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Winning Ward Activities

Anne Barkhouse from Truro Branch, Nova Scotia, writes:

Help!!! I am the new Activities Chairperson. What to do?

Kathy says:

I think the key to successful activities is to keep them easy, simple, and in many cases, short. We can learn wisdom from our forebears, by getting together for fellowship and recreation without taxing already burdened resources.

A simple potluck can hardly go wrong. Those who love to cook and have the time can bring their specialties. Those who are doing well just to grab some paper products on their way to the chapel can still participate and have a social evening. Chili feeds and barbecues are always popular and easy, with very little set-up and clean-up.

Test the interests of your group. Try setting out board games and jigsaw puzzles, establishing a pictionary corner or a circle of charades, a sing-along if you have guitar players or pianists who can play by ear; line-dancing if you have dancers; hiking, volleyball, softball, etc. if you have athletes; a mom and tot play group in a park or at the chapel; an aerobics group if you have members with experience or credentials; a book club or study group if you have gifted teachers; any number of presentations if you have gardeners, scientists, doctors, attorneys, historians any area of passion or expertise opens up possibilities of pleasant evenings out with the members. You can just pop some corn, provide some ice water or juice, and sit back and listen to your “experts.”

Provide an informal gab-session afterward for those who want to linger, but allow the busy or sleepy people to leave early.

Try a duffer band or orchestra, composed of people who haven’t played their instruments since high school. Might as well add a choir that sings only crazy stuff. If the members also add some choreography, so much the better! You can add goofy sports for people who don’t excel at the standard games, such as the game of sitting on the floor with legs extended and feet touching those of your partner, and bowling a large play-ground ball at your partners across the room. You can make a large circle of participants of any age or skill level. Try to keep the ball within the area “goal-tended” by your partners’ legs. It’s more fun than chasing the ball. Set up ping pong or tennis ball tosses or bean-bag tosses. All you need is a projectile, a container, and an arbitrary goal. For fun, bring all the stuffed animals at your house that you don’t have room to store and will never miss. Maybe one of the younger couples would love to “win” a few for their babies.

If camp or retreat facilities are available, these are virtually always wonderful ward or branch outings. Many activities chairpersons create women’s retreats with an array of activities or lazy hours, whichever the women most enjoy. Family campouts will never go out of style; especially if the “family” is actually the ward or branch. Thank goodness the adults don’t need to try to match the spirited shenanigans of Young Women Camp or the grueling merit badge-pursuits of Scout Camp. They can just sing or tell tales around the campfire and enjoy a night away from it all.

Try a fill-in-the-blank theatre, where the key word is always missing. These can get pretty crazy and some people enjoy them.

Don’t overlook the universal activity of just eating together and jabbering with the people at your table for a while. Sometimes this is plenty of social interaction, and more fun than playing games.

I think it’s important to provide baby sitting and transportation for those who have problems in either area. Often it makes for a nice opportunity to swap services. Lonely widows or older members who seldom drive at night might love to come along and take turns with the babies, and younger couples might enjoy an opportunity to offer a ride to someone who might otherwise stay at home and miss the fun.

The missionaries should always be invited. They can benefit from the free food, and there will often be an opportunity to fellowship members of part-member families. Those who don’t attend church will sometimes come along to a party, just to be a supportive spouse or friend and enjoy an evening out. The Elders or Sisters will appreciate this opportunity. I hope our loyal readers will write in with favorite ward or branch get-togethers that were fun and successful. Maybe we can help out our newly-called sister.

Alison says:

This question is particularly timely, especially with the new option that fifth week mutual activities can be extended to include the entire family and can be planned with help from the activities committee.

Kathy wisely mentioned potluck. Let me second that motion. Our former ward in Boca Raton, Florida, has a potluck dinner called “Linger Longer.” It was held once per month immediately following the Sunday block of meetings and encouraged everyone to hang out at church to fellowship. (Apparently someone at ward council quipped, “Hey, Alison is always there anyway, maybe we should encourage others to stay later so she won’t be alone.”)

This event was uproariously popular and had the added benefit of increasing attendance on the last Sunday of every month. OK, I’m not sure if free food is the best motivation to attend church, but it was a good way for members to get to know each other better. A couple of caveats: (1) you probably can’t do this in most areas where building-sharing is the norm and (2) you need to stress that “potluck” actually means everyone needs to bring something to share, not just to eat or you may end up with lots of mouths and not much to fill them with. More than once this happened in our ward and we cleverly had a few loaves of bread and peanut butter and jelly on hand to slap together if need be.

