It’s Time to Re-think The Primary Sacrament Meeting Presentation
Every year, LDS children ages 3 to 11 years old are conscripted into performing a “Primary Sacrament Meeting Presentation” for the adults of their ward. This performance is meant to dazzle parents and delight grandparents with all the gospel principles children have learned throughout the year. Most programs I’ve witnessed have a bit of “The Worst Christmas Pageant Ever” about them, featuring embarrassed 10-year-olds, apathetic 8-year-olds, and nervous 3-year-olds. Throw in a few wigglers, some yell-singers, the silly face-makers, and a crier or two and you have the classic Primary Program.
I have a confession: I didn’t like the Primary Sacrament Meeting Presentation (or kids singing) until I had children of my own. Even now, I find it amusing/torturous and always wish it was a half an hour shorter. Perhaps this is because the program itself feels rehearsed and unnatural, with kids reading, reciting, or repeating rehearsed lines and singing songs they practiced endlessly for months leading up to the performance. Rather than demonstrating what they’ve gained in faith, it feels like a demonstration of their ability to memorize, please, and perform.
The biggest concern I have for LDS children is how preparation for Primary Sacrament Meeting Presentation seems to take over the entire Primary experience. This desire to perform well on The Big Day supersedes learning songs to help children connect with God. It requires children to repeatedly sing verses over and over, louder (but not yelling), clearer, again, each Sunday. Songs of worship and praise become chores. Are our kids attending Primary to memorize new songs for us or to have a joyful experience learning of Christ?
I do appreciate the newer method of asking children to create speaking parts. When I was little, I usually received a pre-written part that I memorized. This didn’t really mean much to me and I just wanted to recite it well for my parents. These days, children are given a prompt and invited to complete it with their own ideas, thoughts, and testimony. It’s a great learning tool, it invites parents to become engaged with the topic, and provides an opportunity for kids to think about their own beliefs.
If only this little talk didn’t become part of Sundays and Saturdays spent seated in chairs labeled with kid’s names, where they practice sitting reverently, singing the same songs (again), listening to their peers repeat their talks, and then reciting their own talks. No matter how much pizza you promise kids at the end, The Primary Sacrament Meeting Presentation practice is painfully dull. I attended once as a primary teacher and secretly vowed to never send my kids again. And, honestly, it never seems to make much difference when nerves and excitement kick in on performance day anyway.
Last year, I suggested 5 Ways to Improve Primary and I believe that rethinking The Primary Sacrament Meeting Presentation is a great way to follow these suggestions. Do we really need such a time-consuming, repetitious performance at the end of each year? Is the stress for Primary leaders and teachers necessary? Couldn’t we replace it with something simpler and, dare I say, more fun kids? How about share some pictures children drew of Christ and have the children sing a favorite primary song or two that they enjoy?
I would rather listen to a group of kids belt out a few enthusiastic, joyful verses of “This Little Light of Mine,” where the chorus (the part they know best) is always sung the loudest and the older kids hold hymnals to hide behind, but also secretly love to sing a little, than watch an hour-long, rehearsed performance any day.