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A Princess Enrichment Night? The Best and Worst of Enrichment

Yesterday I was talking to Amelia about the Church’s new Enrichment program, in which Relief Societies are supposed to meet all together quarterly rather than monthly, and smaller interest groups could meet more often.When I first heard about this new program, I thought it was a good idea. I liked the idea of the smaller groups, and this way, I though, RS presidencies could focus on making those quarterly meetings something really special.

I was amused and horrified, however, to learn from Amelia that her RS actually had sponsored a princess themed enrichment night for one of these quarterly meetings. Women were to come and be pampered like princesses. I think they were even supposed to dress up like princesses. (Amelia, was this right?) Wow. There are so many problems with this that I don’t even know where to begin.

Anyway, the conversation made me question if indeed this new program was leading to higher quality quarterly enrichment experiences. I actually see a lot of potential for this new Enrichment format. While some of the Enrichment evenings in my ward center around eating/parties, my RS has also invited guest speakers to tell us about various humanitarian programs on other Enrichment nights. (very cool). I also think it would be great if we could do some really active humanitarian work – serving soup at a soup kitchen, volunteering at a local nursing home for an evening, etc.

What has been your experience with Enrichment? What have been the best and worst Enrichment activities? How do you like the new format?

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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  1. Melanie says:

    We’ve had a hard time implementing the groups in our YSA ward… girls generally do that stuff on their own or would rather do it with the boys.

    The best enrichment of all time was probably when we had a Q&A panel discussion with our bishop’s wife (who married at 30), our SP’s wife (who married at 18) and the single member of our stake RS presidency (who is a business professor). It was simple, appropriate for the needs of our RS, and I think it really drove home a feeling of sisterhood that sometimes gets lost in age and experience disparities… and not to mention the schlock of overplanned, cheezy activities that just make a lot of work.

  2. JennyW says:

    I was excited when I first heard about the change—between work, family, and YW commitments, I can only make it to enrichment about 4-5 times a year. So I thought “perfect, I can commit to this all the way!” But … my ward still has enrichment every month. Some meetings are “less formal” and others “more formal” (i.e., the official quarterly meeting). Lately we’ve had a bookswap (I enjoyed it), crochet night, and the regular RS birthday dinner. The activities were fine, but I didn’t see them as any different from last year at this time.

    I, too, like the idea of smaller groups, but I think it would work better if the RS wasn’t in charge of sustaining or implementing the groups. I think people would genuinely enjoy them more if they came from the members themselves and the RS organization was able to be used as a place to communicate information about upcoming small-group meetings and let others know they’re welcome to attend. The danger, of course, is that a line could be crossed where people felt like they weren’t invited or somehow were being excluded, but that’s going to happen anyway so …

  3. JennyW says:

    Sorry to post again—I just remembered something about my mom’s recent experience with this program. Their enrichment leader wasn’t doing much, and their quarterly meeting (the one that was supposed to celebrate the RS birthday) ended up being 3 or 4 women sitting around watching a 3-hour foreign movie. No one from the enrichment board beside the leader even came. Then, for a small meeting, they recently had someone come to talk about preparing for death (burial options, wills, etc.). Interesting choice, but ultimately useful information probably. So that’s how it’s working out for her.

  4. Paula says:

    Wow, I wish they’d do princess night in our ward. I have an outrageous wedding dress from the 80s, very low cut, and poofy like Princess Diana’s. I tried it on at a thrift store when I was helping my son find stuff for a nerd costume, and it fit as though it had been made for me. I had it dyed pink, and wear it on Halloween with my hair in ringlets, and a little wand and a tiara, and go as Glinda, the Good Witch. I’m not totally sure if people are laughing with me or at me, but if I showed up like that at Enrichment, they’d never ever do THAT activity again.

  5. Eve says:

    The Princess activity is makimg me laugh my head off. I’m dying to see the men somewhere rise up against institutional sexism and have themselves a Manrichment devoted to being Heavenly Princes.

    In my limited experience, a lot of the problem with Enrichment seems to be the inevitably backward way the activities are planned. It generally goes like this: we’re required to create this activity, so what on earth can we come up with to fill that requirement? (I don’t mean this as a criticism; keeping up with all of the activities and meetings the church requires us to conduct can be exhausting, as I well remember from my YW leader years).

    When the activity requirement precedes (and supersedes) the actual needs of the people involved, there’s likely to be trouble. I’ve watched so many enrichment activities play out like this: come up with something to fulfill the enrichment activity requirement, or have the Sacred Activity that we have Always Had. Then, after the fact, tell the women how much they need it and try to guilt them into attending.

    Bleah.

  6. Caroline says:

    Melanie, Our ward has also struggled to implement the new program. I think there’s been some complaining also that the new format leads to more cliques.

    That panel sounds awesome!

    Jenny,
    I heard from another friend that like your ward, her RS still has Enrichment every month.

    I agree about the smaller groups coming from the members. That’s actually how our ward is doing it. It’s been a struggle to get people to step up to the plate and really committ to leading these groups, but some have taken off.

    Wow, I had never considered an enrichment about the pragmatics of death. That actually could be useful, I suppose.

  7. Caroline says:

    Paula,
    How I wish I could see you in that dress!

    Eve,
    You make a good point about the necessity and authenticity of some of these activities. It sure would be nice if these activities arose because there was a real desire to learn/accomplish something.

  8. TftCarrie says:

    I am on the enrichment committee in our ward and I like to kid everyone that we thought this change would mean less crazy work for us planners, but what it has really means is that we still plan big activities every month but we now 4 of them need to be “super-big”.