In my opinion, the best activities are those that included the entire family. Sometimes “adults only” activities are really fun, but think carefully before excluding part of the ward during a “ward activity.” Our old ward planned an “adults only” party for New Year’s Eve 1999-2000. There was no way on earth I would leave my kids with a babysitter at home on such a historic day. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, as so many people wanted to share that evening with their families that the activities committee downgraded the menu in order to include everyone. It is still a night our children talk about!

Here are a few activities that I have enjoyed, along with any tips I can think of to help make them successful:

Talent show: Make sure you give people ample warning to prepare and please teach and enforce concert manners for the event! I love performing, but I finally swore I would never sing again in a particular ward after spending hours practicing only to have 26 people talk through the entire number, 14 children run in front of me during the number, and two toddlers start tuggin, unimpeded, on the microphone cord. (And I must say that it was worse for children or those less comfortable in front of an audience to some it was downright humiliating.)

Movie night: Rent a reel-to-reel movie (watch legal issues here), invite everyone to bring beanbag chairs/blankets, etc., and serve hot dogs, chips, licorice, popcorn, and soda. Our ward would call it a “drive-in movie” and would include an automobile design competition with members making “cars” out of cardboard boxes.

Trunk-or-Treat: Each Halloween we had a costume party that included decorating cars and children getting candy from each family from the back of their cars. Root beer with dry ice is always a nice touch. One year (and this is a good option for those in chillier states) the kids went trick-or-treating from classroom to classroom in the church (instead of outside from car to car). Each interested family signed up to decorate a classroom.

Fourth of July breakfast:
Early morning, scouts raise the flag, sing the national anthem, eat a ton of pancakes and bacon. Only men allowed to cook. Yum!

Luau: Plastic leis, tropical decor, eat ham and pineapple, and play limbo and other silly, embarrassing games. Hula, anyone?

Dessert contest: This could be an activity all it’s own or an add-on to any other. Our ward always did this in conjunction with the annual Relief Society birthday party and it came to be an anticipated tradition and we only allowed men to compete! Once my own Samuel won a top prize! The year of Brother Lewis’ green crisp rice treats will not soon be forgotten. Nor the year Brother Fullagar under extreme stress to keep up appearances purchased a beautiful, professionally decorated cake and tried to pass it off as his own. He was soundly disqualified!

Pioneer Day: Dress like pioneers and have country games and comfort food. My ward in Orem, Utah, always had a neighborhood Primary pioneer parade with the children all dressed up and pulling decorated wagons.

Jeannie says:

I had totally passed the baton on this question. However, at the stroke of 4 a.m. D.O.D. (day of deadline), my brain decided it was time to alert me to one or two memorable ideas to add to Kathy’s and Alison’s wealth of suggestions.

One party idea that we have used throughout the years with large and small groups is the game “I’ve Got a Secret.” Everyone is given a piece of paper and asked to write something about themselves they are sure no one would guess in a million years. This can be done ahead of time. The committee can screen comments for the best and most surprising stories to be used that evening. The rest of the audience tries to match the story to the contestant. It’s hilarious and a great way to get to know one another.

“Grandma’s Games” is another suggestion. It takes some time and preparation, but is a fun way to stimulate enthusiasm and appreciation for genealogy. Many of us have diary snippets from our ancestors in which they relate games or activities of the era. These could be set up in “stations” around the cultural hall. This activity is even more fun when those presenting dress in period clothing and relate some interesting facts about their ancestors.

Those of us over the age of forty remember the Church’s effort to train us as public speakers. We would have speech classes and contests. In a party setting, when the subject is laced with a large dose of humor, public speaking becomes a much less threatening activity. The moderator can toss out a subject, pick someone extemporaneously or ask for volunteers to expound. Someone could begin a “tall tale” and pick another to continue or finish the story. Drama buffs could create impromptu skits and musicians could produce an improvisational composition with say ?only those things found in a classroom. All of these could be shared at the end of the evening. It’s amazing to see what can happen when those creative juices start to flow!

In a ward with multi-cultural diversity (this would be just about any and every ward in the Church), success is guaranteed with a theme-party illuminating this diversity. We just finished a ” River Ridge Ward Welcomes the World” Christmas party. In conjunction with the Olympic theme, we featured different countries and their Christmas traditions. Refreshments and entertainment were centered in these traditions and it was spectacular.

