Monday, February 12, 2007

Sacrament Meeting Suggestions

Sacrament Meeting can be one of the most spiritually fulfilling meetings in church. The talks can be fresh, exciting, and deeply moving. They can set the tone for your spiritual outlook for the rest of the week at least. Sometimes a talk is so good that you actually remember it for years later.

It can also be one of the most painful meetings at church. Talks can be rote, predictable, and profoundly boring. My least favorite are the talks that simply quote general authorities. One of my very first posts on this blog was what I thought was a crisis of rhetoric in the church.

So, what if you (the reader) were in charge of programing for your sacrament meetings? What practical advice do you have? Would you instruct the speakers on how to speak? How would you do that? What kinds of topics would you like? Are there some topics that are necessarily interesting, no matter how bad the speaker might screw it up? I want to compile a guide here for great sacrament meeting tips and topics.

One more thing: Would the topics you would suggest change if this were a singles ward with college students and nannies? The guide that I am trying to put together here doesn't require that this be the framework, but I am especially interested in thoughts about this situation.


Hayes said...

I would love, at least once a year, for a sacrament meeting to be nothing but singing and special musical numbers.

Our Bishop did something nice for Christmas this year. He stood up, bore his testimony, and then we sang Christmas songs for the remainder of the meeting, with some truly beautiful special musical numbers intermixed.

Capt. Obsidian said...

Our sacrament meeting yesterday was excellent. We had a last-minute cancellation by our speakers (long story), so the bishop decided to have a sing-and-testimony meeting. He invited members of the congregation to briefly talk about their favorite hymn, then we sang the hymn. I think we're going to try to have a similar meeting at least 1 or 2 times a year.

Bored in Vernal said...

We had our Ward Conference Sunday, which was on Temple Work. And the SP called several people out of the congregation to tell how long their engagement was, what goals they had as an engaged couple, and how their temple sealing had helped them meet those goals. It was interesting. I think perhaps Sacrament Meeting could be improved by having just one longer talk and several short "thoughts" (if people would keep them short and pithy.) It's more interesting to hear several different views on the subject. I say: Never Recycle Conference Talks! They are boring enough the first time.

TrailerTrash said...

Thanks for these thoughts so far! They are very useful.

For you scores of lazy passsers-by, I am sure that your lazy fingers can muster something to say about what would make a good sacrament meeting....

KyleM said...

Lazy Boy reliners.
Subs and Soda for sacrament.

I think that the recomendation to not repeat hymns is a bad idea. We have some hymns that are very powerfull testaments to the restoration. They should be sung more often than every couple of years. For that matter, have the ward music director set hymns for a Sunday, and assign talks based off the hymns instead of the other way around. See if that works.

I would like to see some more thought in the topics assigned. I think alot of the suggested topics become repetative.

Perhaps a good 5th Sunday combined meeting topic would be "how to prepare and give a talk." I don't know how many more food storage 5th Sundays I can put up with, anyway. We have workshops for improving teaching skills, but speaking is a different skill and it's never addressed.

I also think sacrament meeting could be shortened by 10 minutes, and cut one speaker, but not much can be done about that at the local level.

Handle said...

I think the best way to improve sacrament meeting would be to eliminate either Sunday School or Priesthood/Relief Society. Doing so would make even dull talks seem much more manageable.

My only other thought is that most sacrament meetings lack a sort of quiet moment outside of the time it takes to pass the sacrament. The quiet moments just before taking the bread and water and then just after make up my favorite part of the meeting. I would enjoy an additional moment or two of official yet personal meditation and prayer.

diahman said...

A basic and unavoidable element of sacrament meeting are the "speakers". IMO, which I think is widely shared, too many of the talks are, as you've stated, more or less rehashing the same old stuff. Out of all the members of the church some are capable of little else, and are naturally better orators on their own. I think there's also a larger group that could provide some variety when provided with the proper training.

Since members from all three groups will inevitably be speaking it would help to provide some training/guidance for all, expecting those in the third group to really take hold of it.

I've found it helpful to have the speaker gauge the audience and try to determine what it is they need to hear for that week. I think targeting people's needs and then working with that in the ramifications of the topic assigned by the bishopric is often effective.

got to run...

