Today, this post is all about helping with planning a primary program tips & ideas to help you navigate this HUGE task!
The biggest aspect of our calling as Primary Music Leader is planning for, coordinating for, and preparing the kids for the annual Primary Program Presentation in Sacrament Meeting.
The Primary Program is such a special program, and is a great opportunity for the kids, but there is so much that goes on behind the scenes to think about.
My hope is that this post can help you better prepare and plan for your own ward’s Primary Program.
How to Plan a Primary Program Presentation
1. Pick your date Early
A lot of the stress that comes with the program is not feeling adequately prepared or not having enough time to teach the songs. When I’m doing my yearly planning in December and January I also take a good look at the calendar. One of the first things I want to be able to anticipate is how much time do I have.
My personal preference is to have the Primary Program early in the year, rather than later. We ended up having to hold the program in November one year because I had a bunch of travel planned in October. It was so late in the year and it made it really difficult to work on Christmas or other songs and the program songs felt like they dragged on all year long.
The next year, I was sure to set a date early that helped me to plan family trips around that schedule. Make sure you consider the following when planning your date:
- Look at the Stake and Ward calendars. Specifically, you’ll want to take note of Ward and Stake conference as well as General Conference. These are really helpful to add to your planning calendars early, anyways. Keep these dates in mind for what might work for your program including any necessary practices.
- Review School and Other Calendars. Pay attention to national holidays, school breaks, and even the start of school as all of these dates will be important in determining what will work best for the majority of your ward.
- Check Leadership Schedules. After I had a date (and backup date) in mind, I submitted my requested date to the Primary Presidency to review and consider. I simply told them I had reviewed the calendars and was hoping we can set a date for the Program that I would be able to work towards. I sent my suggested date with reasoning and asked them to discuss as a presidency and with the Bishopric / Ward Council as may be needed and let me know!
For my ward, our perfect date is September 15th. We have Stake Conference the following week so it will be really helpful to have the Program out of the way before Stake Conference. Our schools start August 26th so that gives us the option of practices on 9/25, 9/1, and 9/8.
We’ll likely do a full practice on 9/25 with all the kids, do a separate practice with JR and SR in their regular schedule on 9/1, and then come all together again on 9/8 to work out any last kinks! It’s also really important for our ward to have the program early in the Fall season as we are subject to hurricanes and cancellations especially in October!
2. Pick Your Program Songs
Along with picking my date as soon as possible, I also spend some time pouring over the suggested song list and seeking inspiration to find the right songs for us to work on for the year.
Having your songs picked at the beginning of the year takes away a lot of the extra stress and decision making on a weekly and monthly basis. I plan out all my song picks then make a rough outline of the songs for the month and even have my song list printed out for the whole year so my pianist has the time she needs to practice!
Also consider what verses you will teach. This will help you focus on just what needs to be taught and add extra verses simply if you have extra time or decide to!
The song list (and verses) are then shared with the Primary Presidency to go over any of their feedback and thoughts.
3. Create a Rough Program Outline
The last step I do for planning the program is to create a rough outline. After a very rough outline, such as a suggested song order, I turn over my planning to the Presidency and they take over the rest of the Primary Program content from there.
My efforts to make these plans early really is helpful to the Primary Presidency. Keep in mind, some Presidencies may choose to do their own thing. Still, you’ll be doing your best to provide what you can to the Presidency that can ultimate decide.
You can see my rough suggested outline based on my song picks, in case it’s helpful:
My 2019 New Testament Primary Program Suggested Rough Outline
- Tell Me the Stories of Jesus (or before Baptism)
- Come, Follow Me
- Primary President Introduction
- CTR 5/6 – “I can Follow the Savior by….”
- Baptism (Special number with child playing piano)
- CTR 7/8 – “My baptism was special to me because…”
1-minute talk about Baptism?
- CTR 7/8 – “My baptism was special to me because…”
- The Holy Ghost
- I Feel My Savior’s Love
- Sunbeams & CTR 4 – “I know the Savior loves be because…”
- CTR 10 – “The Atonement makes an impact on my life by…”
- I Know My Father Lives
- Search, Ponder and Pray
- CTR 9 – “Studying the Savior’s life has taught me…”
- Choose the Right Way
- Closing remarks from Bishop
- Keep the Commandments (Hymn #303 – Closing Song)
Tips & Ideas for Planning a Primary Program
Group Songs and/or Classes
With a shorter meeting block, there’s less time for those extra transitions between songs and between speaking parts. One way I plan to help speed up our Primary Program is by grouping the songs and singing 2 songs back-to-back, when it makes sense. You could also look for opportunities to pick a medley that combines two of your Program songs!
We’ll also group classes and have two classes come up together (or one after the other) to spend a little less time transitioning between songs and speaking parts.
Simplify Song Choices
A really easy way to cut back your overall time (and make the program much simpler!) is to decide to either cut back on the number of program songs or select just a certain verse per song, rather than trying to learn the entire song.
We’ve decided to do mostly 1st verses, with the exception of the Baptism Song (1st and 3rd verse) and Gethsemane.
When you have less overall songs / verses to teach, it also gives you a lot more flexibility to tie-in other songs or work on song that fit the weekly Come, Follow Me themes!
Let the Kids “Write” the Program
The Primary Program is a chance for the kids to share their testimonies and what they’ve learned throughout the year. One way to majorly simplify is to skip the more traditional written out scripts and instead let the kids take a part is determining the Program!
This is often something that has been done with the very youngest of classes, but can really be used with all the age groups. Give the class a prompt, such as “I can Follow the Savior by…” and let them speak their own words!
You can have their ideas written down, so teachers can help those with stage freight. But their own words will make the program much more meaningful (and funny!)
Have older kids participate in writing the program by helping give input. They can help decide what songs they want to learn, maybe even a special musical number for the Senior Primary! They can also write a short talk or share a favorite scripture story from the year. Most of the children will only have the time to speak a sentence or two, but you can certainly help make it their own words and thoughts!
Consider a Sunday Practice
With all the recent changes to the Sunday block, if you have an overlapping time and are not the last ward in the building, you might be able to utilize the building Sunday afternoon! I love the flexibility we now have to choose something like this, rather than a Saturday practice!
The wards in my building meet at 9, 10:30, and 12 which means the building is empty by 2pm. The chapel may be available even earlier! Since we are the middle ward, I think we’ll aim for 2 or 2:30 and have an hour and a half practice so we can work on seating arrangements and run through the program twice!
Primary Program Printables
I’ve created a series of printable sets with an invite, bulletin board cover, poster, and even a comment card to tie into the yearly Come Follow Me Primary Program themes. These files are an editable PDF to help you easily utilize them for your own Primary!
Just click on the image or link below to head over to the themed post to grab those printable Primary Program helps!
What other tip or advice do you have for others planning their Primary Program?