This article is written by four seasoned seminary teachers. They all responded to the same questions. Check it out!
John Hilton III: John Hilton III is a popular speaker, best-selling author, former seminary teacher and current assistant professor of ancient scripture at BYU. You can check out all of his books HERE.
Anthony Sweat: Anthony Sweat is also a popular speaker, best-selling author, former seminary teacher and an adjunct professor in the department of Church History and Doctrine at BYU. You can see all of his books HERE.
Hank Smith: Hank Smith is ALSO a popular speaker with numerous talks on CD. And he is ALSO a former seminary teacher and currently a religion professor at BYU. You can see all of his great things HERE.
Shannon Foster: Shannon taught seminary for 13 years before she retired to become a mamma to her sweet Hannah. If you want to find out more about her…. well, you are already on her website. 🙂
* Note: all three of these awesome guys are contributing authors in the FANTASTIC books Suit Up (for kids who are preparing for missions), and Armor Up (which helps youth to wear their spiritual armor).
Preparing Your Children for Seminary
By John Hilton III, Anthony Sweat, Hank Smith, and Shannon Foster
What are some things I can do to prepare my children for seminary?
Help them get comfortable with SEARCHING the scriptures for something. That is what they will do a lot in seminary. In our family we have a cool little day-by-day rotating search I ask my kids to do that works well to get them in searching mode (not just reading mode) no matter where we are studying. Here it is if it can help you:
· Missionary Monday (find a truth from a verse we read that you think would be good to share if you were teaching someone the gospel)
· Testimony Tuesday (find a truth from a verse we read that you have a testimony of)
· One Word Wednesday (find a word that is really important to understand from what we read)
· Thorough Thursday (Tell me the who, what, when, where, how, and why of what we just read)
· Five Word Friday (Summarize a truth we just read in five words or less)
· Standards Saturday (find a verse(s) that teaches one of our gospel standards (like tithing, prayer, fasting, modesty, etc. such as from the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet)
· Son-Day Sunday (find a verse that teaches us something about Jesus)
Ask your child’s teacher if they have a lesson calendar so you can know what they are learning (and when). This way you can read as a family or have your family home evenings just ahead of those lessons. Ask your child to give a little spiritual thought each day they received during seminary, during family prayer or scripture study. They will begin to listen and sift through all the information they receive in seminary each day and consider what they want to share with their family.
Parents can stay in touch with the seminary curriculum and expectations on the seminary website here. You also have access to both the teacher and student manuals.
Most importantly, encourage your child to pray for the teachers and other students in the classroom. Any teacher will tell you that they can teach the lesson 5 times and it will go differently each time. The atmosphere in the classroom is such an important key, and each student matters in that puzzle. Encourage your child to be a leader, make an effort to get to know each fellow student, look for the ones who needs a friend, give meaningful devotionals, offer to pray, participate, prepare for lessons, etc. YOUR child can make a great difference, and your the teacher will thank you!
In the book How? there is a chapter on “How can I get more from my gospel classes?” (You can see a chapter excerpt here). Reviewing fundamental principles of how to be effective students, and reminding them that the purpose of seminary is not “fun” can be helpful. Teaching them skills like the importance of taking notes, praying for teacher, and so forth are valuable (and will be appreciated by their teachers!)
I’ll answer this one from the perspective of the teacher. This will probably be too idealistic, but a seminary teacher would love to have a student walk into seminary who:
1. Has the self confidence and willingness to participate and be a leader in class
2. Is on time and awake
3. Is willing to sing the opening hymn even if nobody else is singing
4. Doesn’t feel the need to answer every question before everyone else
5. Doesn’t seek to contradict the teacher in front of the class
6. Knows the appropriate time, place, and use for their phone/tablet
7. Doesn’t pack up their stuff with 5-10 minutes left in class
8. Values the opinions and insights of other students and the teacher
9. Smiles and laughs when the teacher attempts to be funny
10. Understands they’ll get a lot out of seminary by putting a lot into seminary
Do you have any suggestions on what we can do over the summer?
I think it’s really helpful to give your kids a head start by reviewing the scripture mastery verses from last year (New Testament) and next year’s seminary (Book of Mormon) (note some new ones will replace some old ones next year – see your teacher for details). There are scripture mastery apps (such as this one) that might make learning more fun – having “scripture mastery half hour” could be a good use of Sabbath time this Summer.
That was my thought! Scripture Mastery! After 13 years of teaching, I am STILL mastering them. So I totally encourage parents to use them at home. When I have had students come into my class after already learning them in the home their confidence was high and all of the other students wanted them in their groups when we did activities. Plus there are so many fun activities you can do at home that your kids would LOVE! Here is where you can get the current list (they have changed a bit since last year).
Also, there are so many great books out there that are directed to youth. The summer is a great time for them to read and enjoy these, and receive some spiritual enlightenment. I HIGHLY recommend the book Armor Up – there are 7 contributing authors (3 of them being John, Anthony and Hank) in this book and it is like getting a fireside from each of them. You can check it out HERE. And if you have kids preparing for missions, check out their other book, Suit Up.
I “third” studying scripture mastery. Having become pre-familiar with the verse, where it is, what it means, which doctrines it teaches, how to use it, and memorizing it will help a lot.
Having a student coming in already familiar with the scripture mastery verses would be fantastic. I would also add that having your child get up at “early morning seminary” time a week or at least a few days before school starts would be very helpful. Obviously, make sure you have something for them to do when they get up that early. Think how much yard work they could do!
Next year my children will be studying the Book of Mormon in seminary, what can we do as a family to support them?
One simple practice is to ask every day at dinner time, “What did you learn in seminary today?” Showing an interest will make a difference. What if your child says, “I don’t remember”? You can always do what my parents did when I said that. They would say, “Okay, let’s call your teacher and you can ask for a quick review.” I didn’t forget very many lessons after that.
Yep! I agree with John. If your child feels that they are going to be accountable for what they learn then they will listen differently. You can even encourage them to listen for specific things that would benefit their siblings – then they may listen with love, which is a powerful way to learn.
Also, as I mentioned in the first question, reading together as a family could be huge and give your kids confidence in the classroom.
I would add sometimes asking your son/daughter , “What are you going to DO because of what you learned in seminary?” That question will help them recall personal promptings of action from the Holy Ghost and help reinforce that seminary (and the gospel) is not just here to help us learn something, but to become something.
If they know they’ll be asked questions when they get home they’ll be much more attentive in class. You could go beyond just asking questions. Have them teach you the lesson when they get home or have them give an seminary recap at FHE. Ask questions about the specific doctrines and principles to see if they can explain them with clarity. You could also ask what they are learning from the other students. Also, try to emphasize their seminary “grade” as much as their school grades. In the October 2002 Ensign, President Eyring wrote a wonderful article entitled “Education for Real Life” in which he stated, “It is clear that our first priority should go to spiritual learning.”
If you have anything more to add, please leave a comment below.
Also, if there is something you read that you would like more information on, specify that below as well.