Sisters, in this day of the “consumer,” I believe it is our responsibility to teach our children that great fun can be had with little money, no television or video, and a little bit of creative energy. I’m looking forward to reading your comments and getting some more great ideas for my stockpile of activities.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:57 pm

    An anonymous reader writes:

    This is an old idea yet tried and true. A ward family Olympics party is close to no cost. Families make flags for the opening walk. Members have cleaned out their garages and basements to provide all the equipment including the rope for a rope pull. Participants have 5×7 cards on yarn or string around their neck to mark accomplishments. Refreshment is good old water. Awards must be given to all participants in some form or another. They can be more serious or absolutely hysterical.

    A memorable activity for me is really simple and goes a long way to fellowship. A theme is determined and it will vary with area. Table captains are selected. Members will be assigned to the captain who are relatively unknown to them or little known. Captains will then determine how to set the table in keeping with the theme(ours was Christmas) and will determine a menu. In turn the table mates will be asked to help as the captain determines. I was a nursing student and flat out broke, so I was asked to bring napkins. There are myriad “get to know you” activities in conversation form that can be done over dinner. The room was beautiful, the food was wonderful, and the fellowship was outstanding. As a single woman at the time I really felt included in a wonderful evening of dinner with friends.

    I have an idea we are going to try out with our Achievement Days and it would work nicely for a ward activity as well. It is called Look Who Fell Out of My Tree. The member will have a tree (artificial) or a bush from which they will hang family pictures. The member is going to write a short paragraph about themselves which will be read during the activity so the audience or the others in attendance will have a chance to guess who it is about. The member will have the chance to come dressed up as one of their ancestors and tell a short story about them. The achievement days girls will be doing their own family group sheets and display the memory books they are making. We are looking forward to this night.

  • Reader Comment July 1, 2007, 11:58 pm

    Pamela Critser of Trumbull, Connecticut, writes:

    While I was activities coordinator a few years ago, we had a USO Show that was a great hit.

    We sent out draft notices to the entire ward that included boot camp information (swing dance classes). We issued base passes and had a security post set-up.

    We had one corner of the cultural hall set up as a “Victory Garden” information (gardening information), another corner had “Food for War Victims” (food donations for the needy), a table set-up with a “reporter” to send messages of encouragement to the boys overseas (tape messages sent to all missionaries from the ward). We served sloppy GI Joe’s and hot dogs. Entertainment was supplied by the “Andrews Sisters” and our bishop surprised us with a solo of Chattanooga Choo-Choo. Decorations came from the 4th of July stock, plus posters from local recruiting offices.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 2, 2007, 12:01 am

    Um…do you want to move to my ward? Please bring your activities budget with you!

    Along with these suggestions, some warnings. We have twice had a Santa come to ward parties who did not want to talk to the kids, let along have them sit on his lap. It was rather disappointing, so make sure your Santa knows, well, about Santa!

    I hesitate a little bit with the Mardi Gras party. It may be an unfounded bias I’ve never even been to New Orleans but my impression of Mardi Gras is drinking, carousing, and women pulling off their shirts in public and worse. The party sounds fun, but I hope it isn’t emulating an event that is inappropriate.

  • Reader Comment July 2, 2007, 12:02 am

    Ann writes:

    The greatest successes I have seen with ward activities are those that are planned to meet the needs of individuals. A very wise sister taught me that activities should help to meet the threefold mission of the Church while we are having fun. She had a great gift for finding out about hidden talents, especially among the less active, newcomers, “less than socialized,” and less visible members of the ward.

    As an activities committee, we would design an activity that would draw these people in. One memorable Pioneer Day Hoedown included a less-active sister (an art major) planning an art show for the children, a less-active and painfully shy brother (a gourmet chef hobbiest) planning and arranging an amazing spread of food, a newly moved in family providing a wonderful and hilarious musical number, a homebound and forgotten sister producing (with the help of newly found ward friends) memorable centerpieces honoring the pioneer ancestors of various ward members, and the youth (who needed help with manners and other social graces) performing several dance numbers.

    The casual observer would have noted a well organized, well attended, and wonderful activity. The Lord might have seen some of His children brought closer to the fold. Out of the less-active participants in that activity, all but one were fully active within six weeks after the activity! This type of event planning was repeated throughout the year. There is no way of knowing how many eternities were affected. I believe that if all of our ward, mutual, Relief Society, and Primary activities were based on these principles, we would see very few lost sheep in our flocks.

