Church-Hacker #11: Isn’t It About…Time?

This week’s Church-Hacker is inspired by a comment left on a post I wrote a few months ago. Thanks Zefram!

The next time you’re assigned to give a Sacrament Meeting talk on “families,” with the Bishop’s permission, share a one-minute testimony on the value of family time and end the meeting 15 minutes early.

You’re only giving 15 minutes back, but I bet a sizable chunk of the congregation will think differently about that sabbath day with their families.

If nothing else, you’ll spend a week as the ward’s favorite speaker.


Got your own Church-Hacker idea? Submit it! (The church-hacking guidelines are here.) See all entries in this series here.


  1. anonforthis says:

    Except that everyone will simply blow the 15 minutes chatting after church, not returning their library materials (so the librarians are stuck), congregating around the clerks’ office, etc. No time really saved.

  2. Spoken like a true librarian.

  3. I’ll go you something better. Next time I’m assigned to give a talk or lesson on families, I won’t waste anybody’s time with that non-gospel nonsense and just skip church altogether.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    Next time you’re assigned as Prophet, give us one-hour church and two-hour mandated family time on Sundays.

  5. observer (fka eric s) says:

    Congregating around the clerk’s office is usually time well spent.

  6. I calculate that would still leave me with roughly a 1010 minute lifetime deficit for church going over time. 45 weeks/year*7 minute average overrun*35 years – 15 minutes.

  7. I’m all for this, IF it includes a reminder that the meetings were consolidated to a three-hour block specifically so that families could spend more time together on Sunday, a challenge to everyone to analyze honestly if they are thumbing their noses at the church leadership in the way they are spending their non-church time on Sunday and a 15-second directive from the Bishop to leave the church immediately and actually spend the extra 15 minutes together as families.

    Otherwise, what #1 said.

  8. In our ward, meetings don’t end early. If the speakers finish their talks too soon, the bishop calls randomly on people to bear their testimonies until the entire time is filled.

    It really doesn’t matter one way or the other because if you have sacrament meeting first, you still have to stay for Sunday School and Relief Society, and you will still be at church the full three hours.

  9. In our ward you can’t end early because the previous ward hasn’t let out and is still using all of the classrooms. Even 5 minutes causes problems with everyone having to wait in the halls.

  10. Thanks for the concern, but I spend several hours with my spouse and all children every Sunday. Also Saturday, and usually at least three hours before bed on most weekdays as well. Perhaps I should use this unforeseen 15 minute gift to write to an aunt.

  11. Steve Evans says:

    John M., the art of correspondence is one well worth keeping alive. I believe practicing penmanship and regular written correspondence is a worthy use of that extra fifteen minutes. May I suggest a Waterman?

  12. I’m with John Mansfield here. We actually have multiple “family nights” a week — Sunday night is game night (and only interrupted if we have extended family to dinner or have a youth fireside), Monday is FHE, of course, and Friday is family Pizza and a Movie night (I know, I’m a heretic because we don’t do our date night on Friday; shoot me). And large swaths of Saturday are jealously guarded for family time working in the yard / garden or doing other things — wholesome family activities.

    Still, I’d happily take the extra 15 minutes, but since our sacrament meeting is first, our SS teacher will just absorb that time into his fascinating lesson.

  13. On behalf of aunts everywhere who have no idea what is going on in the lives of their nephews, I endorse John Mansfield’s “perhaps.” I’d even settle for a Bic.

  14. I agree with #9 – your solution is brilliant only if Sacrament Meeting is last and/or there aren’t other wards using the building at the time. If so, then – proceed to the top of the class.

  15. Our bishop doesn’t just call up random people – he targets random youth to fill the remaining time: “now, I would like to ask XXX to talk about the pioneers…” My son has been surprised twice this summer already. At least these moments unite the congregation in feeling sympathy toward our youth.

    Do wards ever write to missionaries anymore?

  16. John and Paul, the one-minute talk and the extra 15 minutes isn’t really about making sure we spend every possible minute with our families, it’s a stunt–attempting to shift behavior and state of mind through small but noticeable changes in routine. And it’s an object lesson to get people to think about how they use their sabbath.

    Does it make more sense in that context?

  17. Yeah. More alone time for the singles. Thanks for isolating us.

  18. Do something to cut down on Sunday evening stake priesthood meetings and I think you’ll be on to something.

  19. Steve Evans says:

    TMD with an attitude like that…

  20. I’m still waiting for the church hacker that suggests we declare that the 1:00 – 3:00 block is a heresy that was started by apostates?

  21. I was going to post a reply, but it took me more than one minute to read all the comments, so I stopped reading.

  22. The most bonding my family did on a Sunday was mocking the speakers during the five minute ride home. Then family naps and dinner with The Simpsons! The extra 15 minutes wouldn’t mean much, but that speaker most likely would not get made fun of on the way home.

