Getting with the (Primary) Program

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Primary programs all around. I have mixed feelings on these. Some of them are clearly disastrous. But some can be a fun experience for kids, and not too awful for adults either.

My opinion is probably colored a bit by the fact that I’ve been pretty involved in this year’s program in our ward. I drew up the initial program, trying for a basic story that would (1) allow a number of speaking parts, (2) work in our songs and scriptures for the year, and (3) be flexible. (We never know how many kids are going to show up any given week.)

After it was drawn up, the program was revised somewhat (primarily by Amy Bobo, the primary president). We’ve run through it a few times. The kids seem to like it, and I think that it’s not entirely incoherent. So, with some mix of authorial pride and desire to help out any other beleaguered primary person in desperate search for a program, I’m posting our little program Here. Perhaps it will help another primary person. (Or perhaps you’ll all just be dazzled by the brilliant writing ;) ).

We’ll be practicing this again today, and performing it next Sunday.

11 comments for “Getting with the (Primary) Program

  1. October 24, 2004 at 1:44 pm

    My wife is one of the choristers in our Ward’s Primary program today. What I say here is not a reflection of what happens in Sacrament meeting today or any other specific event.

    That said, I do think there is a tendency towards primary productions/performances/shows en lieu of programs. I believe that having children participate in Sacrament is a good thing. Children’s music can be extraordinarily touching.

    However, having children repeat word for word what leaders/parents give to them seems a little…well…less conducive to an honest reflection of spiritual insight. I have sometimes been reminded of those instances when parents take their children up to bear testimony then feed their words into their ear.

    I guess I need to ask what the real purpose of the Primary Program is.

  2. David King Landrith
    October 24, 2004 at 2:11 pm

    My wife’s a primary president, and when I told her that you posted your primary program, her immediate response was, “Cheater!” ;)

    She went on to say in more serious tones that it will be a very helpful resource whether people borrow it wholesale or use it to validate their own program. One tip that worked for her primary: collect the short talks the kids give in primary, and have the kids re-give portions of their primary talks in the program. This leverages kids and parents previous work, saves the adults having to write things, and makes what the kids have to say seem less contrived.

  3. Jack
    October 24, 2004 at 2:37 pm

    I played piano for our Primary program today. It went well. I’m looking forward to moving on to new music. I’m sure the children are as well, as they’ve been rehearsed to death over the last few months.

  4. sid
    October 24, 2004 at 3:22 pm

    i did not grow up in the Church, so , I have no personal experience of being in primary . But, now as an adult, it is really moving and fun to see the children at “work” as it were!!!!!!

  5. Amy
    October 24, 2004 at 6:46 pm

    “I guess I need to ask what the real purpose of the Primary Program is”

    The purpose of the primary program is for the children to share what they have learned throughout the year. The church makes a specific outline of the songs and topics for the year based on a theme -this year’s being “My Family Can Be Together Forever.” I think Kaimi did a great job on ours.

    I’m curous, J. Stapley, what exactly you think a primary program should be like. How would you propose that a 5 year old share his “honest reflection of spiritual insight”, or that 20 children all have a chance to participate in an ordered fashion without a preplanned script and plenty of practice? I realize I am being defensive here- after so much hard work on the primary program in my ward (it’s next Sunday) it’s hard to read someone criticize the programs and not feel personally attacked.

    In my ward the children are very exited to read their parts and they feel a sense of pride from being able to participate. My main concern is that each child feel special and important and have a good experience with the program.

  6. Jack
    October 24, 2004 at 7:07 pm

    Amy, in our ward the junior primary children were each given a simple one or two sentence thought which they recited at the pulpit. The senior primary children were each given topics for a short talk to be developed with the help of their parents. I thought this was a good compromise.

  7. October 25, 2004 at 12:35 am

    Amy:

    I asked the question as a serious inquiry. I have not read the program that you and Kaimi have prepared, and my comments were not intended as an affront to it. Please accept my apology. My comments were not intended as commentary on any specific event.

