, a respite from the pressures of everyday life. It should bring peace and contentment. If it brings pressure and discouragement, then something is out of balance.

  84. John Mansfield on March 23, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I live in a stake where President Packer’s desire for a church with few activities is the one that holds sway with the stake president. So, no MIA, cub scouts, or achievement days on weeks that the Relief Society has their evening activity. No anything during the week before stake conference when it is hoped we will visit the temple. Thursdays are blacked out as a second family home evening. So is the second weekend from Friday through Sunday with an exception for the 3-hour block. Things like rehersals for stake choirs for stake meetings are out of the question. It’s pretty much as if the stake didn’t exist; after five years here, I would have a hard time naming a dozen people outside my ward.

  85. John Mansfield on March 23, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    In the dueling quote category, here’s Thomas Monson in his first talk in the last conference:

    In preparation for our most recent temple dedication, in Twin Falls, Idaho, local Church members constructed a huge stage at the Filer, Idaho, fairgrounds and filled the dirt arena with sod and other decorations, including a large waterfall to represent Shoshone Falls, a popular landmark located two miles (3 km) from the new temple. The evening of the performance, 3,200 young men and young women entered the arena waving blue and white ribbons, turning the arena into a representation of a great river of flowing water. Titled “Living Water,” from John 4:10, 14, the celebration brought together youth from 14 stakes in the new temple district. They depicted, through song and dance, both their dependence for their spiritual lives on the living water from the Savior and their dependence for their physical lives on the mountain streams and rivers in their area. Those of us privileged to witness this event were uplifted and edified.

    I am an advocate for such events. They enable our youth to participate in something they truly find unforgettable. The friendships they form and the memories they make will be theirs forever.

  86. Mark Brown on March 23, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    My stake was like that as well, John. We also cancelled mutual on the week when RS had homemaking night. But between mutual, dances, eagle scout projects, firesides and campouts, my sons still had 8 – 10 church sponsored activities per month, in addition to the daily hour of seminary.

  87. John Mansfield on March 23, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Allison Moore Smith, let me take one item from your list: Youth dance on Saturday night. Now, admitedly, while your teenagers are off dancing, they are not available for family scripture study, but otherwise, how does this affect you? Do you drive them there and stay until the dance is over each time? Why? Your children don’t find their own rides to things they want to go do, occasionally asking you to be the driver?

  88. Mark Brown on March 23, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    John,

    I don’t think anybody objects to an event like Pres. Monson describes. I think the question that needs to be answered is this: When is the schedule full? Can a bishop or SP look at a calendar and say that the schedule is now full, and that if anything else needs to go on it, then something needs to come off first? Otherwise, we wind up with meeting creep. It’s like weeds in your garden, unless you vigilantly and ruthlessly cut them out, they will take over.

  89. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    John, perhaps how much you are affected depends a lot on the ages of your children. I have four under 8. If either my husband or I are gone, it dramatically affects the family. If a kid has to be somewhere, it has a huge effect. Every little activity does affect our whole family. We are craving family time.

  90. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Even getting a kid to cub scouts (actually three since I pick up two boys whose parents work) is a big deal. To get to scouts a couple of miles away, I literally start at 3 to make sure the uniform is on, kids are loaded after going potty, diaper changes, etc. so I can load kids at 3:30 to get my carpooling done in time. Picking them up requires a little less time but still messes up making dinner. It seems so simple, but with a lot of little kids it gets complicated. I am glad we only do it twice a month instead of every week like the other ward!

  91. John Mansfield on March 23, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    I think I’m understanding what a great benefit it was to grow up with a mother who didn’t drive.

  92. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    It’s the same for YW. When I used to attend YW (before my husband had to), I would leave at 6 to pick up all the girls who needed rides. We asked for parents to drive their own kids, but there were some girls who wouldn’t be able to come if we didn’t pick them up. Wouldn’t get home until after 9:30. Anyways, I guess my point is that it’s just not always that simple.

  93. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    How did you get places, John? If I don’t drive my kids, they don’t go. The church is half an hour away.

  94. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    If I don’t drive other people’s kids, they don’t go. Someone has to do the driving.

  95. Sheri on March 23, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    I agree with Stephanie if you have young children any meeting can cause a problem. While I said before that I enjoyed having Scouts, Activity Days, and Mutual all on Wednesday nights that did not work in our previous ward. The main activity day leader needed her teens to watch the baby and the younger children so she could not do it on Wednesday night. She also could not afford to hire a babysitter. Even with older kids (ages 9-13) if I am not home they do not get their work done or get to bed on time. ( I had some killer long Primary Presidency meetings in our last ward because we were struggling to get many callings filled).

  96. John Mansfield on March 23, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    I walked or rode my bike up to about five miles from home routinely by the time I was fourteen, a couple miles when I was ten.