  23. Our stake president did this at our stake conference one year. The first hour (of the typical 2 hrs) was spent with the usual. Then they distributed a flyer with some reading assignments and discussion questions, and adjourned for a “special session of stake conference” which was to be conducted in each home, where we discuss the provided questions.

  24. Cynthia,

    How may do you think just crumbled up the sheet and threw it away once they got home?

    I find whenever anyone gives me a piece of paper at church it gets lost immediately upon returning home. (Next church hacker should be something about having a BIG poster or something at the front of the room listing the agenda and announcements. Cause as interesting as getting the little schedule for sacrament is, the obvious waste is hardly worth it.)

    Maybe instead of dismissing sacrament meeting 15 minutes early, invite the congregation to 15 minutes of silence to ponder the reason they’re there in the first place. Solves the problem if it’s only the first hour and you’re stuck there anyway.

  25. Josh B. says:

    Right-ho! Good idea for those with a family. Not so great if you don’t.

  26. “Yeah. More alone time for the singles. Thanks for isolating us.”

    LOL. I have no idea whether this is satire or not, which makes it even funnier.

  27. anonforthis says:

    Congregating around the clerk’s office is usually time well spent.

    Not for the clerks or the bishopric. We frankly hate it. We’re trying to count tithing, or request records, or update phone numbers, or the like, and keeping your kids out of the office is a big distraction.

  28. @Newly: I dunno, I suspect many. We did it. But who would expect anything different from a true cream of the crop of righteousness person like me. :)

  29. Several years ago, we had an interesting sacrament meeting: The program had speakers listed, and they were on the stand. We had announcements, etc. Everything was normal until just after the sacrament, then the bishop got up and announced that since the most important part of the meeting was the sacrament, we would now adjourn.

    The speakers looked shocked. The organist just sat there. When no one said, “Surprise! Just joking!” he got up, as if pushed, and began the closing hymn. That was a meeting that was talked about, and it made its point. Jesus is the reason. Jesus is what’s important.

    In any case, I second having only an hour for church, and it being sacrament meeting. Also, church leaders should have their meetings cut in half.

  30. “Yeah. More alone time for the singles. Thanks for isolating us.”

    LOL. I have no idea whether this is satire or not, which makes it even funnier.

    Dunno how pathetic this will make me seem (I’m sure someone will be willing to tell me), but there has been more than one week recently where those hours at church, together with perhaps — not always — a trip to the grocery store constitute my entire face-to-face interaction with other human beings during the week. That may be unusual for someone my age, someone who is still working, but working alone, as well as living alone, but I suspect it’s a very common occurrence for many older widows and widowers. Even for younger singles who have ordinary jobs, church may easily be a primary social function of the week. The Church embraces many kinds of people, not all of us parts of busy young families with built-in dates and people-intensive careers..

  31. Velikiye Kniaz says:

    I have heard innumerable complaints and whining about the length of our meetings as if many Saints are suffering from an aching desire for Protestant/Catholic tokenism. (55-60 minutes & you’re good to go for another week!) According to the Scriptures, we are dependent upon our Father in Heaven for every breath we draw, and by extension, every beat of our heart, not to mention a multitude of other blessings great and small. There are 10,080 minutes in a 7 day week and we presently set aside 180 minutes to devote to the worship of our Heavenly Father and our Savior. That is exactly .017857 percent of the minutes that make up our week. Personally, I think that we are already teetering on the edge of total ingratitude as it is with giving Deity this kind of short shrift. I, for one, (one of those greying “baby boomers”), wouldn’t mind seeing the old 4 hour block come back because I actually enjoy Church and I rarely come away without having gained a few new insights. Church is what you make it.

  32. Indiana says:

    Church is what everyone attending makes of it. I should try to get a sense of the Spirit in Sacrament and the speakers should try to take their assignment seriously and speak with the Spirit. And if they aren’t interesting, I should be forgiving…after all, their job isn’t to entertain me. But yes, many things are greatly improved or made to suck depending on the attitude we bring to them.

    Personally, as a 2-person family we probably should do more once we’re out of church…we’re kind of lazy. But considering my husband’s intense dislike of sitting in the dingy school where we have church on nice spring and summer days, he’d be thrilled by even an extra 15 minutes to go spend some Sabbath family time out in a park somewhere. That’d make his week!

  33. A hearty “hear, hear” to Velikiye #37

  34. #31, that is

  35. Naismith says:

    As someone who teaches Primary right after sacrament meeting, the extra time is a challenge not a blessing. I can’t let them run around the building; when that happens, we start class early and I have to think of an extra activity and story to fill the time.

  36. “The Church embraces many kinds of people, not all of us parts of busy young families with built-in dates and people-intensive careers.”