    I admit that I have never worked in primary and have consequently never prepared a program before. I do appreciate your response to the question, it makes sense to me.

    Side Note: Our primary program today was very good.

  8. Rob
    October 25, 2004 at 11:37 am

    I wrote the primary program in our ward for the past two years, and the real purpose of the program was to a) let the primary children teach the gospel and b) boost ward activity rates. Last year, our primary presidency visited every family with children in the ward and personally invited them to participate. They were able to get many less-active families to participate, and this was reflected in our sacrament meeting attendance on the day of the program (up to 335 from previous high in upper 200s). Sadly, this year, the primary presidency really missed this opportunity to help strengthen the ward community, and sacrament meeting attendance is slumping below 200.

    When I was on my mission, I wrote a sacrament meeting program for the kids to teach the 1st discussion. I think primary programs have great potential as reactivation and gospel teaching tools. Unfortunately, most ward members probably think the program is dictated from Salt Lake (it isn’t…each one is written by each ward following themes provided by Salt Lake) and most leaders don’t see the full potential of these programs.

    What if every primary sacrament program was written with the goal of actually teaching nonmembers? What if every kid who was participating in the program invited the family of a friend from school to attend that sacrament program? Would it ever be easier to invite someone to sacrament meeting than during the primary program when a) you know what is going to be on the programs and won’t have to worry about being embarrassed and b) your kid is participating? Sacrament meetings are often visitor unfriendly…why not at least once a year plan one that can inspire and teach visitors who want to see a program put on by their friends?

  9. October 25, 2004 at 4:58 pm

    Kaimi,

    I really like the flow of the program. What a great idea to have it be in story form with main characters. Most of the programs I’ve seen have been really choppy with no cohesion. But, one question, how are you presenting it? Does each child come to the podium or do you have a bunch of mic.’s that the pass around? I’m just wondering.

    Thanks!

  10. October 25, 2004 at 8:33 pm

    I’ve been in charge of 8 of the last 10 primary programs, and I now have it down to a science (or as little work for me as possible—tee hee!). For junior primary, I work with each class and ask them a leading question, related to one of the monthly themes. For example, I’ll ask the Sunbeams to complete the following: “I love my family because…” The kids essentially write their own parts and I make sure each class has a different theme. For senior primary, I assign talks and we spend one sharing time a month for the four months previous to the program working on and learning how to prepare a talk, so their parents don’t do it for them. The last month, I do let them take it home for some “parental polishing” but I want the thoughts and ideas to come from the kids.

    For the last few years, I’ve also had the kids draw pictures based on the monthly theme. I scan the pictures and create a looping slideshow that I project on the wall behind the podium during the program. I do know that there are rules against visual aids in Sacrament Meeting, and it’s recently become controversial in our stake, but our bishop allows it. I believe the drawings are a visual representation of their testimonies and quite often the images are many many times more touching and heartfelt than anything they can verbalize on their own.

  11. Amy
    October 25, 2004 at 8:56 pm

    J.Stapley,
    I should apologize as well- I think I am hypersensitive right now, so I hope I didn’t come across to harshly.

    Lizzy- we pass mic’s around to the children, it’s much easier than have them climb over each other to get to the podium.

    It’s been interesting to read posts about various primary programs. Sounds like great stuff is going on out there. For anyone interested- here’s what we are up against in our ward:

    There are few regular attendees (mostly Ka’imi and Mardell’s children). On many Sundays, half of the children in primary are investigators. We have children varying from refugees from Liberia to emigrants from Mexico. Some barely speak english. The children show up with an assortment of aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, etc., so we don’t really have contact with most of their parents. We have no idea which children will actually show up for the primary program, so we have tentative assignments, but have to be flexible. These are just a few of the challenges in our lovely ward in The Bronx.

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