    [Editor’s note: And don’t forget quorum activities!]

    I hope you did not take offense at my objection to the Sunday potluck idea. I have heard all of the background and reasoning for these activities in several Southern wards that we have lived in. I, too, have lived in areas which required families to bring a meal with them to eat between sessions of General Conference. When these “picnic” meals are family affairs, they do not require others to work on the Sabbath. Though the building may be used, the families remain self-sufficient, generally clean up after themselves and may then fellowship at will.

    I am not able to research exact comments at this time as I am on vacation. However, I think that the principle of “teaching correct principles” applies here. The Sabbath, as described by new and old prophets, is a day consecrated to the Lord. We should do no unnecessary physical labor nor cause others to do such work. Even the necessities of food and clothing should, as you mentioned, be prepared as much as possible on days prior to the Sabbath. Large ward gatherings which require the setting up of tables, chairs, clean up, etc., would seem to be in direct violation of this principle.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 2, 2007, 12:03 am

    Hello Ann,

    I appreciate your comments and took no offense whatsoever. I agree in principle and believe that keeping the Sabbath day holy is of the utmost importance. I disagree, however, in the specific extension of the principle.

    The dinner in question was “required” of no one. If quantity of labor is the deciding factor, I do not agree that “self-sufficiency” is more efficient or requires less labor. As I said, I found making one large dish to share much easier and quicker than three moderate dishes. Even in set-up or clean-up, I found that the individual contribution to the group setup/cleanup was much less than it would have been had we done it alone and or at home. The principle of mass production.

    The idea of teaching correct principles is also very applicable. In General Conference (October 1999) Elder Dallin H.Oaks spoke about appropriate teaching and said:

    Teachers who are commanded to teach “the principles of [the] gospel” and “the doctrine of the kingdom” (D&C 88:77) should generally forgo teaching specific rules or applications. For example, they would not teach any rules for determining what is a full tithing, and they would not provide a list of dos and don’ts for keeping the Sabbath day holy. Once a teacher has taught the doctrine and the associated principles from the scriptures and the living prophets, such specific applications or rules are generally the responsibility of individuals and families.

    There were two families in the ward who chose not to participate in Linger Longer because it was contrary to the way their family worshipped on the Sabbath. (They did not socialize with people outside their families on Sunday.) No one pressured them to change their manner of worship.

    Some families, quite to the contrary, visited nursing homes every Sunday to sing to residents. Some families did not allow any kind of television viewing. Some allowed television or videos that were religious in nature. Some did not allow any outdoor activities of any kind. Some allowed family walks, but no sports. Some required Sunday dress to be warn all day.

    Most of these families did not choose their mode of Sunday worship because they felt it was the “correct” way to worship, but because they had prayerfully found a way that worked with the people and circumstances in which they lived.

    You are correct, about the purpose of the church organization, but does that mean that we must not schedule ward activities? They all intrude upon family time no matter what day they are held. Or do we only prohibit Sunday activities? By that measure you should also object to firesides, BYC/BYD, CES presentations, bishopric meeting, ward council, etc., that are generally held on Sunday.

    Your historical perspective [off-line] on the “after church dinner,” especially in the South, is that this is a common practice among Protestant churches. Refreshments are often served to entice people to come to church. Southern wards often feel pressured to compete with the Methodists & Baptists down the street with their coffee hours and catered lunches.

    I can see where this may be a temptation and should be noted. It wasn’t a factor in the Boca Raton ward, however. While Boca is geographically southern, it is culturally northeastern. Boca is comprised mostly of transplanted New York and New Jersey residents and is predominantly Jewish. We may have been tempted to have a huge, extravagant party when our kids turn 12 or when a son was circumcised, but not to have a Sunday afternoon potluck!

    I believe Priesthood guidance is the most important point. I am confident that the leaders involved in situations where Sunday dinners were discouraged, were acting in the best interest of the areas they addressed.

    My brother just reminded me that his ward, the Salt Lake City Monument Park 19th Ward, has regular Sunday night potluck dinners with complete support of the local leaders. In Samoa, where my husband served his mission, members regularly stay after church to have a large feast together. When there is a visiting church dignitary, it is always done. The General Authorities in attendance have never suggested that the meals were inappropriate.

