After three and a half years as primary president (and another year and a half before that as a counselor) I've been released from service in the primary at church. It's hard to wrap my head around it. I've spent five years watching about 100 kids learn and discover the scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I've challenged them, expected more, guided them, and watched them bloom. I've encouraged their questions and pointed them toward answers. We sang and read and talked.
I would say that the time was defined for me by Colin's class. I started when Colin had just turned seven. In a bit of an unusual move, I suggested we move Colin's class of 6 boys and 2 girls into the older division (senior primary) a year early. They were a class of first borns, children a little wiser than their years. Plus the junior group was huge and the move would make the two groups more balanced and easier to manage. The younger group has more songs and games and stories, and the spiritual concepts are presented in a simpler way. The older group we challenge more, have deeper conversations and encourage them to find their own spiritual way.
Over the next 4 years, I watched as Colin's class blossomed in unimaginable ways. Their questions and insights were remarkable for ones their age. And, as the oldest children in their family, we began to see their leadership emerge, to see the positive influence they were having over their younger siblings.
All of this culminated in their primary presentation this past November. Once a year the children have a chance to present what they have learned over the year to the congregation in the main service. Traditionally, the leaders have written little lines for each child to recite. A few children will read a short talk they had prepared during the year. And they will all sing the songs they have learned. But three years ago I wanted to change this. Colin's class, and the rest of the older group, were capable of so much more. So I released the writing to them. For those who didn't want to write a talk, I had them read a scripture passage. But everything that was read came from them. People told me it wouldn't work, but it did, and it was amazing. This past November I stepped it up once again. This time, I told the 8-11 year olds that they would run the entire presentation. I provided lists of the order of talks and songs, and they were in charge of doing everything in the right order. As leaders, instead of sitting up on the stand with the kids, we all sat in the congregation. And they did it. There was one glitch, but they even worked that out.
The past ten years have changed the way religion and spirituality fits in our lives. Religion used to be about providing answers to life's mysteries, but there are fewer and fewer mysteries out there now. In the age of information, a faith in God is really about accessing a spiritual element in our being. I wanted the kids in my primary to learn about God's word, to develop a prayer life, and to start to understand their purpose here.
This year, Colin's class will turn 12, and move into the youth program. To have seen this group through this stage of their childhood has been a privilege.