  97. Mission Bay Runner on March 23, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Our schedule killer (which I notice that Miss Alison did not have on her list) was daily early morning seminary. I have two kids that don’t function well if I get them up too early.

    I didn’t see any mention of sunday firesides.

    I’m married now, but the flip side of this was when I was single and regularly attended the full meeting block for two wards each sunday (hunting for babes) and all of their activities during the course of the week.

  98. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Good for you, John. I think that in a couple of years when my oldest is 10, riding a couple of miles to cub scouts will probably be a good option (and a relief for me). But, the fact that your mom didn’t drive or that you rode your bike when you were 10 doesn’t negate the fact that there are a LOT of moms out there shuttling their kids all over the place out of necessity, and it is taking a lot of time away from other things.

  99. Raymond Takashi Swenson on March 23, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    We should also remember that callings are to a large extent for the benefit of the member who is serving in that calling. We get stretched to do things we would not do without encouragement, out of a sense of duty. There is a lot of pain and discomfort involved when we are stretched like this. But it is necessary for our growth. That is why wards are split when they get larger than a certain size. We NEED the burden of a calling in order to stay engaged, at least until engagement becomes natural and we take the initiative without waiting to be called.

    So, yes, when we take our kids to a meeting or event, we are supporting the people who worked on the event in a very specific way. There are a lot of people who need assurance that their offering is acceptable to the Lord, and they get that when WE accept their offering.

    Now clearly, we need to keep our priorities straight. But I think, when we are prioritizing church meetings and other events, we should add into the “go to the meeting” column that one important reason to go is to support NOT the meeting per se but our brothers and sisters in Christ who have tried their best to make the event worthwhile. I think we can appreciate this the most when it is our own spouse or children who are the persons called to do something, whose musical performance or dance or scout project or pinewood derby car or talk is made important by the neighbors who come to see and hear them. All those other people in the audience are serving US by cheering us on.

    I have a suggestion for parents who feel overburdened by their kids’ activities at church: If you live close enough, try asking their grandparents to take them to some of those events. If you don’t have some real ones, consider adopting some, maybe your home teacher or visiting teacher. Speaking from personal experience, it is a lot of fun to get a chance to do some of the things I enjoyed doing with their parents.

  100. Sheri on March 23, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    My brother and sister in-law are in a ward (or maybe their stake does this) where one week a month they are no weekly meetings allowed. They don’t have Mutual, Activity Days, Scouts, Relief Society, etc. I do not know if they have any leadership meetings that week but I don’t think they do. They both can schedule more things with us during that week.

  101. John Mansfield on March 23, 2009 at 6:00 pm
  102. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    What’s your point in posting that, John? To suggest that any parent driving their children to activities is maiming or hampering them?

    Thank you for single-handedly attempting to disregard the sacrifice many mothers make for their children.

  103. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    John, I get your point that if children can get themselves there, it helps out the family and improves their own self-reliance. But, is there a way to say that that isn’t so disparaging to people who don’t have that option?

  104. Naismith on March 23, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    I think part of the problem Alison describes is symptomatic of a spread-out family. If I had the sense to have my children closer together, I would not have had kids from college to primary all at once. I have to say it was a huge relief when we were done with Primary and could just focus on the other stages.

    As far as outrageously early seminary, our school district changed the start time an hour later, which allowed seminary to be later as well. There is a substantial body of literature on teen biorhythms backing up the need for later high school start (ours shifted from 7:30 to 8:30).

    I have a suggestion for parents who feel overburdened by their kids’ activities at church: If you live close enough, try asking their grandparents to take them to some of those events.

    Yuck, hope my kids are not reading this. Look, I did my time (36 years of child-raising), I really don’t want more of the same dumped on me again.

    If grandparents volunteer, that’s one thing. And I’m happy to help out when there is a true need. But the bread-and-butter driving is asking a lot. This is my time to have the career that I sacrificed because of children at home, and to travel in a way I couldn’t because of children at home.

    Plus, for anyone who is going to ask an elder to drive, I hope you are personally checking out their driving ability at least once a month. It can decline quickly.

  105. a_cubmaster on March 23, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    I’m currently cubmaster in my ward. As long as parents are willing to lower their expectations for their children’s achievement (not getting Arrow of Light for example), then I’m fine with missed meetings because of soccer practices.

    But if I’m seen as a failure because kids aren’t getting the awards that are supposed to as a part of being successful in cub scouts, then I have a problem with children missing meetings.

  106. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Our high school start time moved until 9 a.m. But, because sports and band are generally in the morning before school, seminary is still at 5:45. So, the majority of our youth get up for 5:45 seminary then go home at 6:30 and sleep a couple of hours (or whatever) and go to school.