    This is not an issue of church doctrine, nor is it even one of church policy. I am content to let the bishop, stake president, area authority, and other leaders of the area in question determine what is and what is not appropriate for those within their stewardship. They have always done so “within the bounds of doctrine and policy” as well as explicitly within the specific direction from those to whom they were accountable. And none of the leaders local or otherwise objected in any way to the Linger Longer. (If they had, it would have ceased immediately.) This activity may not be appropriate or helpful for other wards. But for ours it definitely was. And for others it may be as well as directed by the leaders of those areas.

  • innovative momma July 2, 2007, 12:04 am

    I would like to add that since we are in the “business” of bringing people to Christ, that whatever we do in the Church we need to do with the primary purpose of achieving that goal. The Activities Committee’s efforts are included in this; in fact, since the fulfilling of socialization needs is often the first purpose of activity in the church, the activities committee may well be the most important auxiliary of the church. No offense to any other auxiliary presidents intended, but it really is true.

    Several years ago I was privileged to listen to a member of the Young Women general board give instruction on how to plan activities. In essence, the focus is not “what do we want to do” but “what do we want to have happen?” If you just want people to spend time talking, fine. But if you want that talk and that occasion to encourage and strengthen members and their testimonies, you’ll need to plan more intently and more purposefully. The activity doesn’t have to be intensely spiritual, just have the right focus.

    Do we want to put on a play? Choose one that will lift and inspire, not one of the thousands out there that don’t have that purpose or potential.

    In one of the stakes to which I used to belong, major drama productions were a bi-yearly tradition, but attendance had dropped to the point that the audience had to be enticed with food. I portrayed the lead character in a show, and felt a peculiar emptiness after it was done despite the uproariously funny dialogue and the terrific audience response to our efforts.

    When it came time to do the next play, I was called as the stake cultural arts director and thus directed the play. I chose an LDS play which focused on our identity as children of God. Our performance focus was not to showcase our talents (many were rank beginning actors, anyway), but to create a performance atmosphere in which the Spirit could testify and touch hearts. Because of this I asked that the members of the 7 stakes in the northern part of that state and the neighboring state be invited to attend. Some came three hours’ drive to see it. We had standing room only for three nights, including a hold-over night (over 1200 attendance). More importantly, we heard of many instances where wayward individuals and less inactive members had been touched by the Spirit sufficiently to put forth the effort to repent. My cast members, after four months of intensive rehearsals and facing tremendous obstacles individually and collectively, were so excited and feeling so fulfilled after the last show that they wanted to start over and do it again. (We also were able to put over $1000 into the stake missionary fund, after expenses, even though the ticket price was much lower than what the previous show’s had been. (And, golly! No chicken breasts were left over, either!) I think this experience is not uncommon.

    I have also felt for a long time that too many of our Young Men and Young Women activities are designed to win them with the ways of the world and to compete against the various clubs, organizations, sports, and other activities at the high school. As a result, our youth do not feel that something extra special (the Spirit) at the activities, and often the activities we plan just can’t be as enticing or successful as those planned by schools (especially on a ward budget). So, if Laurels and Priests in your ward have poor attendance records, look at the purpose of the activities and the planning process and see if you can’t change the focus. These youth are savvy, they’re very honed to pick up hypocrisy, and they’re hungry for good application of the gospel. When they then see that the gospel does work and they can enjoy benefits from it that they can’t get elsewhere, they won’t turn so far away.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 2, 2007, 12:04 am

    Grace, I do not believe I could possibly agree with you more! Thank you for having the insight to bring up the vital point that our activities must align with the mission of the church. To me this doesn’t mean that every activity has to be a scripture chase or Bible bingo, for I do not believe in a distinction between secular and spiritual. But I believe we must be aware of the purpose the church should be serving. We must make sure that all the elements of our activities are uplifting and positive and that none are contrary to church teachings. I am glad to hear about the positive experience with the second play your stake produced. Frankly, I am glad that the quality of such LDS productions is getting so much better finally!

    As an aside, youth leaders must understand that even their best and most spiritual efforts, may still not be well-attended. After school activities have more going for them than just a better budget. Often the teens’ grades are also tied to attendance at these functions. Unfortunately, few teachers are willing to excuse a youth to attend a mutual activity.

