We were just two Sundays into the new year with 1:00pm church, and it became clear that something had to be done with our long mornings. Laying around, surfing technology, and fighting siblings wasn’t how I wanted to spend our Sabbath day.
I knew I wanted to have some structure to our morning, but not too much. (I need down time too!) I also knew I wanted to get some meaningful activities accomplished before church because once we made and ate dinner, there just wasn’t much time left in the evening.
I went back to my elementary school teacher roots and came up with this genius idea:
4 Sabbath day activities.
10-15 minutes each.
Here are our current centers:
#1 Write in Journal
This is probably my kids least favorite station, but I make them do it because I think it is so important. I wish I had kept more journals in my life. (I have one entry that says “I’m getting married” and the very next entry, no lie, is “I’m getting a divorce.” How I wish I had written down those three years!!!!)
The kids all use composition notebooks as their journals. For the younger kids, I like to use the ones that wider lines and space on top for a picture. Composition notebooks are, easy to find, and uniform to store. The kids usually write about their weekend, but I do have a jar of journal prompts if they get desperate.
In this center the kids read from a variety of sources according to their interests and reading level. Elle often chooses to catch up on her New Testament reading for seminary; Crew reads the Book of Mormon to help meet his goal of finishing the Book of Mormon before he is 12; Croft reads the Friend, and currently Locke is reading books to help prepare him for his baptism. They could also read from the New Era or Scripture Readers. Some kids take this station to the couch when it’s their turn.
#3 Meet with Mom
This is where I touch base with each child, one-on-one about one of the programs in their life. It may be Personal Progress, Faith in God, Baptism Prep, Duty to God, Scouts, etc. Sometimes they pass off Articles of Faith or we work on an experience or a badge together. The day we spoke in church everyone presented their talk to me during the “Meet with Mom” station. It could also be a time just to interview them and see how life is going. This center is, of course, my favorite.
#4 Mormon Messages
What kid doesn’t want to watch videos? You can find great videos at either Mormon Messages or the Inspiring Media page of lds.org. The headphones plugged into the computer are essential to keep the table a fairly quiet place to be. This, of course, is the kids’ favorite center.
After we tried out Sunday Centers for a couple of Sundays, I asked the kids for their input. First, I asked whether they wanted to do Sunday Centers before or after they were dressed for church . They voted unanimously ‘after they were dressed’ which surprised me. But they all said they liked the feeling of being ready. Then I asked them if they would rather have Sunday Centers butted right up to church time or have it earlier in the morning. We opted to go from 11:00-12:00 so that we had time after for a quick bite to eat and final touches on getting ready before we had to head out.
Sunday Centers is completely doable for us because I keep the same four centers each week. I also keep the supplies at a minimum and store them all in a portable container that I just bring to the table each Sunday. Consistency is also important. The first few weeks were a little rough, but the kids got used to the routine and expectations quickly.
There are plenty of ways to adapt Sunday Centers to fit your family’s needs, abilities and ages. You can add more or less stations, and they could be shorter or longer. You could rotate through the centers all together as a family (like mom reads to everyone, then everyone builds legos, then everyone watches a video, etc.) You could assign sibling buddies so that older kids help younger kids through the stations. You could also add more movement and play, like legos or blocks or flannel scripture board stories, if your kids are restless. If your kids can’t write, maybe the mom center becomes the journal center where they dictate to you what they want to say. Then they can draw their own picture. A coloring station or a mystery station that changes every week would be a fun addition too. If your kids are older throw in family history with Family Search or Conference talks or study of the prophets. And if you are lucky enough to be able to factor DAD into to your Sunday Centers, make sure to include him! He could watch the baby while you worked with the other kids; he could man the journal station or the reading station. Or he could be his own station and do a mini father’s interview with the kids. There are so many possibilities!
I’m loving our Sunday Centers. It feels peaceful and meaningful, and like I’m doing something right. My journal guilt is appeased; the Sabbath day is well spent, and we head off to the church with a measure of the Spirit. Not a bad way to spend an hour.
****Update: Additional Idea
I butted “weekly calendar” up to Sunday Centers since I only wanted to gather the children once. We generally do Calendar first from 11:00-11:20 am then we all move to Sunday Centers with 4 stations at 10 minutes each. This whole process puts us at an hour- give or take five minutes. This is also a great place to throw in family prayer since everyone is together.