  107. Stephanie on March 23, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Interesting, cubmaster. Don’t the parents know that cub scouts is primarily supposed to be done at home with the parents’ help?

  108. a_cubmaster on March 23, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Stephanie, I sure hope so. Even so, for Arrow of Light there are achievements that can only be done as a den.*

    It is difficult to meet everyone’s schedule, so there has to be some sacrifice to meet the den’s schedule if children want to get this award.

    I think part of the problem is that leaders are expected to make programs work with little training around what expectations to meet. And when it comes to scouts, there is plenty of training, but not in how to make scouting work in an LDS context.

    *A few examples:

    Plan and lead a flag ceremony in your den that includes the U.S. flag.
    Be active in your Webelos den for at least 6 months
    With your Webelos den, visit at least
    * one Boy Scout troop meeting,
    * one Boy Scout-oriented outdoor activity.
    Participate in a Webelos day hike.
    During a Webelos den meeting, discuss how to follow the Leave No Trace Frontcountry Guidelines
    Participate in an outdoor conservation project with your Webelos den or a Boy Scout troop

  109. Yet Another John on March 23, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Less meetings=more blogging.

  110. Desert Fox on March 23, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Over scheduling is a very real problem.

    Over the summer, when gas was $4+ a gallon, our Stake received a letter from some area authority to try to simplify and eliminate non-essential meetings to help families cope with the related fuel/cost burden.

    The Stake (to their credit) was able to eliminate some training related meetings (either cut or reduce their frequency). This was appreciated by those who were impacted. However, at the Ward level, the bishopric decided there wasn’t one meeting that could be eliminated or reduced in frequency. All of my suggestions for trimming some programs or their frequency were summarily shot down based upon an appeal to the CHI.

    So I disagree that local leaders can deviate from the CHI; choosing the specific day of the week is only a marginal help (like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic).

    As several commentors have correctly pointed out, the burden of overscheduling falls on the leadership: the others can (and do) vote with their feet.

    I wish (for the sanity and benefit of the leadership) that activities and programs would be rolled back in terms of scope and frequency. If you are in a leadership capacity and you add up the cumulative total of meetings, programs, activities, and meetings it is a crushing burden. I am convinced simplification is possible (and would be WELL RECEIVED).

  111. Left Field on March 23, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    When I was HPGL a few years ago, we got a new bishop who directed that according to the handbook, we needed to have a separate, earlier PEC meeting prior to Ward Council/Correlation/Welfare meeting (whatever those meetings are called). I pointed out that the handbook allows people other than the members of the PEC to be invited to the PEC meeting, and that as long as the PEC members were present, it could count as a PEC meeting held concurrently with whatever other meeting we were having. It didn’t fly, although apparently that was the interpretation taken by the previous bishop. So every week when we had Ward Council meeting, we had to get up even earlier to attend an extra meeting doing stuff that could just as well be done in the meeting we already had.

  112. Desert Fox on March 23, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    #111

    Welcome to “meeting creep.”

  113. DavidB on March 23, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Like others, our stake in the eastern US noticed that it was getting really hard to schedule family activities or even individual trips to the temple. So the stake presidency designated the first Saturday of every month as Family Time and placed it on the calendar. For the most part it has been honored…

  114. dalene on March 23, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    I recall several weeks in a row in which there was something major scheduled 5 or 6 days a week. I spoke to leadership about it, asking if that wasn’t the purpose of correlation meetings–to kind of see it all together. My thought was leaders would be able to say, “We have something every night this week, maybe we should rethink this.” I’ve come to understand all it means is that every different auxiliary gets to stake their claim on a different night of the week.

    I loved that this issue was addressed in the worldwide training meeting–with a bold reminder that auxiliaries are to support families, instead of families supporting auxiliaries. It’s a noble thought, but sadly, it appears to have fallen short in application.

  115. RedStar on March 24, 2009 at 8:35 am

    I have a friend who used to be a bishop. He once declined to attend a stake meeting because his son was playing in a soccer tournament. He said he had prior bishop’s business to attend to. His reasoning: attending his son’s soccer tournament was family business, and taking care of his family was bishop’s business.

  116. east-of-eden on March 24, 2009 at 10:03 am

    #63 bkw…

    Growing up we lived in a newly wed/nearly dead ward, and had only 2 boys of scouting age. There was another ward in the stake in the same position. My dad was the scoutmaster at the time, and got permission from the SP to combine the troops. They did this for many years and it worked out well for the boys and the leaders.

  117. daveescaped on March 24, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Does anyone feel this is an issue with Stake Conferences as well? Each conference we have a Priesthood Leadership meeting which is for P-hood leaders which includes anyone who is a M P-hood holder and breathing as well as leaders. OK, fair enough. Then there is the adult session (debateable whether this includes me but OK). Then we have the actual conference.

