Notes on Two-Hour Church

I spent last weekend with a childhood friend doing Nauvoo. So I learned of the announcement of two-hour church in the Browning gun shop, from a senior missionary with an earbud in his ear listening to Conference. The rumors have been around for years, but now the long promised day has finally come. Hallelujah!

By now I think everyone knows the new basic pattern: 60-minute sacrament meeting, 10 minutes of transition, followed by a 50-minute class period (first and third Sundays SS; second and fourth priesthood, RS and YW; fifth under Bishop’s direction, Primary to be held each Sunday on a 25-5-20 pattern of singing time, transition, classes). But more details are starting to trickle out, so I thought I would share what I have learned and give others a place to do the same. Most of the below comes from a document I just received this morning, called “A New Balance between Gospel Instruction in the Home and in the Church,” which is styled as an enclosure to the First Presidency letter dated October 6, 2018.

In sacrament meeting there can still be choir numbers, but my impression is that intermediate hymns will become a thing of the past.

The weekly switching between classes could get confusing, at least at first, so leaders will probably need to communicate during the week what the upcoming classes and lessons will be. In our ward we have set up FB groups for this purpose.

The SS curriculum is still confusing to me.  Apparently there is both a Come Follow Me–For Individuals and Families and a Come Follow Me–For Sunday School. I thought the Individuals and Families book was the SS curriculum, which on the off weeks people are supposed to study at home with their families, but if that is the case why is there a separate SS book? Maybe the Sunday School volume is specifically a teacher’s manual; at this point I really can’t tell. (I have a copy hot off the press of the Individuals and Families book but not the Sunday School book.) If anyone knows, please explain this in the comments. Also, SS will end with a prayer but not begin with one. (When I taught I usually skipped an opening prayer anyway, which seemed like overkill to me, so I approve of this change.) At the beginning of SS leaders from other organizations can make brief announcements as necessary.

There is a separate Come Follow Me book for Aaronic Priesthood. Apparently leaders and teachers can select the lessons that best meet the needs of the students. The EQ and RS are supposed to focus on messages from the most recent GC. AP and MP will no longer meet together at the start of priesthood. Like SS, priesthood and RS do not begin with prayer but do end with prayer. Hymns may be used to enhance a lesson, as appropriate. RS and YW will not meet together for opening exercises, and the YW will not meet together first but will go straight to classes. (Our YWP wasn’t happy about that tweak; she says the girls like meeting together first.) The YW have their own Come Follow Me book.

For Primary, we’ll start with prayer and a scripture or article of faith and a talk for five minutes and singing time for 20 minutes, a five-minute transition, and then 20-minute classes based on Come Follow Me—Primary.

The Gospel Principles class will be discontinued. Special classes (like marriage or temple prep) will no longer be held during the second hour, but may be held at other times at the bishop’s discretion.

One question I had was what they’re going to do about teacher council meetings. They still exist, but now they’ll be quarterly instead of monthly. Instead of doing it twice during both a second and a third hour, now it will need to be done twice on separate Sundays (a 1 or 3 and a 2 or 4).

A few preliminary thoughts on Come Follow Me–For Individuals and Families: the lessons are not numbered, but are assigned calendrically by dates, one week for each, from Monday through the following Sunday. One thing I love about this is they have special lessons for Easter and Christmas. When I was a SS teacher I always did this on my own initiative, but students shouldn’t be limited to having a teacher who is willing to go rogue in order to get special treatment for these holidays.

As for the substance of the lessons, well, they make our current manuals look like the Summa Theologica by comparison. There’s simply not much there. But on the plus side, the Church is now more open to people getting together in study groups, and for someone wanting more substance that would be the way to go.

Please correct me where I’m wrong and add your own insights as we prepare for the holy grail of two-hour church.

 

 

Comments

  1. Other notables you might not have mentioned:
    Buildings with two wards/branches in separate languages can overlap their non-sacrament hour together and the 2nd ward/branch would hold sacrament in their own language in their 2nd hour. That’s an interesting one for unity and integration.

