The Primary Program: Reflections and lessons learned

children-1184825-printAnd now for something a little different on T&S…

This past Sunday our ward Primary presented its annual program. As I was writing the program last month, I appreciated seeing sample scripts and reading other Primary leaders’ reflections online, so I thought I’d make our script available here together with a few older-and-wiser observations.

This was my first rodeo, at least as far as writing the script and directing the thing, and overall I’m pleased with how it went. The Primary theme this year is “I Know the Scriptures Are True,” so I knew I wanted most of the program to focus on retelling scripture stories rather than presenting bite-sized bits of doctrine. I wanted to try group recitation for the youngest classes, something that has worked well for my kids’ preschool performances. It was important to me to strive for gender parity in the program content. I decided with my music director to keep the music portion very straightforward, without instrumental or small-group flourishes. And to keep it fun for me and, I hoped, the kids and audience, I decided to write the whole thing in rhyme.

Here’s what worked well:

  • The music was strong, and the overall flow of the program was easy to manage (with one exception below).
  • I think the audience and children enjoyed the focus on stories.
  • The kids were adorable and well-behaved during the performance, despite a very rough rehearsal the week before.

Here’s what didn’t work as well as expected:

  • It was awkward to get the young classes up on a bench all together and clustered around the microphone. And the Sunbeams really didn’t get their part out at all; they’re just too little. I might skip speaking parts for Sunbeams next year.
  • The rhyming did not seem to be as fun for the kids as I’d hoped.
  • The inevitable downside of the way I chose to write the program is that the kids were not speaking in their own words. While I visited each class to get their ideas for which stories they wanted to tell, they didn’t feel much ownership for their spoken parts.

Still, I think it was a good experience for the kids and I’m proud of how well they did — and very grateful for the help of my presidency, music director and pianist, and the class teachers.

I implemented a couple of additional ideas I found online, including providing a copy of the script in the program for the congregation to follow along, together with a card for ward members to write a note to the children. The kids enjoyed hearing the messages in Primary.

And finally, a very important caveat: It’s absolutely, positively not necessary for Primary leaders to employ a gimmick like rhyming or anything else for a successful program. While idea sharing is wonderful, it can create a kind of arms-race effect where you feel you have to take every good idea and ratchet things up. Not at all! Simple, no-frills programs that preserve the sanity and time of Primary leaders are the best. I enjoy writing, so it was a fun diversion for me to create a special script. Other leaders have other priorities. And it’s all good.

So, without further ado, find below the script for our program, if you’d like to peruse it for fun. Anybody is welcome to borrow or adapt all or any of this, with no need for permission or attribution.


A Feast of Scriptures

Narrators: The Frontenac Ward is cordially invited to Thanksgiving in October:

A feast of scriptures, the words of Christ, who speaks the whole world over.


All year we’ve studied scriptures and learned that they are true;

Today we’d like to share a bit of what we’ve learned with you!


Instead of turkey, rolls, and pie, we’ll feast on spiritual flavor:

Stories of Jesus, the deeds of his servants, and the love of our Savior.


First up, our littlest friends will share some tasty treats,

Their first steps toward Jesus: we think they’re very sweet!


Sunbeams: “My Body Is a Temple of God” (August)

[Class:]I have two hands that love to clap [clap hands]

Two arms for having fun. [raise arms above head]

I have two ears for listening [point to ears]

And eyes to see the sun. [point to eyes]


[Teacher:] My Heavenly Parents gave to me

My family and my home.

We help each other learn and grow

So no one is alone.


Song: The Lord Gave me a Temple


CTR 4: “The Scriptures Teach of Heavenly Father’s Plan” (February)

[Class:]Jesus made the world for me,

The animals and plants.

He made the great big elephants,

He made the tiny ants.


[Teacher:]He made two people for the world,

A woman and a man,

They were brave and led the way

In Heavenly Father’s plan.


Song: I will Follow God’s Plan


CTR 5: “Jesus Christ Is My Savior and Redeemer” (April)

[Class:] Jesus said “Come follow me”

To Peter, James and John.

They were fishing in the sea,

They left their nets at once.


[Teacher:] Jesus still says, “Follow me”

You’ll hear him in your soul.

Jesus loves me, this I know,

The scriptures tell me so.


Song: If I Listen with my Heart


Narrators: On the mountain Jesus taught, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst”,

He is living water for our souls; we drink it up chapter and verse.


As Latter-day Saints we have four books of scripture, a four-course meal.

Better than chicken soup for the soul, the scriptures nourish and heal.


CTR 6: “The Scriptures Are the Word of God” (January)

The Old Testament is the story of God’s promise to stretch out His hand.

He rescued his people from slavery and led them to a promised land.