    In any event, I believe your comments are as applicable to activities planned for auxiliaries as they are for entire wards. When we plan an activity for the youth or the Relief Society, we must ask ourselves what purpose the activity will serve. As Sister Sheri Dew said in the September 1999 General Women’s Meeting, “We no longer have the luxury of spending our energy on anything that does not lead us and our families to Christ.”

  • Jeannie Vincent July 2, 2007, 12:05 am

    Dear Grace:

    Thanks so very much for replacing the “trees” with the Lord’s “forest.” What a superb way to begin the planning of an activity; i.e. with the question “What do we want to happen?” It crystallizes the entire purpose and mission of the Church.

    It is not easy to come up with activities week after week, especially in Young Women and Young Men. These leaders deserve a very special vote of thanks for their time-consuming commitment. However, those of us who have served in this organization will honestly admit that some of our activities fell short of the spiritual goal. What a great way to once again align our purposes with those of the Lord. All organizations should have this question as a “motto” ?forever.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 2, 2007, 12:05 am

    And now, all over the United States, Young Men leaders are scrambling to justify “shooting hoops” as the weekly answer to the “what do we want to have happen?” question!

  • Reader Comment July 2, 2007, 12:06 am

    An anonymous reader writes:

    This event was organized before I was called, and ended up being my first activity to be involved with as chairman. I thought that the idea was great!

    A Chat and Chowder is pretty self-explanatory. It is an evening to visit and have some nice warm soups and buns. Sisters signed up ahead for and brought homemade soups and homemade buns. We moved the couches and chairs from the foyer and the Mother’s Room into the cultural hall and added some floor lamps for ambiance. Next we set up tables with some table cloths and 3 helium balloons on each table for a centerpiece. Each table was equipped with ice water and butter.

    People simply came, ate soup and buns, and had a good visit. There was some initial uncertainty from ward members of “what will we be doing,” “are there games?” “a speaker?” “do I have to bring actual chowder?” etc. But the idea was to have a completely uncluttered evening to just simply visit. I don’t know about you, but I often feel like there just isn’t enough time to catch up with everyone, and this was a nice opportunity to do that.

    So! How did it go? The soups brought were amazing! A wonderful variety of chowders, stews, the obligatory hamburger soup, curried, sweet, savory, you name it! And most of the rolls were homemade yum! (I bow to all domestic goddesses who bake!) The initial turnout was only about 1/2 of the usual attendance, but with a new and untested idea this was somewhat expected. Especially with all the uncertainty of “what will we do with ourselves?!” However, this was great because it enabled everyone to try two or three smaller samplings of different soups. (Next time we anticipate a larger turnout (now that word’s gotten out of the fun we had) so we will plan for double the amount of soups so that people can sample all they want, as we did that night).

    People had a great time catching up, and a group of 10 or so hung around till the cleanup was almost over, leaving closer to midnight! Everyone enjoyed the soups immensely, with one suggestion that with all these homemade breads, wouldn’t it have been great to have had some jams out and have them double as dessert! A great idea for next time!

    We used disposable bowls, utensils, cups, and people took their own pots home at the end resulting in virtually no clean-up, and minimal kitchen duty.

    Chat & Chowder: A nice easy evening for everyone, timely after the rush of Christmas and New Year’s, and a cozy evening on a cold winter night.

  • Reader Comment July 2, 2007, 12:07 am

    Sheila from Brockville, Ontario, Canada, writes:

    Here are some suggestions my sister-in-law tried. Instead of the traditional ward turkey dinner at Christmas time she bought the fixings for making pies. She arranged families into stations and they all worked to make pies for the local soup kitchen. They had a dessert afterward for refreshments. It was very different and some balked at first but it turned out to be very successful and many people had positive comments afterward.

    Another thing that was successful for her was a family street hockey game (we’re from Canada) played in the church parking lot, on New Years Day. There was no pressure placed on anyone to attend since it was a holiday but those who did, had a lunch of chili and hot chocolate was served to help keep people warm.

    Hope this helps.

  • Reader Comment July 2, 2007, 12:07 am

    Debra Black from Queensland, Australia, writes:

    My name is Debra Black and I am the activities chairperson in our ward. Whilst I have had numerous exciting and interesting callings in my lifetime, I have been totally amazed at how much scope my latest calling has provided me and my fellow committee members. As I have continued to serve, I have begun to ponder several things, one of which I wish to expand upon.