    The concept of home church with the addition of adding in other individuals and families together. There’s a great missionary opportunity. I can’t imagine trying home church in any structured form without inviting someone. It will just be family home evening, but even more struggles. But if you turn it into a cohort style home school, followed by dinner and rotated between a few member group homes? That’s awesome.

    I’m curious to see how the scout replacement program roles out with this too.

  2. I’m glad to hear we are doing away with the intermediate hymn. Our chorister has us standing for it every Sunday like it’s the seventh inning stretch and I am irrationally bothered by it.

    With the YW no longer meeting together for an “opening exercise” does that mean the church will finally do away with the creepy chanting of the YW theme every week?

  3. I second the comment that no more opening exercises for young women is a loss. That is where we say the theme, among other things. Also no opportunity for the young women’s presidency to teach all yw together. You get different involvement and responses in the bigger group.

  4. Is MP doing away with council meetings?

  5. Owen Witesman says:

    @Bro B.: Yes, Elders Quorum council meetings have been retired as a regularly scheduled activity.

  6. Left Field says:

    Priesthood opening exercises has been the main opportunity to let the male half of the adults know what’s going on with the male half of the youth. Youth are meeting at the storehouse this Wednesday instead of the church. Campout this weekend. Temple trip the week after. Who can help out with these activities? I assume the same function has happened on the RS/YW side.

    These sorts of announcements would have to be made in sacrament meeting, but they want announcements to mostly go in a program. I’ve never had very good luck getting the bishopric to remember to make sacrament meeting announcements, even those mandated by the handbook (like changes in the EQP or Aaronic Priesthood presidencies). And getting volunteers (say to accompany the youth to the temple) to identify themselves in response to a sacrament meeting or bulletin announcement could be a problem. I fear that the YM/YW announcements will tend to be overlooked, especially if they have to be communicated in advance to the weekly bulletin person.

  7. I’ll miss the yw meeting together as well. Girls at church get so few role models and the younger girls looking up to the older girls always seemed important to me.

    Fingers crossed the theme disappears though. I too find it creepy.

  8. Discussing with friends I think there will be more cumulative time paying attention than with three hours. The last 10 minutes almost always dragged and there was filler in talks to not finish early. Hopefully that changes. I can pull myself together for 50 minutes and take what I can get out of a lesson. Before knowing there were two hours I’d check out if the topic or teacher weren’t interesting. My informal poll showed many others seemed to have many similar attitudes. I think once the wrinkles are ironed out church services will be much better.

  9. Left Field says:

    I agree with MKng1 about not ending sacrament meeting early. Perhaps we will have less of that. I’ve often tried to convince the bishopric that the handbook does not mandate that the bishopric provide filler to avoid the horror of ending early. It’s especially bad when they announce what they’re doing. In essence saying, “I don’t have anything worthwhile prepared, but I have to stand here and waste your time until we’re allowed to let you go.” Not a good note to end on.

  10. Even if sac mtg, even though they’re only an hour, it will probably won’t move block times up much. To account for time shuffling in and out of the room, I imagine they’ll have to stagger them by a half hour, e.g. 9am, 10:30am, 12am for starting times.

  11. If the new curriculum content is “there’s simply not much there,” and there is no Gospel Principles class, I believe the Sunday School portion will be taught at a more basic level to accommodate investigators and new members. Will be interesting to see how it is done in practice.

    I suspect that with no introduction or business done in RS/MP/AP/YW, and identically-named curriculum, the rationale for gender splitting the second hour may fade, as planning and communication for all those organizations moves outside the 2-hour schedule. It could be similar to when I was in PEC meetings and Ward Council meetings, where we wondered why there were Sundays where we didn’t have women represented, and it stopped making sense.