Prophets like Moses listened to the Lord and proclaimed his word.

So did brave women like Deborah, a prophetess and judge; her voice was heard.


The Book of Mormon is the story of a family that traveled to a new place.

Long before Jesus was born, they were taught His gospel of grace.


Then Jesus visited the Nephites at the temple to teach and bless.

For two hundred years there were no poor; they lived in righteousness.


The New Testament is the story of Jesus’s life. He was born under a new star.

When he grew up he taught his friends that love is the first commandment by far.


He loved us enough to die for us, and he came back to life in three days.

Someday he’ll come back to earth, and the whole world will sing in praise.


The Doctrine and Covenants is a book of things the Lord told Joseph the Seer.

The Lord promised to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ for all the world to hear.


Joseph and Emma, husband and wife, trusted and obeyed the Savior.

They helped organize the new Church of Jesus Christ; we honor their labor.


Song: Scripture Power

Narrators: Imagine a table loaded with food, a potluck of delectable dishes.

The scriptures are loaded with teachings that are spiritually delicious.


Daniel, Esther, Samuel and Abish; righteous women and men served the Lord.

We’ll take a few stories from each book of scripture and serve them to the ward.


CTR 7: “Prayer is Reverent Communication Between God and Me ” (October)

Daniel was a righteous man who worshipped the Lord, faithful to the cause.

He lived in a country where the people did not know about God and His laws.


Jealous people set a trap for Daniel; they made everybody pray to the king.

Anybody who refused would be put in the lion’s den for disobeying.


Daniel would not kneel to the king; he knew that was the wrong way to pray.

He did what was right, and prayed to the Lord in his bedroom each day.


Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den, but an angel shut the mouths of the beasts.

Daniel was blessed for choosing the right, and he was safely released.


Esther was a brave woman whose uncle taught her to worship God.

They lived in a country where worshipping the Lord was outlawed.


Esther became queen of the land, but she kept her faith under wraps

Until a wicked man made a plan to catch her family in a trap.


Esther went to her husband the King and asked him to spare their life

The king was touched by the courage and faith of Esther his wife.


Because of Esther’s courage, her family was saved from their plight.

The Lord gave her an important job to do, and she faithfully chose the right.


Song: Stand for the Right


VAL 8: “The Gospel Will Be Preached in All the World” (September)

Abish was a servant girl who worked for the Lamanite queen

She alone had a testimony of Christ, because of a vision her father had seen.


Ammon the missionary came to preach in the palace of Lamoni the king.

When the people felt the Spirit, they fell as if dead; their joy was overpowering!


Abish ran to tell the people outside, so they would know the power of the Spirit

But when they saw, everybody got upset; instead of feeling the Spirit, they feared it!


Abish knew she must act. She bravely took the queen’s hand.

The queen awoke and testified of Jesus, and the gospel spread through the land.


Samuel the Lamanite was a missionary who preached to a wicked crowd.

They threw him out of the city, and said preaching was not allowed.


Samuel turned to go home, but the Lord said he must go back and testify.

The city gate was locked, but he climbed a wall so all could see him up high.


Samuel spoke the words the Lord put in his heart, and prophesied about a sign:

When Jesus is born, a whole night will be bright, and a new star will shine.


Some of the people were angry, and threw stones at Samuel on the wall.

Others believed and were baptized; they were faithful, but their number was small.


Song: This is My Beloved Son


VAL 9: “The Scriptures Teach Me about the Savior’s Birth and Second Coming” (December)

As Samuel prophesied, Jesus was born in a stable under a new star.

Shepherds and wise men came to worship the babe bringing gifts from near and far.


One day twelve years later, Jesus got lost from Mary and Joseph, his mom and dad.

They found him at the temple teaching with power; all were amazed at the wisdom of the lad!

Jesus was baptized by John in a river; it was like he was buried in water.

He rose from the water with new life, an example for every son and daughter.


Jesus taught with stories called parables that everyone could understand:

If you choose not to listen, you’re like the foolish builder who made his house on the sand.


He told a story about a man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead,

Nobody helped, until a good man stopped, cared for him, and gave him shelter and bread.


A woman searched her house for a lost coin; she rejoiced when it appeared,

Just as God and angels celebrate every sinner who repents and draws near.


Jesus taught his disciples to love, and he showed the greatest love of all,

By giving his life on the cross for everyone: black or white, old or young, great or small.


After three days, Christ arose and appeared to his friends. Death was defeated!

He promised to return again someday, bringing peace to the earth when it’s needed.


Song: Baptism


VAL 10 : “The Church of Jesus Christ Has Been Restored” (May)

Joseph Smith learned the Bible from his parents; scripture reading was a family affair!