    Over the years, I have noticed that bishoprics in our local area Brisbane, Queensland, Australia have tended to call less active, less motivated people to ward activities committees. Whilst this approach has had the desired effect of changing some people’s outlook on living the gospel, more often than not this intention is not realized and activites committees are left to languish. These well intentioned and honourably motivated reasons are not, however, the point of this letter. That would be the domain of ward leaders as they engage in ward organization, etc. My observations and reflections have also helped me appreciate, that there have obviously been exceptions to this rule, but more often than not the importance and value of the positions of activities chairperson and committee members have been overlooked. How can this challenge be managed?

    Because of this concern, I believe an Ensign article or section, in which useful and motivating activities committee information is discussed and shared, could be of greater assistance than we can comprehend.

    It has been my privilege to serve in this calling and I have found over the last two to three years that my committee members and I have gone from strength to strength in trying to improve the variety and validity of what we organize. Our ward committee members and I may not always create/organize novel activities, but we are most definitely enthusiastic! Indeed, one of the key successes to our activities has been the process of saturation advertising “if you build it, they will come” so to speak thanks Kevin Costner!

    I believe that these types of successes, as well as many other ward activities committee ideas, can be shared around the world. Such sharing could highlight the importance of this sometimes neglected committee and in turn motivate others to help bring people unto Christ.

    To my way of thinking, the activities committee is a critical part of the lifeblood, the tone and the texture of any ward’s organization and, most certainly, the benefits from the love and fellowship that come to ward members from being actively involved with each other in well organized, diverse activities is indescribable. I know that this excitement about ward membership occurs, because I have witnessed it in our ward; it brings all auxiliaries and quorums together. Whole ward activities become the enclosing fisherman’s net, if you like, that bring ward auxiliaries and quorums together. Because whole ward activities bring all ward members together in ways that auxiliaries and quorums, on their own, may tend to overlook when they function separately, it is critical that ward’s have viable ward activities committees to prevent any potential for such separatism or isolationism to develop.

    Without wishing to cast a negative note in this note, I believe very strongly that ward bishoprics need to be discerning and wise in how they organize the ward activities committee. Without a well functioning committee, wards may become lacking in some of the richness and abundance that can come from living within a ward that mixes widely with one another. In turn, this may minimize the depth of fellowshipping/gospel love that can exist. This is not to discount the marvellous work that is done by wards as they serve and love one another through home teaching, visiting teaching, and all activities organized by auxiliaries and quorums. My thoughts are that we can add greater enrichment to our gospel experience by ensuring that a ward activities committee operates well as it brings everyone in the ward together. Indeed there are no boundaries when a ward mixes well together!

  • Reader Comment July 2, 2007, 12:08 am

    Debbie from Midlothian, Texas, writes:

    I loved your article on ward socials. I’m not currently the activities committee chairman, but have been for most of my 26 years in the church! I guess the bishops know a party animal when they see one!

    One of our most successful and requested activities has been a simple pot luck followed by a family dance. For our family dance we have the youth deejay (with the agreement that they won’t try to sneak in any inappropriate music) and a request that they use music from all eras. It’s a blast! The little kids dance, the teenagers dance, the “old” people dance. Everyone has a great time! We keep a few tables set up from dinner and chairs around the room for those who don’t want to dance, or those same “old” people who have danced too much! People talk, laugh and have a great time.

    Thanks for a wonderful forum. I’ve really enjoyed reading the articles.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 2, 2007, 12:09 am

    I love the Chat & Chowder idea. What could be more fun than ?talk?

    I’ve only attended a family dance once. It was the aforementioned New Year’s Eve 1999/2000 event. We had dinner and danced until we were exhausted. It really was a highlight of our ward party experiences.

    Sheesh! Just editing this column is making me wish I could be called to the activities committee. Unless you, dear reader, happen to be my bishop!

  • Reader Comment July 2, 2007, 12:15 am

    Anne Barkhouse from Truro Branch, Nova Scotia, writes:

    Thank you so much for answering my question about the activities for our branch. I am going to use some of those ideas in the future for our little branch. Some sound like fun, easy activities. Again, thank you!

    I have a little poem that I found recently while cleaning up my church information collected over the years. I do not know where it came from or from whom. But it seems to be just the poem for Circle of Sisters as that is its title. I would like to share it with you.

    Hope you enjoy it. I thought it was beautiful. Again thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I so enjoy reading Mormon Momma each day. I have been sharing it with others on the net. Bless you all.

