I wrote the following note to a friend who had just been called as Enrichment Counselor. It's written from an RS president's perspective, so be sure you share your tips and ideas in the comments section below!
[Enrichment Counselor] is a great calling, Ingrid,and you'll be wonderful!
It's taken a while for me to wrap my head around this instruction from the church on Enrichment activities. Reading the instruction from the church makes you feel like you should be coming up with lots and lots of things to do, like book club or moms and tots and humanitarian and quilting and art classes and whatever...., and it makes you feel like a failure if those optional meetings are not well attended. I've talked with the stake RS president in some detail about this, and we think that planning tons of activities is not what headquarters meant. Definitely for Enrichment activities, less/fewer is more. Your enrichment (sometimes called midweek) activities can be planned by basically any sister in the ward, with approval from the Bishop. Sometimes you'll want to help get a group started, like a recipe sharing group or whatever, but most often, ideas will come from sisters themselves.
For our unit, which has many working sisters and commuting fathers and an extremely active activities and youth program, a monthly temple trip, weekly moms and tots, and semiannual cannery trips is enough. We will hold 1 or 2 miniclasses (on something of specific interest like gardening or baking bread or computer classes or canning), but that is plenty. Sisters will actually come to you with ideas for these activites -- scrapbooking, tots, whatever.
... Don't plan a class just to fill a calendar date.
Resist the temptation to do an interest survey to help you plan activities. I have never seen one work -- not in any ward -- anywhere. You'll get 40 sisters saying they want to learn about gardening, schedule a great teacher from the co-op to come out, plan a great class with food, make adorable handouts, and no one will show. Both you and the teacher are disappointed and hurt. Remember our book club? Many sisters expressed interest; they even talked about it during our Sunday meetings, and no one would come. Having an interest in a topic (or several topics) is not the same as being willing to sacrifice your time to attend.
(I hope this doesn't sound like I'm bursting your bubble or anything. I'm just saying, expend your energy where it counts: on the needs that your bishopric and RS presidency see, not on the little, specific interest type things.)
This again plays into making it clear what events are activities, and which are meetings. Meetings = attendance expected (you'll plan a big throw-down). Activity = optional (should be barely any work, and no biggie if no one shows).
I don't know if your ward is big enough to have an Enrichment Night Leader or not. Usually the Enrichment Night Leaders is the one that plans Quarterly Enrichment Meetings (sometimes with a committee). The RS presidency gives her instructions -- like a theme or focus (testimonies, child-rearing, food storage, family history, prayer, testimony building, feeling the love of the Lord in your life, socializing, etc.) according to the needs of the ward. The Enrichment Night Leader then plans the activity, and you give all her plans to the presidency and/or bishop for approval or fine-tuning. It's really the Enrichment Night Leader's job to implement these ideas. Quarterly meetings are planned to meet the needs of *all* sisters, which means that they will usually have a spiritual emphasis and socializing function.
If your ward is small, you'll be cutting out the middle man, and you'll be brainstorming topics/needs as a presidency and then implementing ways to meet those needs through Enrichment.
The best way for you to determine what topics to use for your Enrichment activities and meetings is to prayerfully discuss needs with your RS president. Your unit may need friendshipping. They may have financial needs. They may need to know of the Savior's love for them. Use your creativity to find ways to get sisters together to perform meaningful service or to learn meaningful gospel principles, and you'll always be successful.
I honestly think counselor is the best calling in the church. :) I'm totally jealous! You are such a creative, energetic person -- I know you are going to be such an asset to your Relief Society president, and you'll be able to support her and meet the needs of your sisters in Japan. You rock, Ingrid!
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Enrichment
The following excerpts wer taken from the Relief Society FAQ at LDS.org
11. Where can we find guidelines for home, family, and personal enrichment meetings and activities?
1. Guidelines for home, family, and personal enrichment meetings and activities can be found in the August 19, 2005, First Presidency letter. The guidelines are also available online.
12. Participation and attendance have declined at home, family, and personal enrichment meetings and activities because they are no longer once a month. Can we still hold these meetings monthly if that is what works for our unit?
1. Such a decision is left to local Relief Society leaders in counsel with local priesthood leaders.
13. What materials can be used for the home, family, and personal enrichment meeting topic presentations?
1. Always use Church-approved materials for instruction at Church meetings. Possible home, family, and personal enrichment meeting and activity lesson topics can be found on page 4 of Information for Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders on Curriculum, 2005 through 2008 and in any Church-approved welfare and family resource, including ProvidentLiving.org.
14. Who can be with the children during home, family, and personal enrichment meetings and activities? Does the children's class leader always have to be there?
1. A children's class leader is called by the bishopric to oversee the children's class. See page 199 of the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2. Any additional decisions and concerns are left to local Relief Society leaders in counsel with local priesthood leaders.
15. I read that the mothers of the children have to rotate being with the children for enrichment meetings and activities. Is this true?
1. Refer to page 202 of the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2.
25. Where can I inquire regarding funding for humanitarian projects?
1. Refer to page 206 of the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2.
27. Can we still have Super Saturdays? Can they replace home, family, and personal enrichment meetings and activities?
1. Super Saturdays are not found within the Church Handbook of Instructions. You may be referring to a "Special Event" or "Enrichment Activity" as explained on pages 204–205 of the handbook.