    I was laughing at TMD’s comment because single folks often say that all those talks about “family” isolate them. Yet TMD says he would be isolated by NOT having to sit through another talk about “family.” So…

  37. Kristine says:

    So we should talk about families less and about Jesus more.

  38. I think the church is in an interesting predicament. Since we adopted the three ward meetinghouse, three hour meeting approach, we necessarily have to run people in and run them out again as meetings are finished. The old-timers like me, who can remember socializing and hanging around after church, miss the old way of doing things. But we are committed to the multiple-wards-in-a-building model, for reasons I support completely. I don’t know how we are ever going to get back what we have lost, however.

    I once was required to attend a 2 hour training meeting which was conducted by a general authority. The topic: How to have fewer meetings!

  39. @ #31, I would counter if one is only devoting 180 minutes out of a week to worship and needs another block of 60 to feel satisfied, then they have a problem. As I understand, Church (Sunday block of) is for the ordinance of the Sacrament and everything else is incidental. What about one’s own personal journey during the week? Can we worship more than just on Sunday, and under a corporate (like)-mandated block of time? (I’m not trying to be snarky). I personally like the idea of a period of silence after Sacrament administration, but I have 5 kids from 2 to 17 years of age and would most likely be wrestling them like I do now during that time. Maybe we can suggest an extra hour just for old people? Like, Sunday School for seniors? Just kidding….

  40. #31,

    All I can say is that, more often than not, my rear end almost always gives out from sitting on the hard chairs more often than my willingness to worship does. This comment reminds me of Hugh Nibleys observation that many people think it more worthy to get up at 5:00 in the morning to write a bad book than to get up at 9:00 and write a good one. It is also this same mindset that makes temples crowded first thing in the morning and nearly empty after about 11:00. I find that when I take my time getting ready and going to the temple that it is less likely that the command during the endowment ceremony to “awake and arise” is other than figurative as far as this man is concerned.

  41. I’m pretty sure it was a function of time and place, but at a certain time and in a certain place, when I was a single parent with two young children, that three hours of church was an oasis for me. When it was over and time to go home, I regretted that it was over.

    The feeling didn’t last, but I remember it.

  42. I don’t quite get the idea that the only reason for a ward to gather is to receive the sacrament and remember Jesus, and anything else is a superfluous tack-on best omitted in the pursuit of pure religion.

  43. Along the same lines as Mark Brown’s 2 hour training meeting (#38):

    I once attended a training meeting where I was asked to present a theoretical weekly ward mission leader meeting with the full-time missionaries. Since attempting to present something fake/scripted just seemed completely awkward and weird, I just held my weekly meeting with the missionaries right there in front of an audience, unscripted. Yeah, it was still weird.

    However, in the process I believe I stumbled upon the discovery of yet another circle of the Mormon Inferno: Holding an extraneous meeting within an extraneous meeting (on a Saturday, no less!). My brain partially melted once I realized what I had wrought…

  44. The reason is that the sacrament is an ordinance (one could argue, the most essential ordinance) whereas the rest of the 3 hour block is not. While the teaching, testifying, etc that can happen in the remainder can be important, it is not essential in the way that the sacrament is.

    Furthermore, I think that some of these posts and comments reflect the fact that there are limitations with the Church’s “one size fits all” approach to worship. For some, perhaps even many, the current model works well. But for others, it can range from “less than ideal” to “nails on a chalkboard infuriating”. There is nothing sacrosanct about our current model, neither in the general format of the 3 hour block nor in the meetings we have. They are simply tools to help us in our spiritual progression. But since we are all individuals, and since the Spirit interfaces with us in highly individualistic ways, there are some limitations with what you can do with this approach to meetings.

    @31: some of the flaws in your argument have already been pointed out, but I would like to add that these posts/comments may reflect frustration on the part of those who do not find the current church format especially helpful. Just because a person does not experience the Spirit in the way you do does not make them heathens, or “tokenists”.

  45. MikeInWeHo says:

    It’s probably not my place to participate in a thread like this, but when I read all these comments Alma 32:9-11 immediately came to mind. Those verses mean a lot to me personally, because I don’t go to church right now.

  46. 1 John 4:20 is the one I think of.

  47. Kristine says:

    Mansfield–that was tacky.

  48. G2Gunner says:

    I like the idea of breaking down tradition and suspition but 15 min. isn’t enough. Think how people would talk if the bishopric showed up one Sunday in colored shirts and kakis, then each would speak that day on the atonement of Jesus Christ. That ladies and gentelmen is how you get people’s attention in our Church. That’s a hacker for ya’

  49. Louis Rendrag (#39) – Well said.

    Mike (#45) – And Alma 33:2-11 These were especially comforting to me recently, when we discovered that the church building close enough to walk to was not the ward we were supposed to be in, so they kicked us out. We don’t have a car, hence could not go to church (in spite of promises two separate weeks of having a ride). (It would appear, though, that a ride may truly be forthcoming this week. We’ll see.)