  • Jeannie Vincent July 2, 2007, 12:15 am

    Dear Anne:

    What a lovely tribute! From all our sisters in this “Circle” we thank you so much. The verse that really touched me, reaffirmed feelings I have had for my dearest sisters and friends. I know that we forged many of our eternal friendships before we came to this earth. It is our responsibility to be cheerleaders (if you will) and help one another to catch the vision of our spiritual and earthly potential.

    We are happy that the suggestions from our clever and very talented readers/sisters have helped you in your calling.

    Continued success in your calling.

  • Reader Comment July 2, 2007, 12:16 am

    Claudia writes:

    We would like to give a copy of the poem Circle of Sisters to the sisters on our Relief Society board. Could you give us the name of the author? We want to be sure and give credit to the right person.

  • klgreen1 July 2, 2007, 12:16 am

    The poem was published without an author. Can any of our readers offer an investigative lead? The phrase “Circle of Sisters” has been repeated many times throughout the history of the Relief Society organization. We might find that there are a number of poems or songs sharing that title. I hope we can find an author for Claudia and her board.

  • Sharilee10 July 2, 2007, 12:18 am

    Holy Cow! (That is NOT swearing!) 18 minutes and there is a whole book of responses already. No wonder I am getting so far behind. I’ll have to try to get caught up later. It’s my bedtime. What a great place to think and chat– Catch you all later.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 2, 2007, 12:21 am

    FWIW, Sharilee, these are old articles (back as far as 2001) that I’m moving to the new site. So I’m just logging in and out and posting the past responses. 🙂

  • Reader Comment July 2, 2007, 12:00 am

    Glenda from Jonesboro, Arkansas, writes:

    I have been the chairman here for the past year. My activities have been very well attended and it’s because I always pick ideas that include the whole family, feed them, take lots of pictures, and post them to my “Unofficial Ward Activities Web Site.”

    Spring Fling: Decorate the cultural hall with rented revolving mirror ball and laser lights. One of the young men brought a preprogrammed mix of Comptuer/CD versions of popular songs. Like the old “Gold & Green Balls,” everyone dressed up in formal wear. It was fun to try to dance to “Who Let the Dogs Out” (the number one requested song from the kids). Everyone had their picture taken and mailed to their house with a thank you note for coming.

    Fun ‘n Sun Swimming Party: Dutch oven cooking combined with a pool party at my house. Yard games such as volley ball, badminton, darts, horseshoes. Dining under a large rented wedding tent.

    [Note to self: Check with IRS to see if pool construction counts as a tithing deduction for charitable donations ?]

    Mardi Gras: We picked 5 families to decorate kids’ wagons as “floats” and the families dressed in themes such as Wizard of Oz, Riverboat crew, Butterfly fantasy, etc. I bought the beads, cups, doubloons, and other throws (candy also works) off eBay for reasonable prices. We turned the cultural hall into the French Quarter. Members were asked to dress in a costume or the colors of Mardi Gras yellow, purple, and green. Got a great Mardi Gras tape to play during the parade. Served red beans and rice and jambalaya. Bought 12 king cakes, and my mother (age 78) danced everyone out the door “Second Line” (New Orleans funeral procession style), forming a long line dance chain.

    Roller Skating Party: Rented the local skating rink on a Saturday for a two hour private block of time. Invited all the kids to bring a friend.

    Thanksgiving: The Friday night before Thanksgiving. Church provided the meat, everyone brought the rest pot luck style. Too well attended!!

    Christmas Party: We had ours early in the month to avoid all those other conflicts. We did a simple version of “Teach the Children,” gave each family a copy of the poem with a baggy containing the various objects mentioned in the poem. Took lots of pictures with Santa and gave them out the next week. We had a dessert exchange instead of a large meal. Everyone brought 4 dozen sweets and a container to “swap.” Several members brought nativity scenes to display and I set up a Christmas village area, with the train running through it and a miniature Elvis’ Christmas Graceland. Again, too well attended. We had no left overs for the missionaries!

    Because we are in the Southern “Bible Belt,” with lots of converts, I am planning an old-fashioned gospel sing-along for April. We have a member who plays blue grass on the mandolin. I’m inviting an 11-year-old “singing sensation” who is my niece from another state as the out of town entertainment. I also am renting a karaoke machine to help everyone with the words and to identify budding local talent!

    In June, we plan an emergency Preparedness conference. Then, I’m fresh out of ideas!

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