    Recent church program announcements appear to be “Ready / Fire / Aim” which may be needed to force change within the church, meaning that the existing program is killed before the replacement program is fully baked. It’s uncomfortable for some to be in a state where there is uncertainty with the road ahead (3-hour block, Boy Scouts, Home teaching, High Priests groups) where the current plan was ended before we had a clear map of what comes next. I like that the church is able to change and is flexible. There’s a bit of sentimentality tied up with tradition in a lot of these programs for me, but I see it as progress and growth for the church.

  12. I’m sad that the councils have so quickly been killed. They’ve been infinitely more engaging and helpful than any GC inspired lesson in EQ. And actually counciling on what could be done as a quorum justified the gender split.

  13. Ray (Overlay Ward) says:

    Following sacrament meeting, there will be a 10-minute transition period to get to classes. These classes will be 50 minutes long and will rotate between auxiliaries and Sunday school courses each week. Primary will be the only organization that has a consistent schedule. The Primary will meet for a 50-minute period each week; it will include singing time and classes. The schedule is as follows:

    First week: Sunday School
    Second week: Priesthood quorums, Relief Society, and Young Women
    Third week: Sunday School
    Fourth week: Priesthood quorums, Relief Society, and Young Women
    Fifth week: Lesson under the direction of the bishop

  14. I was told today that there will not be regular opening hymns in RS or EQ, and of course not in YW/YM because of going directly to classes. I feel this is a loss overall. One of my main concerns about it: we will no longer have a “training ground” for the teens to develop the musical skills and confidence for leading the singing and accompanying hymns, Leading is different than singing, and accompanying is different than playing. Even fabulous pianists are not necessarily good accompanists.

  15. I would prefer having fewer talks during Sacrament meeting and so I am disappointed the “rest” hymn is going away.

  16. Kristin Brown says:

    Will there still be youth speakers during Sacrament Meeting?

  17. Ryan Mullen says:

    Any chance stake conference is also being cut down to an hour? If young kids can’t sit still for a 70 min sacrament meeting or a 50 min lesson …

  18. Ryan Mullen says:

    As for the Come Follow Me manuals, it appears that Individuals and Families version and the Sunday School version are complementary. The lessons are labeled by dates instead of lesson numbers, which means they will need to be updated in 4 years when we cycle back to the NT, and they have similar (but not identical) section headings. Also, the enclosure mentioned in the OP says “Sunday School leaders and teachers will need to select material from
    one or more lessons in order to stay aligned with the individuals and families resource.”

    I suspect that the Sunday School curriculum committee, which wrote 50 lessons, may not have had advance notice that change in meeting structure would reduce SS to 22 lessons a year.

  19. Interesting discussion overall. This caught my eye from the OP: “In our ward we have set up FB groups for this purpose.”

    Ugh. Why not email or text or something else? Not to say that ward FB groups shouldn’t exist, but I don’t think they should the primary communication channel both because it requires having an account with one specific company which is now inaccessible on meetinghouse wifi.

  20. Never mind on my last bit, turns out FB has been exempted from the social media blockages. Still I strongly disagree with pushing ward members to any proprietary network like FB. That said I welcome increased communication outside of church so that we can focus on worship during our limited time together.

  21. As a Gospel Doctrine teacher I am nervous about the change. I looked at the Sunday School outline and it is thin. We had a brief and spirited discussion about the changes today during class, and there were quite a few people who flat out said they want to be taught at church; they are happy to read if they have time, but they are unlikely to have time to study. A couple of sisters shared my personal unspoken concern that more work has been added to the lives of the sisters. I looked around at the nodding heads as these 2 sisters shared their concerns and noticed that several of those who were nodding are single moms, several have husbands who travel 4 or 5 days per week, and a couple are in mixed faith marriages where church must be left at church. They were nodding in agreement that this change to Sunday School curriculum felt like an added load. I was surprised that even one of our most “orthodox” men spoke up to point out that our youth are already asked to study for seminary and to engage in personal Book of Mormon study. He doesn’t know how they will engage with this additional “homework.” There were two brothers who spoke up and said anything to get us to 2 hour church is worth it.

