Start with the Executive Council, husband, wife and God, at the beginning of marriage if possible. Family challenges are of less concern if pondered or planned in earlier executive sessions. Items for discussion in early executive council could include major items like: the number of children, family goals, individual goals and standards, education and employment, approaches to discipline and consequences, planning and preparing financial support, budgeting, vacations, how to spend holidays, family traditions and approach to teaching spiritual principles. Both partners have different experiences in each of these areas and now the challenge is to unify thoughts and actions. (Note: The family council will again return to the executive level as the children leave. They remain just as important when working with grown children and grandchildren.)
We recommend that Family Councils begin when the children reach the age when they are responsible for picking up toys and helping to sustain themselves--two or three years of age. We find getting young children to participate in discussions of one or two issues was about all that can be expected at this age. However, encourage young children to remain in the room with you until council is over. You may want to provide a quiet game or toy.
Atmosphere & Setting
Open Communication: The open communication atmosphere is key to the success of a Family Council. All comments and questions are important. Do not drop any comment as each has merit. Do not criticize any comment. Setting: The council may be held at any place in the home where the family can sit together preferably in a circle. It could well be around kitchen or dining room table or the living/family room. This is a celestial council so the setting should be the same. When: Family Council should be held when the family can be together. It really does not matter when you meet. The important point is to ESTABLISH A REGULAR TIME so all family members can be there. Family councils should be held often enough to meet the needs of the individual family, but not so often they become meaningless. We recommend weekly councils. If you follow the model of the LDS Church, councils are held on a weekly basis each having different emphasis.
Our experience has shown that going a month without Family Council is disastrous. Contention, discouragement, confusion, back-biting and fighting will replace the peaceful atmosphere of an organized home. Note: They can be held in connection with Family Home evening but we do not recommend it. Combining these meetings can delude the elements and purposes of both meetings.
How Long: Family Councils may vary in length. When children are small twenty minutes in length should be the maximum. As the Children get older the time will naturally extend. We recommend that they be limited to one hour. But a great rap session or planning session can be extended. (Note: If council starts going more than an hour, consider holding separate sub-committee meetings to formalize plans/ideas for council presentation and shorten the discussion time in family council.) HOW TO BEGIN A FAMILY COUNCIL
General suggestions on procedures that may be helpful for the first few Family council meetings:
1. Both parents should review this material. If possible, read some of the listed references also. Discuss the Family Council concept until the theory and practice are understood and an approach for your family is designed. (Note: You do not have to have perfect meetings each time.)
2. After the parent(s) have agreed on a Family Council format for their family, the idea should be discussed with other members of the family.
3. The parents now ask the children to support the council concept. Then decide on a meeting time for the first meeting. Once a mutually convenient time is agreed upon, the Family Council can begin. 4. Often, after the announcement is made, children want to start immediately. However, it is usually better for a few days to elapse between the introduction of the idea and the first meeting to think about ideas and items for the council.
THE FIRST MEETING
The first meeting is crucial for the success of the Family Council. It establishes the mood for future sessions.
1. The parents should be at the agreed place, be ready and start on time. 2. The father/single parent presides at the meeting, but all family members should be treated as equals under God. 3. The first order of business after prayer is to discuss the purpose of family councils Then as appropriate discuss organization of the council. Positions that may be considered include secretary, family recreation leader, family service director, family historian, etc. Note:Father and Mother could consider positions ahead of the meetings and callings could be extended so only sustaining is required in council.) Each member should have a designated role based on ability and interest. Note: Training can be provided at another time. Positions can and should be rotated for experience and growth. (With small children you can forgot this as an item but as soon as possible give them assignments.( Job Descriptions ) 4. While the father/single parent presides at the first meeting, different members of the family may be asked to conduct the council using the agenda in the future. 5. Discuss organization and procedural matters time permitting such as: a. Where and when to meet. b. Who will conduct the next meeting. c. Positions and job training (In future meetings). d. Rules of the Family Council (In future meetings).
It may take a couple of meetings to get fully organized. But make it fun.