“Why do we pray in the name of Jesus Christ anyway?”

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I write this on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. A simple question from my beloved little friend Eva almost a year ago has led me on a quest for a way to explain the profound concepts of Advocate, Redeemer, Savior and Mediator to a child. After much prayer, temple worship, and lots and lots of scripture searching, here is my response.

In a previous post, we told about Eva asking a question in Primary that Michelle followed up on at home, highlighting the value of bridging home and church for the sake of these children we both love. But the answer to this simple question from a child has profound significance.

Eva asked, “Why do we pray in the name of Jesus Christ anyway?” Has any child ever asked you this? How can you explain the concept of Christ being our advocate with the Father to a child? Here’s my attempt.

“Beloved child(ren), we pray to Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ because we are not worthy. If we were perfect, we could pray to Heavenly Father in our own name. But we all make mistakes — big and small — and “no unclean thing can enter” into God’s presence, not even for a moment, not even just to talk to Him in prayer. (1 Nephi 15:34) Only Jesus can do that, because He is clean. He is perfect. Jesus never made any bad choices, not even once.

“But Jesus knew we would make mistakes, so He paid for our sins in Gethsemane and on the cross. He agreed to be our Advocate with Heavenly Father. Advocate means someone who begs or pleads for someone else — asks really earnestly and hard. (see Doctrine & Covenants 45:3-5).

“At the Last Supper, just before He died, Jesus said, ‘No man cometh unto the Father but by me’ (John 14:6).

“And that, beloved child, is why we pray to Heavenly Father in Jesus’ name. It reminds us that we are too imperfect to talk to God on our own, but our perfect older brother Jesus pleads for us in front of our perfect Heavenly Father.”

Several memorable songs teach this truth as well; see the Children’s Songbook (CS) index under “Atonement,” including these personal favorites:

  • “I Lived in Heaven” (CS 4)
  • “He Sent His Son” (CS 34)
  • “Help Us, O God, to Understand (CS 73)
  • “Third Article of Faith” (set to music in CS 123)

Side note – I’m trying to learn the 23rd Psalm in Spanish. Instead of “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (verse 3, emphasis added), the Spanish translation reads “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for the love of his name (por amor de su nombre).” It doesn’t surprise me that in the end, it all comes down to love.

How have you helped a child understand why we pray in Jesus’ name? Comment below!

-Marci

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Meeting Children At Their Level

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Today’s guest author is Emma Lu, a wife, mother, grandmother, writer and music therapist who is inspired by children.

Children are a heritage from the Lord; they are a reward from him. (Psalm 127:3, New International Version)

It is true, children at times can be rowdy, but if we look we will always enjoy the angels inside. You’ve just got to love them.

The Primary sacrament meeting presentation was about to begin. The busy Primary president saw a 10-year-old boy sitting with legs folded together, arms crossed, and scowling face, defiantly pouting at the base of the pulpit in the chapel. She went over to him, knelt down by his side, and spoke softly to him. Then she stood and went about caring for other children. The boy then stood with a smile on his face and joined his class. It showed those of us who watched the tense scene how the boy’s attitude was changed by a loving leader. I asked the Primary president to tell me her wisdom. She said, “It is important to meet a child on his/her level, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual. All children need understanding.”

To have the privilege of working in Primary is fulfilling a promise from the scriptures: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, King James Version)

– Emma Lu

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Primary Assessment: Children

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In a previous post Primary Assessment: Adults, we talked about ways of obtaining useful feedback from adults. What about the children themselves? What might you learn from a kid’s-eye view of Primary?

Consider taking a few minutes at the end of class or Sharing Time to ask the children a few questions. For younger children, it can be as simple as “Draw a picture of your favorite part of Primary (or our class).” Children may draw a picture of their teacher or friend, Singing Time, using scriptures, being greeted at the door, etc.

For older children, you may want to be more specific. “Tell about the Sharing Time (or lesson) that you remember most. It could be recently, or long ago” or “What three things do you like best about Primary (or our class)?”

You might NOT want to solicit suggestions for improvement. Children usually don’t have a lot of practice in constructive criticism, and might make pointless suggestions like “more treats!” or “shorter time!” or make hurtful remarks about a peer.

You might be surprised at what stands out for them, and they may be pleased that you were interested in what they think and wanted to ask for their opinion.

-Marci

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Whose Turn to Sing? Check Your Outfit!

Today’s idea comes from guest contributor Shellie, who describes herself like this: “I’m a Primary music leader with little musical talent, but I believe strongly that we can strengthen and bear our testimonies through the songs of the gospel.”