    All in all I like the change to 2 hour church because my husband will be home sooner and we can enjoy more family time. Sunday is usually our only family day. My girls are sad that the combined opening exercises in young women have been cut, as well as the once a month they came in to Relief Society for opening exercises. They found value in that bonding time. They actually prefer more socializing to more lesson time. But, they prefer 2 hour church to 3 hours so they will roll with the changes.

  22. I grew up in come to church 3 separate times on Sunday. Now this. Pretty soon will we be watching tabernacle on tv every Sunday like a televangelist? Will the be a study guide for home study?

  23. Roger Nolter says:

    There is a difference between the versions of “Come Follow Me” from what I can tell. The individual one is just that for the individual. To allow us to answer personal questions and fill in answers/thoughts. The Sunday School one seems to be a Teacher Guide. Set up to prepare the teacher to effectively ask and run the class. So unless you are teaching just use the individual/family one and that will prepare you for the Sunday School experience.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, Roger, the only way it made sense to me was if the Come Follow Me–Sunday School were a teacher’s guide.

  25. Sunday School will now be 50 minutes instead of 40. That’s an improvement — when the lesson is good!
    Our Laurels have been attending RS 6-8 times a year — part of the plan to help ease the transition to RS, and now to involve more with ministering. Will that practice have to stop?

  26. Adult Sunday School could get much better: more adults will attend, the participants will likely have read the scriptural material before the class, and teachers will be better prepared with only two lessons per month. It’s too bad the new manual is still very bad (per reports) but if the teacher knows a thing or two and just ignores the manual, Sunday School might turn out much better. Might.

    Killing the whole “let’s council together on the first Sunday” thing is a modern-day miracle. Most failed programs linger for generations. Linked with the elimination of priesthood singing, this constitutes a clear improvement in priesthood meetings.

  27. Billy Possum says:

    I will be treating the new “curriculum” as a floor, not a ceiling. Some of my annotations may even refer to the actual Summa Theologica. In a way, when it comes to official curriculum as a catalyst for personal and family study, less is more.

  28. Two questions I’ve been wondering about:

    Will a member of the presidency of RS and YW continue to teach one lesson a month? If so, that means RS teachers/YW advisors would only teach once a month (which is of course already the case in RS). Would you really need an advisor calling where their only job is to teach once a month (of course they come to activities sometimes too)? Will there only be one RS teacher called (if a member of the presidency teaches the other lesson each month)? It’s hard to imagine a need for more than one RS teacher, if they’d only be teaching every other month.

    Second, what will Primary presidencies do during the last 25 minutes of class? Sit in on a class? Have a presidency meeting? Chill?

    I’m in the YW presidency right now and I have to say first meeting together as a group will be missed. The girls like to interact. And even as a convert, who is cynical about a great many things, I’ll actually miss saying the theme — I enjoy it.

  29. Kristen Larson says:

    Not sure if this is going to change at all, but any insight if blessings will be done outside of sacrament meetings?

    Example being baby blessings or holy ghost confirmations? I have been to a few wards where these take up 30-40 minutes by themselves. But honestly I would love to have a smaller crowd for a newborn baby blessing than the whole congregation, but maybe I am just in the minority there.

  30. Bring back the confirmation meeting!

  31. @Kristen,

    There’s always been an option of doing baby blessings outside of sacrament meeting. We blessed both our children at home, with the endorsement of two different bishops. (In fact a member of the bishopric has to be in attendance.) Just had a close circle of family and friends over. Much cozier and more intimate.

  32. Kristen Larson says:

    @bean, I did know that it has been an option, but a little hard to do in a small apartment in Chicago. Both husband and I come from really large families so a large guest list is always inevitable. I would love to do it at home, but think that an after church blessing would be much more manageable, and curious if that could be more of the norm in the future.

  33. Kevin Barney says:

    Kristen, I’m waving to you from the 39th floor of One South Wacker Drive (kitty corner from the Opera House)!