    Look I totally appreciate the conference. I even understand that from time to time other sessions are appropriate. But it seems like these meetings start to address a particular issue and then become a standard.

    My wife and I haven’t even gotten to the “busy with kids” stage (ours are too young). But even at this point I have to plan out a weekend WITHOUT functions every month (personal as well as churchural). Hey, grass needs to be mowed occassionally. Besides, what neighbor in their right mind wants to be a part of something that causes their neighbors to never be home?

  118. John Mansfield on March 24, 2009 at 10:51 am

    From Dallin Oaks “Good, Better, Best” conference talk:

    Stake presidencies and bishoprics need to exercise their authority to weed out the excessive and ineffective busyness that is sometimes required of the members of their stakes or wards. Church programs should focus on what is best (most effective) in achieving their assigned purposes without unduly infringing on the time families need for their “divinely appointed duties.”

    But here is a caution for families. Suppose Church leaders reduce the time required by Church meetings and activities in order to increase the time available for families to be together. This will not achieve its intended purpose unless individual family members—especially parents—vigorously act to increase family togetherness and one-on-one time. Team sports and technology toys like video games and the Internet are already winning away the time of our children and youth. Surfing the Internet is not better than serving the Lord or strengthening the family. Some young men and women are skipping Church youth activities or cutting family time in order to participate in soccer leagues or to pursue various entertainments.

    Earlier in the talk:

    The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated

  119. Alison Moore Smith on March 24, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Posted by: Sam B. In my experience, the bishop of a singles ward show up Sunday and to an activity every month or two, maybe….On that level, the bishop wasn’t any more impacted than he would have been in any other ward..

    My mileage does vary considerably. Not only in my own single wards, but when my dad served as a bishop in a BYU ward. I found those “special needs” wards were much less likely to “run themselves” than a standard ward. My husband’s bishopric stints were busy, but not AS busy. Even when Dad was a bishop at the MTC, it was very time-consuming. But that was likely more due to the fact that one guilt-ridden missionary or another seemed to call our home every day at a predictable 3:00 am, than any particular required scheduling.

    Posted by: John Mansfield …let me take one item from your list: Youth dance on Saturday night. …how does this affect you? Do you drive them there and stay until the dance is over each time? Why? Your children don’t find their own rides to things they want to go do, occasionally asking you to be the driver?

    Good question. It affects me thusly. One of us must drive 25 minutes at around 8:00 and again at around 11:00. That’s about an hour of driving, 3-4 hours of partial-family time, and it breaks up the whole evening so, for example, it eliminates the possibility of going to a movie or something. To be clear, it’s not any particular event (such as dances) that I have a beef with. It’s the sheer volume of activities and the number of days taken over by them. And, no, there is no carpooling since we don’t even live in the same city as anyone else in our ward. (See below.)

    As for bike riding, I did, too. I grew up mostly in Orem (by UVU) and my siblings and I rode our bikes to Scera for swim lessons every summer, starting when I was about five (a few miles, one-way). But I think we have to acknowledge it’s a different world. In some places these days you’d have DCFS show up at your door if you sent a 5-yo and two 8-yo’s alone on a cross-city trek.

    In Florida, our church was a 20-minute drive. Now it’s only 12. We live in Utah, but are attending the ward where we are building our house–so we’re not getting the Utah Valley distance advantage.

    Mission Bay Runner #97: We had early morning seminary in Florida, here we have released-time. Since we homeschool, released time is even more annoying in some ways, since it forces us to restructure our entire lives around the public school schedule–which was designed by a fool and his elves.

    Naismith is spot on. Our kids are in a 16-year spread, so we do (and will for years to come) have some in every auxiliary. Add to that learning all the different programs–particularly the female ones, which seem to be modified drastically with every child–and its just a big heap of stuff to go to and plan and complete requirements for.

    I also completely agree with Naismith that taking the most tedious of parenting jobs (chauffeurring) and dumping it on gramps (or grams) is just downright ungrateful! (Not to mention grounds for disinheritance.)

    Another point that bears mention is that in some areas that offer released-time seminary, taking seminary for four years can actually means that the kids can’t complete their diploma requirements. (I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t verified it myself.) That means that these kids are already having to take some regular school courses OUTSIDE of regular school time (electronically, during the summer, etc.) just to graduate.

    John, good quotes. With six children, each involved in just ONE activity that they are interested in, the schedule can get dicey. It doesn’t have to be about some crazy stage parents putting their kids into fifty different lessons that have trouble with all the meetings and driving and coordinating.

  120. Alison Moore Smith on March 24, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you all for your comments and input!

    My time as a guest blogger expires today, so I’ll be back to reader status soon. You can always find me at Mormon Momma, if you’d like to contact me.

    It has really been an honor to write here for a bit. Thanks to those who made that possible.