When it comes to learning and remembering new songs, repetition is key. But if the kids keep singing the song over and over again, they’ll be bored stiff — and so will you. Try different activities to mix it up and keep the children’s interest, to make Primary songs memorable and fun.

Shellie has the children sing based on what color they are wearing. She holds up one of these color swatches. Children wearing that color stand and sing while the other children hum. Every few lines she changes it up and holds up a different color. Occasionally she holds up all the colors and everyone sings.

You can use the same idea for taking turns reading scriptures aloud together, or answering questions, or selecting teams for reverent Primary games. You can get a lot of mileage out of a set of colored cards on a ring!

Looking for more ideas to liven up singing time? Look for “music” in the search box to the right.

Also see Shellie’s previous post Fizzing, Bubbling Chemistry Experiments in Primary!

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Priesthood Authority (men and women) and Priesthood Keys (men only)

Guest author Christanne loves all the church auxiliaries but has spent most of her adult life in Relief Society callings. She is mother of three very different but amazing kids. Their family loves to be outside as much as possible.

Click here for the ready-to-use lesson plan: Priesthood keys and authority lesson outline

With 5 Sundays in October, you may have time for a lesson to supplement the excellent lessons in the Sharing Time manual for October 2017: “Blessings of the Priesthood Are Available to All.” This Sharing Time Lesson can be given anytime after week 1, to teach children the vital principle taught by Elder Oaks:

“We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.” (emphasis added) Dallin H. Oaks, “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” April 2014 General Conference.

Click here for the ready-to-use lesson plan: Priesthood keys and authority lesson outline

For a 1-minute synopsis of Elder Oak’s talk, click the video link above.

To see the full 16 minute talk, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1KOFWmZl8k

To read the text, visit The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood

For a related idea, see Women and Service in the Kingdom

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Overheard in Primary: Children’s Wisdom

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Today’s guest author is Emma Lu, a wife, mother, grandmother, writer and music therapist who is inspired by children.

 

Children need to feel confidence led by prudent, loving parents and teachers. When they do, they sense freedom to openly express themselves, often in a wise and surprising way. Here are a few choice bits of wisdom from children:

A loving Sunbeam teacher in Canada wrote, “There is one little boy, Kade, who just does not want to leave his mommy. Today when his mommy left him in the classroom he started crying and then said to me, ‘I just have to cry, but in five minutes I will try to stop.’ That was so cute and so mature for a three year old. I asked him if I could wipe away his crocodile tears. He said, ‘Yes.’ It took him a little longer than five minutes, but when the lesson got exciting he stopped crying and joined in the fun. I loved to wipe his tender tears away.”

A grandfather writes, “One day, my 3-year-old grandson was in the middle of a temper tantrum. He threw a book across his room and it slipped under his bed. His mother told him that he would have to go under the bed and get it. His response was classic. In a fear filled, trembling voice he said he couldn’t do it because it was dark and scary under there. Then his five-year-old brother spoke up and said that if he would hold his hand and think about Jesus, they could retrieve the book together. And they did.”

In sacrament meeting, two 11-year-old Primary girls sang the beautiful song “A Child’s Prayer” (Children’s Songbook, 12). The chapel became quiet as the girls sang out relating their powerful testimony of prayer. Their voices were full and they harmonized beautifully. A sermon was sung, the spirit was strong, the audience was touched by the power of Christ’s love. Two young, lovely daughters of God taught the gospel through music as if they were heavenly angels.

To be with children is a beautiful experience – They are blessed children of God.

My thanks to those who shared with me their personal stories and quotes from Primary-aged children.

– Emma Lu

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Primary Mad Libs (for leaders and teachers)

Got a training meeting coming up? In the previous post “Working Together: Strength in Unity,” we noted Elder Joe J. Christensen’s suggestion of occasional Primary worker gatherings “to build unity and team spirit.” In such a gathering, you might like to try the classic Mad Libs game with a Primary twist!

If you haven’t played the game Mad Libs in a while (or never), here’s how it works: “Mad Libs consist of a book that has a short story with many key words replaced with blanks. Beneath each blank is specified a category, such as “noun”, “verb”, “place”, or “part of the body”. One player asks the other players, in turn, to contribute some word for the specified type for each blank, but without revealing the context for that word. Finally, the completed story is read aloud. The result is usually somewhat nonsensical.” Click here to refresh your memory about the difference between adjectives and adverbs!

If you have more participants than blanks in the story, feel free to extend the Mad Libs by adding a few story detours. Naturally, if you have fewer participants, each person can take several turns. Then read the result out loud and enjoy the laughs!

