I didn’t know the words to the songs, or which prophets were from the Book of Mormon and which were from the Bible. I would want to answer the questions in Sharing Time, but when I gave an incorrect response, I felt ignorant so I would just stop raising my hand. It was especially hard when we’d get ready for church and show up to find no cars in the parking lot because it was Stake Conference and we didn’t know. Getting baptized was also a desire I had, but couldn’t until I was “old enough” to make this decision for myself. I remember being on my knees for a number of years praying that we would go to church more, and that I could be baptized. I would plead with God asking why He didn’t want me to get baptized. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t. I didn’t let my family know that I prayed this each night because of circumstances in my family. I was open with my parents about many things and didn’t hold much back, but I didn’t want them to know this – I’m not sure why.
During our teen years, when my Mom decided we would go to church consistently no matter what, my life changed. I had to take the discussions, and I remember the missionaries asking questions which I could answer easily. I was surprised at how much I actually knew. I was able to “pass the test” to get baptized. But they still had to go through each set discussion, which made me impatient. At the end of our first meeting I finally said, “Can’t we just set a date? I’m ready. Why are you asking me so many questions?” It was funny to see the missionaries’ expressions in response to this statement from a thirteen year old girl.
My children have had a different experience than I did, and they are aware of my circumstances growing up. I had always wanted them to feel a part of church, to never feel left out as I did. My children absorb so many things just by going to church each week. It truly is line upon line as they learn and grow. I see the strength that going to church each week brings to my children and my family. It is important to actually do what you learn at church. Family Home Evening, which I had never had growing up, is a weekly important event each Monday night in our home. Scripture study and family prayer happen each night and my children know I am upset if it doesn’t happen. They know I read my scriptures each night no matter how tired I am. Personal prayer is a must. My children need to know He loves them more than they could ever comprehend, and keep openly communicating with Heavenly Father each day. I make sure my children are sensitive to those who are less active and try to include them, be understanding, and try to be aware of how that child must feel.
I relate to those children who aren’t able to come as often to church. Here are some hints to help them feel welcome when they come.
- Rather than saying “Welcome!” consider giving them a high five, a hug, a tousle on the head – some kind of gesture to let them know you are glad to see them and let them know they are a part of the ward.
- If you were inactive as a child, share your experience. let them know you missed a lot of church when you were young and it doesn’t matter if they miss, you are just glad when they come.
- Invite them to an upcoming activity.
- If they are your kids’ ages invite them over to your house for a play date.
When I have taught in Primary I have been blessed to have some less active children in my classes. If you have an inactive child in your class, let them know how important they are to you. These are some ways to show them you care.
- Let them know you expect them to read their scriptures and pray each day. Even if their family does not do this, you and the Lord want them to do it. (I was able to this as a child even though inactive and was so blessed by these habits as they will be).
- Encourage them to have Family Home Evening. Tell their parents they just want to play a game with them which can count as FHE. Then when they want to give a lesson they can ask to do this before their game.
I struggled in my later teens and early adulthood. I let my Primary children know that if I didn’t have this foundation of a relationship with my Heavenly Father I would be very unhappy. I ended up choosing the right path. I have seen others choose a different path and there is no joy in it.
I encourage all of our leaders in Primary to be sensitive to those less active children in their wards — to love them as Heavenly Father does, and to do all they can to help them in their upbringing in the church. Pray for them, pray for inspiration on how to help them, and just truly love them.