    The main reason to go to church is to renew one’s commitment to God. (See D&C 59)

    We are supposed to be offering up our prayers to God at all times and in all places. We are supposed to be reaching the point where each of us see Christ for ourselves. (See “The Second Comforter” by Denver Snuffer.) There is never supposed to be a time when our words, thoughts, and actions are inconsistent with worshiping God. Obviously, we are not perfect (that’s what the Atonement is for), but we really need to be aware that God does not expect us to serve Him, think about Him, only during Sunday meetings. This is a life-style, not a religion.

    A church hacker post could be made on having fewer wards per building, or even meeting in homes. The churches could be less fancy, then twice as many could be built.

    If we were living close to the Holy Spirit, and were truly in the process of becoming Christ-like, I think there would be fewer and fewer lonely people amongst us – and parents with small children would also be relieved of some of their burden (getting a break from kids when needed).

  50. Because we would be living in such a way that we would be sensitive to each others’ needs.

  51. I hate to pile on #31, but I loathe the idea that the 3-hour block is the only real time we can count as “worship”, whatever the heck that means. Regardless of the fact that 90% or more of our lessons simply can’t be counted as “worship”, I still think it’s a travesty that we claim the 3-hour block as worship and the rest as non-worship. This should be a lifestyle, not a segmentation of lives where we detach ourselves depending on the circumstance we’re in – i.e., “Oops, I’m at Church basketball now… time to act like a total a$$” before returning home to tell your EQ or HP that they need to repent for not being more charitable.

    I actually would hope we do a significant amount of worship outside of our meetinghouses, but I don’t know. I like the comment on highly individualized experiences with the Spirit occasionally clashing with the one-size-fits-all mentality we tend to push on each other in the church. Sometimes it just doesn’t work for everyone and we shouldn’t expect it to work for everyone. And, if it doesn’t work for everyone, ridiculing those who don’t get out of the 3-hour block what you do may be a significant detraction to the goal of the gospel.

    As for me, I usually come home from church having felt like it was mostly a waste of time and having to return home to refocus on the Spirit. 3 hours spent talking about various subjects, but rarely engaging the topic of Christ or of his gospel. Lessons on modesty, 72-hour kits, home teaching, making more money, regurgitation’s of more conference talks and many others simply are misplaced and leave me yearning for something deep and spiritual. I realize that works for some people, but I go to church hoping to feel the Spirit and too often we’re bearing testimony of how great a people we are, how we’ll never go astray, how we have all the truth and on and on that I wonder if there is anything we don’t know. Maybe it’s a front – I don’t know – but I have a hard time with it.

  52. Even for younger singles who have ordinary jobs, church may easily be a primary social function of the week. The Church embraces many kinds of people, not all of us parts of busy young families with built-in dates and people-intensive careers..

    May I add that this is equally true for younger married couples with no kids who work primarily from the home, as was the case for my wife and I for the first year and a half of our marriage. Even now, church continues to be a major social function of the week.

    So we should talk about families less and about Jesus more.

    I was visiting my parents a few weeks ago and the missionaries were there. I expressed my general annoyance when I sit through an entire sacrament meeting and only hear the name of the Saviour invoked in the invocation, sacrament prayers, and the end of talks, and the benediction. Talks about families are well and good if they are focused on Christ and the Atonement. Talks about how wonderful Mum is at cooking, cleaning, carting kids around, and still having time to look pretty for Dad just make me roll my eyes and start browsing the Internet on my phone for more uplifting content.

  53. StillConfused says:

    Sweeties… if you are going to post a scripture reference, can you please also say what the scripture says. My husband is away with his iPhone and I don’t know of any other way to look up scriptures.

  54. Alex– I for one find talks on modesty in which a grandma says we should not be buying new or fine clothing especially “uplifting”.

  55. #53 – StillConfused-
    Alma 33:2-3 says, “And Alma said unto them: Behold, ye have said that ye could not worship your God because ye are cast out of your synagogues. But behold, I say unto you, if ye suppose that ye cannot worship God, ye do greatly err, and ye ought to search the scriptures; if ye suppose that they have taught you this, ye do not understand them.
    Do ye remember to have read what Zenos, the prophet of old, has said concerning prayer or worship?”

    Then Alma gives several examples of where Zenos said he had prayed. Verse 11 says, “And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son.”

    D&C 59:9-14 says – “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
    For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
    11 Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
    But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
    And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
    Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.”

  56. #53 – It’s not hard at all to find the scriptures on LDS. org…..

  57. to 51: Let me suggest a plan for you. Take a piece of paper to church to write on. Using your wrist watch, actually record the time when each of the activities occurs so that you will a writen record of how many minutes were spent on each of the activities. If your actual numbers correspond to what you wrote, you might speak to a member of the Bishopric and see if they would like that information.

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