While visiting teaching last week, I listened to Primary teachers share the difficulty of controlling the ADHD, autistic, and just plain wild kids in our ward. Church policy now mandates two teachers per class which hasn’t helped the discipline problem, but has exacerbated the staffing problem. I heard hair-raising stories of teachers and presidency members spending the second and third hour of the block chasing 9-year-olds who improvise games of hide and seek or trying to cajole disruptive children from sharing time without touching them as per policy. Theoretically, parents are supposed to be asked to step in when their child creates a problem, but apparently that doesn’t always happen—possibly because the parents have no more success controlling their kids than the Primary workers.
I’m always impressed with the children’s programs when I visit non-LDS churches. Non-Mormon kids are not expected to sit quietly with arms folded for two hours. For one thing, the services are shorter than two hours. And the children’s worship service is geared to children. Short verbal lessons are accompanied with hands-on activities—toys to share, dancing as well as singing about Jesus, painting—no Sunday best finery to keep clean. Older children help organize younger children for active games. In nice weather children spend time outside enjoying God’s beautiful world instead of sitting on folding chairs in a tiny room and being shushed for a lesson that goes on and on and on.
It’s unlikely that the Mormon tradition of equating quiet with reverent worship as well as the limitations of space will ever allow a Primary program geared to the needs of active children. A reasonable alternative is shortening the time for children to sit quietly. Possibly the problem of staffing as well as the difficulty of keeping kids quiet for a full three hours every Sunday will eventually force a cutback to a two-hour block. For years I’ve maintained that mandating all General Authorities to take a one-year hiatus every three years, return to their home wards, and serve in Primary would cut the block time immediately—if not sooner.
And would anybody care if Sacrament Meeting were followed by one adult class instead of two? It wouldn’t much matter which one was kept. The Sunday School and the Priesthood/Relief Society lesson topics—even the quotes from General Authorities are about the same. Cutting that third hour would probably make both Primary children and staff enjoy a more spiritual Sunday. And adults who snooze through the latter portion of the block could nap more comfortably at home.