Relief Society: Tips for Education Counselors

  • 2017 Mutual Theme Bracelet

The Church has recently added some much better information geared at helping Relief Society Teachers plan their lessons. At the bottom is a link to a page that lists a kind of “schedule” for opening and closing Sunday meetings:

LDS.org: Planning a Sunday Relief Society Lesson

Jenny’s Education Counselor Tips

Here is a list of tips I compiled when I was serving in this calling:

  • Remember to thank teachers who substitute. Here is a list of thank you ideas for subs.
  • When you use a substitute, be sure to give them some instruction on how to prepare lessons — like don’t use material other than the lesson manual or Ensign and stay within the time limits. I created a substitute instruction page for this purpose.
  • 5-minute music time has many uses that help us focus on spirituality. Some ideas:
    • You can practice songs for the Primary Presentation so that parents can help children learn difficult songs
    • Learn the history of a hymn
    • Find out a church leader’s (bishop, prophet, stake president etc) favorite hymn and sing it
    • Spotlight a new sister and sing her favorite hymn
    • Invite a sister to share a talent with an instrument, like the harp, flute, violin, or other church-appropriate instrument
    • Learn music and medleys sung at the Women’s Conference
    • Invite all to learn to conduct music during this time (having everyone participate may take some of the pressure off shy sisters)
    • Learn a Primary or Young Women’s song
    • Learn the Articles of Faith songs
  • The Sunday after General Conference may be confusing. In our unit, we have fast Sunday but the 2nd Sunday teacher teaches from the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church series, instead of a Presidency member.
  • Contact your teachers often about their lessons. Give genuine encouragement. You may also offer to help by getting supporting images from the library or making copies.
  • Be aware of specific needs of the women in your classes. Communicate their needs to teachers when appropriate.
  • Some lesson material may be difficult to present to certain audiences. Prayerfully consult with teachers about how to address needs.
  • Take an active role in making sure that the room is prepared to meet the needs of your sisters:
    • Ensure that any table decorations your teachers or Relief Society president have requested are in place — like a table cloth, picture of the Savior, etc. Offer to help with set up of these items.
    • When Relief Society teachers are soft-spoken, you may need to set up a microphone.
    • Do your librarians have a place to sit when they come in after completing their work? Some units put special “Library” signs on chairs near the entry doors so the librarians have an easy way in and out of the room.
    • Check the room for chalk, push-pins, and magnets for posting visual aids. You may want to carry some of these items with you just in case.
    • Might sisters need facial tissues?
    • Are written visual aids large enough for elderly sisters to read?
    • Are you showing a movie? Do the lights need to be dimmed? Volume turned up? Can everyone see? You may want to be sure you can operate your unit’s DVD/VCR player and television — these always seem to be the source of technical difficulties!!! :)
    • You may choose to write the numbers of hymns to be sung on the board before opening exercises.
    • When combining with the Young Women for opening exercises, be sure there are enough chairs for everyone to be seated comfortably.
    • When combining with the Young Women, you may be reciting the theme. You could write the theme on the board, display a poster, or pass out bookmarks with the theme on it for Relief Society sisters.
  • Consult with teachers regarding music selection for meetings. They may have certain music they’d like to sing for their lessons. Ask your Relief Society president to seek the Bishop’s or Branch President’s approval when music selections aren’t from the hymnal.
  • Be sure to provide any special music requests to the chorister or pianist ahead of time. Also provide hymn numbers to the Relief Society secretary for the opening exercises agenda.
  • Help set up the music stand and hymn book for your chorister. Be sure she and the pianist can see each other.
  • Writing announcements on the board can cut down over-long opening exercises. I don’t know why it works, but it does.
  • If “Good News Minutes” are turning into “Good News Hours”, you can invite sisters to write their good news on a paper and publish them in a newsletter.

Education Counselor Frequently Asked Questions

The following information was taken from the Relief Society FAQ at LDS.org:

When young women come into Relief Society meetings for opening exercises, do the Relief Society sisters recite the Young Women Theme with them? There is no specific directive in the Church Handbook of Instructions or from the First Presidency’s February 23, 2007, letter regarding combined opening exercises. Such a decision is left to local Relief Society and Young Women leaders in counsel with local priesthood leaders.

Can the young women occasionally stay after the joint Young Women and Relief Society opening exercises for the entire Relief Society meeting or lesson? Page 206 of the Relief Society section of the Church Handbook of Instructions and page 214 of the Young Women section of the Church Handbook of Instructions outline First Presidency-approved policy regarding young women transitioning into Relief Society. There is no specific directive in the Church Handbook of Instructions or from the First Presidency regarding whether or not young women can stay after opening exercises for the duration of the Relief Society lesson. Such a decision is left to local Relief Society and Young Women leaders in counsel with local priesthood leaders.

Can young women conduct the joint Young Women and Relief Society opening exercises? Item #7, section B, from the “Suggestions for Helping Young Women with the Transition into Womanhood” portion of the February 23, 2007, First Presidency letter entitled, “Helping Young Women with the Transition into Womanhood; Monthly Joint Opening Exercises of Young Women and Relief Society” outlines leadership responsibilities in conducting joint Young Women and Relief Society opening exercises. Any additional decisions or concerns are left to local Relief Society and Young Women leaders in counsel with local priesthood leaders (for Young Women leadership clarification, refer to page 221 of the Young Women section of the Church Handbook of Instructions).

What materials can be used for the first Sunday lesson? Always use Church-approved materials for instruction at Church meetings. Possible first Sunday lesson materials can be found on page 4 in Information for Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders on Curriculum, 2005 through 2008.

Who determines the order for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Sunday lessons? Refer to pages 7–9 in Information for Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders on Curriculum, 2005 through 2008.

What do we use as materials for the 2nd and 3rd Sunday lessons? Where do we find out how to use the manual? Refer to page 9 in Information for Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders on Curriculum, 2005 through 2008 and to the introductory material of the Teachings of Presidents of the Church books.

Is the secretary a part of the presidency? Is she included in the teaching rotation? The Relief Society secretary is not a part of the Relief Society presidency, and as such, is not a part of the teaching rotation for first Sunday lessons and is not invited to conduct Relief Society meetings. The secretary’s duties are outlined on pages 197–98 in the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2.

Does a local Relief Society presidency need to sit at the front of the room during the entire Relief Society meeting or may they sit among the sisters during the lesson? There is no specific directive in the Church Handbook of Instructions. Such a decision is left to local Relief Society leaders in counsel with local priesthood leaders.

Do we have to include the five-minute music period? According to page 201 of the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2, Relief Society meetings are to include a five-minute music period. Any additional decisions regarding alterations to the music period are left to local Relief Society leaders in counsel with their local priesthood leaders.

Is it policy that we give time to sisters to bear testimony during Relief Society meetings? The Church Handbook of Instructions does not specify a policy regarding the bearing of testimonies in Relief Society meetings. Such a decision is left to local Relief Society leaders in counsel with their local priesthood leaders.

Do we have to have the good news minute? It takes up too much of the teacher’s time and is turning into bragging instead of actual good news. The Church Handbook of Instructions does not specify a policy regarding a good news minute in Relief Society meetings. The purpose of Relief Society meetings is to study the gospel, and opening exercises are to set the tone of the meeting for the lesson. Please refer to pages 201, 221, and 314 of the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2, which outline the purposes, activities, and planning and conducting guidelines for Relief Society meetings. It is left to local Relief Society leaders in counsel with local priesthood leaders as to whether or not this practice will strengthen Relief Society sisters.