Download this blank version for you to use in Primary (with a short sample included at the top): Primary Mad Libs for teachers and leaders

By the way, if your family enjoys Mad Libs, feel free to write your own! Start with your last vacation or dentist visit or perhaps a minor catastrophe. Write it out, leaving blanks here and there — and let the fun begin!

For other training or Primary gathering ideas, try this hilarious 5-minute skit (just print and read): “Lovable Rascals” – a skit for Primary training meetings about dealing with behavior challenges”

And we can’t talk about this enough: Primary’s #1 ongoing challenge – staffing!

-Marci

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Chorister Training for Kids

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Who says kids can’t get in on the action? Learning to conduct music is a skill that will benefit them throughout their lives. Why not learn how to conduct while they’re young?

It starts with hearing the beat and identifying rhythms. You can teach children — even very young children — how to follow the rhythm by simply clapping their hands together or patting their legs in rhythm to the music.

Then you can demonstrate how the rhythm translates to conducting, which is nothing more than drawing the rhythm with your hands. Have them watch you and imitate you as you clap out the rhythm with your hands. Children can all lead the music together, or you can ask a certain child or a whole class to come up and lead a song with you. (Remember that when children watch you lead, it’s like looking in the mirror.)

If your children are ready for more, you can teach them how to tell which diagram above you should use — whether 3 beats or 4 beats. Show them the sheet music. Ask them to identify the top number of the time signature. That tells them whether to beat in 3’s or 4’s, pictured above. Those two patterns will get you through most of the songs sung in Primary. (See “Explanation of Symbols and Terms” and “How to conduct a song” from the music resources at lds.org.)

Try this activity in Singing Time or in Activity Days for extra practice in a smaller group.

Learning to conduct gives children another way to enjoy uplifting Primary music. Have fun with it!

-Marci

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Sept 2017 Sharing Time – the delicate situation of honoring parents

2017 outline for Sharing Time

The Sharing Time manual for Sept 2017 is about the Ten Commandments. Week 3’s lesson about honoring parents contains this important note: “Tip: The lessons as written may not speak to the specific needs of your children. You understand their abilities and circumstances and can adjust the sharing time ideas to make them effective in your Primary.”

This thought is important in today’s world. Parents may be struggling on their own life path in ways that can be confusing to children. This may apply to only a few of your children that you know of, but it’s important for children (and some adult teachers with difficult pasts) to hear a more nuanced message. They may need to understand the difference between the traditional understanding of honoring one’s parents (doing what they say) and honoring parents by bringing honor to one’s parents.

Read more here (including a ready-to-use lesson plan): Honoring Parents – even if parents make poor choices?

See also For children in imperfect families (that’s all of us!): Encouragement from leaders.

 

Looking for ideas for Week 4’s honesty lesson? See Honesty: teach them how, as well as what and why

-Marci

And here’s a bonus picture of the Hillbilly Ten Commandments, spotted in a drive-through window in Oregon:

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2017 CTR sacrament presentation – inviting friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches!

Children are natural missionaries, and can sometimes almost effortlessly invite a neighbor, friend, teacher, or coach to hear them speak or sing in church. The Primary sacrament meeting presentation is a golden opportunity!

These invitation ideas make it easy. You can give several to each child to give to someone they’d like to invite. The message of the invitation — making good choices — is a positive message for anyone. Click below to download the invitation, laid out four on a page for easy printing:

CTR sac program invitation page 1 color

CTR sac program invitation page 2

Click on the image above to download the matching Sunday program cover, which is one to a page in black & white.

Guest author Jenn, who designed these invitations, gave an invitation to a playground mom who ended up being baptized! Read about it here.

These invitations are part of the chapter “Sacrament Meeting Presentation Tips and Tricks,” in the book that grew out of this blog, “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids.” Read how this blog became a book here

 

If you’re planning your presentation outline, see Kim’s easy-to-follow way of putting it together at “Primary Sacrament Meeting Program outline – click, print and go!” Kim assigned each class one of the monthly themes, then interviewing each child by pulling them out of singing time to get a quote to go with the theme. The outline comes together really easily in the kids’ words that way.

Also see “Inviting Audience Comments – Primary Sacrament Meeting Presentation

Laura S. adds: “One year, my ward set up a small reception of cookies and drinks after the program to celebrate the Primary children’s hard work, and so that visitors feel welcome and have a chance to chat comfortably and ask questions. This gave visitors a chance to casually stick around and congratulate the child that they came to see, and not feel like they were obligated to go to class after, or make a hasty exit. They could stay longer and talk with others in a relaxed setting. The missionaries also joined the reception so they could talk with the investigators they brought, as well as meet other visitors who attended the program. Then everyone attended third hour classes as usual, and some hardy investigators stuck around.”

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