    In our ward the four big ones have little “wiggle-room” in their content because of ward tradition. The other activities are usually less formal and more specialized in their topics (and there is no guilt if you don’t come).

    We also have a few groups that meet every month – book club, craft night, adventure moms. And I plan a service project/drive for every month. Overall, there is a lot of stuff going on. But our big ward seems to be able to support it.

  9. amelia says:

    actually the princess night was a “princess birthday party” held in march–probably with some tie to the relief society “birthday” (why don’t they call it an anniversary or something? that’s always baffled me). and the women didn’t have to dress like princesses. fortunately.

    i didn’t go. i was too disgusted by the whole idea.

    and my ward doesn’t do activities once a quarter; they hold a full RS activity every month, still. and i have yet to hear of one that was much more substantial than the princess birthday party. the last one was a night all about fashion (i didn’t go to that one either; i do have an ongoing conflict on the night of enrichment, but if they were to plan something that seemed interesting to me, i’d miss my other meeting to go to enrichment).

    intellectually i understand enrichment–even the ones that are incredibly fluffy and superficial in my opinion. but i just can’t get behind attending something just because i intellectually recognize what it’s supposed to accomplish when it doesn’t actually accomplish those objectives for me.

  10. Muum says:

    urgh… I am in a RS Presidency, and have always loved Enrichment as a time to socialize and get to know other women in the ward. This change has been hard for me. We do 4 quarterly, birthday, blowout craft event, and our upcoming one is two women from Mothers of Africa (or some name?) telling us about their activities in Africa. We have donated quilts (we have a quilting group) to them to take with them to the orphanages. December, a big dinner and Christmas celebration. Other groups, which we try to have led by sisters who are interested in them are on going, book club, cooking, etc. the princess idea sounds like something better suited to Achievement day girls, not women!

  11. ME says:

    We’ve had a couple of good enrichments in my new ward–one focused on health with a physical therapist guest speaker and a yoga demonstration and one on emergency preparedness with a Red Cross guest speaker and DIY 72 hour kits.

    I’ve struggled to get a book group going, though. The RS pres was uncomfortable with the first book I picked and rather than vet every selection through her (and the bishop whom she involved), I opted out of having book group be an “official” RS thing. I’m not supposed to publicize the group at church so it’s been difficult to drum up wider interest. Sigh.

  12. Idahospud says:

    Paula! Now you MUST post a photo of you in that princess get-up!

  13. Paula says:

    I don’t think I have a photo of it in its current state. The first year I had it, I wore it white, and just kind of went as a generic fairy, with glitter dust in my hair, and ringlets, but I don’t know if we have any photos since then. (I’m the photo taker in the family, since my husband’s the type who cuts people’s heads off in photos.)

  14. Caroline says:

    tftcarrie, I think my ward is similarly limited because of ward tradition. It seems like two activities are absolutely set, but there is wiggle room for two others.

    Amelia, where did I get that idea that they had to dress up like princesses? I think I was just so horrified by the theme that I turned it even more horrifying in my mind. It sounds like you’ve had some humdinger enrichments in your ward.

    muum it sounds like you’ve had some good things going in your ward. I love that idea of learning about humanitarian work in Africa.

    ME, I love the yoga one. Very neat. I’ve personally found it more productive to pursue a bookgroup outside of RS. That way you can handpick the women you think might be interested in similar things. I started my bookgroup out with about 5 and we’ve added women (and lost women) here and there since. It’s been fun.

  15. Paula says:

    Caroline, you might have gotten the idea that they had to dress like princesses from the Young Women’s nights when the girls are dressed as brides in borrowed wedding gowns.

    (And I forgot to mention that if I can figure out how to afix a gilded picture frame around my upper body, I’ll use the pink dress to be the Portrait of the Fat Lady from Harry Potter for the ward Trunk or Treat.)

  16. EmilyCC says:

    I run the cooking group for our RS. Its not what I originally envisioned in terms of what we make, but we have a diverse group, so I’ve become good friends with women who are so different from me. I feel like our group is close because there are only about 10 of us.

    Truthfully, I can’t remember why we’re having parties quarterly, but that seems to be what we usually do. They’re fun, but I’d like to do something more substantial. However, I think our Enrichment committee is reluctant because we don’t have great turn outs when we do something like a service project.

  17. mindy says:

    My ward actually is doing really well with Enrichment activities. I moved here last August, and I guess they’ve had a Ladies Night Out monthly for years, even before the new Enrichment program. I’ve been going to that (the LNO) and it’s been a lot of fun. Last month we played Laser Tag, which was quite hilarious. Also, our ward is really sticking to the quarterly “official” meetings, which has been nice. I really do try and make it to those. There is also a bookclub, and people get together on occasion to work on our ward’s quilting service project.

    The ward I moved from, however, was still really struggling to get things figured out.

  18. Julie says:

    I was made the enrichment leader for a few months until I realized that there was no way my busy work schedule could fit what they wanted. I am in a YSA ward and they said that enough women didn’t have friends, or that didn’t feel involved enough and so they wanted WEEKLY activities. They said they didn’t have to be elaborate, but I am still just wondering where they thought it necessary to make me put something together weekly. Since I am single this means I support myself and have a very demanding job. I also like to socialize with people I choose and don’t want to sacrifice one of my only free nights to plan and attend an enrichment activity. Maybe we should have had ONE activity where a counselor spoke to everyone about self esteem, how to make friends, and what to do if you are bored instead of asking me to become a cruise director in my spare time!

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