  34. Kristen Larson says:

    @Kevin Barney, I know the area well! I have been curious if I have ever bumped into some of the authors of these blog posts at stake gatherings because I know a few that reference Chicago frequently..

  35. Michael H. says:

    Even though I’m in a pretty big ward, I’m (allowed to be) both a gospel doctrine and priesthood instructor. I love teaching Sunday school; love teaching from the scriptures. Teaching priesthood is another matter. Lately, I’ve been treating the conference talks as reading homework that everyone’s supposed to have done during the week, so we just launch into a discussion (rather than rehash the talk–zzzzzzzzz.). They’re still abstract, conceptual lessons, though; I prefer the concrete reality of setting, narrative, character, dialogue, etc. that form the Bible and to a lesser degree the Book of Mormon, and at least the context of the DC. Today, if the bishop said, “We need to cut you down to one calling. Do you have a preference?” I’d drop the priesthood gig in a heartbeat. (I also much prefer the mixed-gender company of Sunday school, anyway.) But as of January . . . Sight unseen, I dread the changes to the Sunday school curriculum. I dread the prospect of Sunday school becoming more abstract-concept-driven. We’ve been programmatically cherry-picking the scriptures for years (a smattering of out-of-context verses illustrating the concept of “Obey the Brethren,” for example), and I’m afraid it’s just going to get worse–fewer, even broader smatterings of even more out-of-context verses presumably illustrating even more nebulous abstract concepts. I know I shouldn’t complain. It’s a genuine privilege to be able to teach. (It’s really the only church calling I enjoy.) I guess the answer is just to buck up and do the best I can. Lemons, lemonade, and all that.

  36. Bro. Jones says:

    Michael H: I hold the same two callings as you! As long as nobody gets in my craw about “following the manual” then they can make any changes they want. I’m currently in youth Sunday School, and I did get one murmur about the manual, to which I replied, “Have you *read* the Come Follow Me manual? Each month consists of 4-5 sentences about being like Christ, along with a bunch of video links, and an admonition to follow the spirit. I could do pretty much anything and it would be following the manual.”

  37. Kevin Barney says:

    On another thread someone asked about fast and testimony meetings. Do we know whether those will be continued or discontinued? I haven’t seen anything specifically on that. Until I hear otherwise my working assumption is that they will be continued.

  38. David Z,
    I just noticed that the newly published Gospel Library app page on Come Follow Me for EQ and RS has, on it’s page about 2nd and 4th Sunday meetings, an admonition to NOT teach classes or lessons, but instead to counsel together. And the video on that page is the same video that the church used to explain and demonstrate the 1st Sunday counsel meeting that we’ve all been trying to do this year.
    So, it looks to me like, rather than losing our monthly council, if we do it right, we should actually be having two.
    That’s hopeful.

  39. My guess about Primary presidencies during the last 25 minutes: if they are smart: assist the Primary teachers that they are responsible for in whatever reasonable way they request it! Each member of the presidency has a responsibility for certain classes and teachers. As a former Primary president I would have loved for us to have been more availabe to assist the teachers when they needed it.

  40. Correction: The instruction and video about 2nd and 4th Sunday meetings in on the “Why Do We Have Quorum and Relief Society Meetings” page.

  41. As someone who gets called to primary a lot, I think we are the real winners here. 50 minutes with the sunbeams when they have asked us not to give snacks nor have toys like the nursery, per the manual dragged on and on. They had already sat through sacrament and sharing time by that time. I think the new schedule is much more developmentally appropriate for the under 8 crowd and their teachers.

  42. @Bean: In our building we do not have enough classroom space for all of the primary to meet in classes at the same time, so they split into junior and senior primary. That means the primary presidency will be running meetings for the whole 50 minutes: once for the younger children and again for the older children. But without having to do sharing time, I can imagine the presidency spending more time with the children in their individual classrooms.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.