Lynnette said...

For you scores of lazy passsers-by, I am sure that your lazy fingers can muster something to say about what would make a good sacrament meeting....

I tried to write an answer, but my fingers were getting too exhaus . . .

No really, here's a thought I had as I lazily flitted by. I think a lot of what makes talks un-engaging is that it's so easy to copy down other people's thoughts, whether it be scriptures or GA quotes, and then share them like a laundry list. I find it far more compelling when people talk about their actual experience of attempting to live the gospel in their lives, the struggles they've had and how their faith has made a difference in those struggles, the perspective they bring based on their unique life experience. So maybe it would be helpful to frame talks not as involving a process of looking up the answer in the encyclopedia (e.g. and then sharing it with the audience, but rather as an opportunity to do some real reflection about what topic x has meant to the speaker personally, the questions they've had about it, the way that they personally think about it. Here's maybe one way of explaining what I'm getting at: if you write a talk in which your personal voice is so absent that someone else could give it as their own talk without having to alter a word, it's much less likely to be interesting.

Off the top of my head, I'd also say that shorter talks are usually better, and all things being equal I'd rather hear more short talks then two long ones. (Though maybe I just have a short attention span.) But how's this for an idea— we could reverse things and put high council speakers first, in the 5- minute youth speaker slot. ;)

Anonymous said...

I will recognize that there are members who simply follow the same "sacrament talk format." It is similar to the young men and young women testimonies. However, it is quite possible that problem lies within the listener.
Sacrament meeting isn't designed for entertainment, but rather for spiritual enlightenment..other than the obvious ceremony. In order for the "edification" process to be completed, it takes a lot of personal scripture study and thought during the previous week for the sacrament meeting to really have an affect. It is fair to say that if you're not prepared for the message, you probably won't get a lot out of it anyway.
Lastly, have some mercy on those who just can't express their thoughts and revelations without the monotone voice. They are obeying a request from their ecclesiastical leaders. They don't want to be up there any more than you want to listen to them.

erinannie said... might be just what you are looking for!

Scott said...

Thank you very much for creating the feild of questioning. Im answering this question only on the reading of "crisis of rhetoric", and not from any of the previous posts. Only so I would complete this task.
I have had in my life the oppurtunity to hear from those who can set the hair up on the back of your neck. Upon occasion when blessed by the Spirit to do so, I have been known to push my talk aside and speak from the heart of the things I know and of the things I feel impressed to say. It's when you sit down and ask your wife did I ramble? When she looks from tear filled eye's you really begin to wonder!
Please, I regret even telling this situation, I do so that others may learn as I have. When we are willing to put ourselves in the Lord's hands and trust in Him, He will open not only our mouths but the ears which are listening.
BUT and yes thats a big one... It's believe members are willing to put themselves in those positions to gives prayers,talks and even lessons.(BUT)They are not willing to take upon themselves the responsibilities of setting an example to be the person giving the talk 4 weeks from now or even by making the lesson memorable enough that they would be associated with it next week.
So much of this is our own lack of self esteem. We have become so dependent on so many gadgets to do all of our thinking and keep all of our appointments that we have overlooked the fact that when we download the newest edition of Scripture into our Palm Pilots we fail to realize that it dosen't come with a Spirit Port! It must be read, It must be searched, if for no other reason than to open the line of communication with Him that would have us carry our brother.

Julia said...

I hate it when people preach The Gospel of Webster. As in, "I was assigned to give a talk on {charity, missionary work, faith, whatever} and I wasn't entirely sure what that meant, so I looked it up in the dictionary..."

It's very rare that the assigned topic is so obscure that anyone needs to have it defined out of the dictionary. Really most of the time you can just talk about it.

I'm all for mostly-music meetings, and also for not feeling the need to fill time. I hate padding that adds nothing to the talks. If it takes less time to say what the speakers want to say, it's okay for the meeting to end early.

My other peeve is when people spend five minutes telling how they met their spouse and dated and got married and blah blah blah. It is neither gospel nor interesting. I am subjected to this a LOT because a lot of recently-married couples move into our ward.

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