How to encourage reverence during Primary

"Reverence is more than just quietly sitting" begins a favorite Primary song. (See Children's Songbook, p. 31.) Primary is a place where children actively participate in learning and applying gospel principles in their lives. An active Primary can still be a reverent Primary, where children feel the Spirit and are taught love and respect for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. To achieve this, I suggest the following:

Create a reverent atmosphere that invites the Spirit. Primary leaders and teachers should arrive early and begin Primary on time. Children are more likely to enter the room quietly when prelude music is being played and they are greeted at the door by a member of the Primary presidency. Displaying a picture of the Savior, the prophet, a temple and a poster of "My Gospel Standards" helps to create a reverent atmosphere.- Prayerfully plan as a Primary presidency. Present opening exercises and sharing times that fit the needs and ages of the children. Leaders and teachers should use a variety of engaging activities that involve the children in learning (refer to Sharing Time Resource Manual for ideas). This creates a change of pace, keeps the children's interest, and encourages attentive behavior and reverence. Using music throughout Primary time creates feelings of reverence, teaches gospel principles and actively involves all the children. Leaders and teachers should have a plan for children with special needs and plan how to manage disruptive behavior should it occur.

Create a Christ-centered Primary where a love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is taught. Everything done in Primary should lead the children to the Savior and to feel the Spirit. Members of the presidency, music leaders and teachers should use the scriptures as they teach and often bear testimony of gospel principles being taught. A member of the bishopric can encourage reverence as he visits Primary, shares an inspirational thought and his testimony.

Counsel together in presidency meetings and with priesthood leaders in ward council meetings. Work together to assess needs, evaluate successes and discuss ways the entire ward can improve reverence and feel the Spirit in all meetings.

Encourage parents to assist priesthood and Primary leaders by helping children learn habits of courtesy, consideration and respect for others and sacred places. Parents should discourage children from bringing gum, candy and toys to Primary. - Charlotte Price, Primary general board

What we did:

Parents can help

Two of our daughters are now rearing their own families and thanking us for the pattern we set in our family. As I observe many children allowed to "play" in sacrament meeting down on the floor, walking in the aisles, turning around, coming in and out of meetings, I see a pattern carried forward as they start to attend Primary. They have a hard time sitting and listening quietly. I feel parents can best prepare their children for a reverent experience in Primary by having them sit on their laps or on the bench beside them, not talking or turning around. - Nancy Hale Hall, Nashville, Tenn.

Reverence is love

Our Primary was responsible for the hearing-impaired and Spanish-speaking branches. Our presidency had two counselors from our ward and a counselor from each branch. Reverence was a challenge with our 150 children.

We sang "Reverence Is Love" (Children's Songbook, p. 31), which teaches the true principles of reverence. Reverence is taught best by example. The children learned to respect the chapel as the most sacred room in the meetinghouse. We challenged our Primary teachers to enter the chapel for all meetings, listening to the prelude music and to speak in the halls instead of the chapel.

Closing exercises were in the chapel. A presidency member stood at the door encouraging each child to enter quietly and reverently. As the children learned, reverence became a joy, not a job. Everyone felt the Spirit as our children were examples to their families. Reverence became love in our ward. - Carol Busbee, Houston, Texas

Prayed for help

I will never forget one particular boy in my class a number of years ago. The year before he was to be in my class I sat in the row behind him week after week and watched him act up and disturb the Primary during Sharing Time. How I dreaded the upcoming January when he would move into my class! I made it a matter of prayer and asked the Lord what I could possibly do with this child. The answer came clearly, "Love him." I almost felt relief. I wouldn't need to worry about disciplining him or trying to keep him quiet. All the Lord said I had to do was love him.

So I started trying to pray for help in learning to love him. I'd sit behind him every week and silently pray. Weeks went by. One day he was particularly bad, and no one could control him. Suddenly he turned around and looked at me, and I smiled at him. I never said a word to him, but he quieted down immediately. By the time he came into my class I sincerely did love him, and he was never a problem in my class. He sat quietly and answered questions when called upon. - Debbie Zumwalt, Kearns, Utah

Sharing Time

We had a special Sharing Time where we talked about reverence and what we need to do to be reverent. The children listed these ideas and we made posters. The children agreed to follow these rules. The posters serve as reminders of what is and is not appropriate in Primary. Since they made the rules themselves, they feel more responsible in keeping them. Even the Sunbeams remind older children of the rules! - Angie Mathewson, Mansfield, Texas

Hum a song

Have presidency members, teachers and music leaders ready to begin five to 10 minutes early.

Play music as the children enter Primary. This helps invite the Spirit.

Have children continue to hum the reverence song at the end of opening exercises when children are beginning to separate for classes - one class at a time. This keeps them focused on being reverent while movement is going on around them. - Robyn Uhlstein, Salt Lake City, Utah

Begins with leaders

A reverent Primary begins with the leaders. It begins with a presidency that establishes reverence in Primary as a goal and as a standard and as an expectation. Reverence in Primary is promoted by a presidency that holds a weekly presidency meeting where Sunday and weekday assignments are made and confirmed to all who will be participating in Primary, both leaders and children. There is much phone calling. Nothing is left to chance or to the last minute. Such a presidency prays together and individually for the children, for each other and for the teachers.

In our Primary, the following seem to engage the children and leaders in a spirit of reverence:

When leaders and teachers bear testimony to the principles of the gospel.

When leaders and teachers tell true faith-promoting stories.

When the teachers know that the presidency stands ready at any moment to assist when there are disturbances in the classroom.

When parents are asked to make sure their children have been to the bathroom and had a drink of water before coming to Primary.

When behavioral expectations are made clear, and there are leaders available to temporarily remove and lovingly but firmly correct misbehavior. - Healdsburg Ward, Santa Rosa California Stake, Primary presidency

How to checklist:

1 Create reverent atmosphere; use music, prayer, testimony.

2 Be ready, on time as leaders; set example in own behavior.

3 Focus on Savior; pray for the children and love them.

4 Counsel with priesthood, parents as to needs of children.


June 21 "How to observe the Sabbath when your job requires you to work."

June 28 "How to curb the amount of television time in the home."

July 5 "How to positively influence the lives of children who are not your own."

July 12 "How to adjust to a new culture when serving a mission in a foreign country."

July 19 "How to get out of a rut in your career."

July 26 "How to change or eliminate negative aspects of your personality."

Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to help young people show respect for authority in school," "How to be emotionally self-reliant," "How to place people above tasks."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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