A verse from the book of James gave Joseph courage to seek God in prayer.


Joseph soon learned that the Bible does not witness of Christ alone:

The Book of Mormon is Another Testament of his willingness to atone.


As a prophet, Joseph Smith spoke the Lord’s words for all who need them,

His revelations were written in the Doctrine and Covenants, where we can still read them.


But it didn’t stop there! One, two, three books of scripture would not suffice:

The Lord revealed more words of prophets ancient and modern, the Pearl of Great Price.


Song: Praise to the Man


Narrators: We hope your spirits were well fed at the feast we presented to you.

“For behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”


The scriptures are like teachers, when read with the Spirit’s wisdom and light.

Search the scriptures; they lead us to Christ, and in him we have eternal life.


Song: Search, Ponder and Pray

9 comments for “The Primary Program: Reflections and lessons learned

  1. Vanessa Stanfill
    October 25, 2016 at 11:42 am

    A few years back I was writing my fourth program and pondering on some the same challenges you faced in your program — little kids hard to herd, hard to have them speak in their own words, plus our primary was big so seeing an endless stream of faces say one sentence each seemed so dull. So I decided to chuck tradition and head off in my own direction. I nixed all speaking parts for Junior Primary kids. Instead, every class memorized a scripture (of the month) to recite in unison as we moved through the topics in the program outline. Some classes learned their own song to sing as well, depending on the kids and teacher. When JP classes came up to the front, they gathered in front of a microphone set at their height on either the left or right side of the podium, right near where they were all sitting. SP kids each wrote and gave a short talk on a topic relevant to each month’s theme. Anywhere from two lines to a few paragraphs (or pages, in one case!) depending on their age. I felt like this played to the different age’s strengths – sunbeams are darling and then disappear. Older kids had some truly touching personal stories and insights to share. I felt like it was by far our best, easiest, and most spiritually uplifting program ever! I got released unexpectedly that very day. :) Great way to finish off my time in the PP.

  2. christiefrandsengmailcom
    October 25, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    I absolutely love the script! I can see this being made into a beautiful illustrated book. What a memorable experience you provided for all those children and everyone in the congregation – I bet they will always remember the year their program was all in rhyme! The most wonderful aspect of having a lay ministry is that we each get to bring our particular personality and talents into the calling when it’s our turn. Well done, Rosalynde!!

  3. October 25, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Thank you for this Rosalynde — amazing work and a great example!

  4. Clark Goble
    October 25, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    I always love the primary presentations. The kids love it as well. I confess my favorite parts are the sunbeams and stars.

  5. October 25, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Absolutely lovely! Sunbeams are always tricky. This year I had them each stand at the microphone and say “My name is XXX. Jesus loves me!” It worked well! Last year I only gave speaking parts to the Senior Primary, since we have over 100 children. I liked that too. My husband insists that the best version would be to have six short talks by children and then singing (less roadshow, more worship). But I can’t bring myself to disappoint so many parents :) Wonderful to read what you were inspired to do!

  6. jennifer Rueben
    October 25, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    yes to your husband’s idea. It is sacrament meeting.
    of the several hundred Primary programs I have watched, written, rehearsed, and participated in the one I remember most and had the most spiritual impact was very simple . At the end of sacrament all the children stood up in place beside their families and as they moved to the aisle they sang “Army of Helamen. They walked towards the front and sat down. The narrator and speakers used the mike and various family group gave choral readings mostly of scriptures. The younger classes were gathered as the children came to the front and sat with several adults on the side front benches reserved for them. They were pick up by an older sibling if they were part of a choral reading group None of the part were very lengthy. One of the outstanding songs was done by a group of senior primary girls who had been taught harmony to “Beautiful Savior” It was coupled with an appropriate scripture read by senior boys. Finally all children stood and again sang ” Army of Helamen as they returned to their parents. Simple words, quiet staging, meaningful content.

  7. Chadwick
    October 27, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    I would suggest you do not cut the Sunbeams out. I think you might have some very upset parents on your hands. =) The problem I’ve noticed with the Sunbeams is that of their six word part, they say the first three words and the last three words seem to come out as they are moving on and stepping down. It’s jarring.

    Your program layout sounds very creative and different. I like it.

  8. jes
    October 29, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Just a quick suggestion, if you have people translating your Sac Mtg into other languages, giving them a copy of the program; it helps out immensely! It’s really hard to hear/understand the kids and they speak so quickly sometimes that it’s impossible to keep up.

  9. jennifer Rueben
    October 30, 2016 at 1:20 am

    sunbeams can sing every song, participate with small groups choral reading. It is still sacrament meeting , not a performance .

Comments are closed.