These are exciting times for family history centers. More than ever before, family history centers support family history efforts that begin in the home. Centers have an important role in helping people find a name, prepare it for temple ordinances, and teach family members to do the same. Many centers are breaking down old stereotypes and creating fun, heart-turning activities that engage families, particularly youth, as they discover their ancestors and share living memory. We call these family-oriented activities “discovery experiences” and encourage all family history centers to try some new experiences that will attract families and youth to come to the center.
First, a bit of clarification—many of you are aware that the Family History Department will soon establish family history discovery centers in a limited number of locations worldwide. Discovery centers, which were previewed at RootsTech 2014, will feature interactive, technology-based experiences designed to immerse visitors in family history and inspire them to learn more about their ancestors. We are excited about the potential for discovery centers to reach members of the community and help them experience the joy of family history.
Family History Centers Are Not Discovery Centers
The concept of discovery centers has ignited interest on the part of family history center directors and priesthood leaders. It is important to note that family history centers may not change their names to “discovery centers,” and no new equipment and furnishings are authorized to modify family history centers into discovery centers. But that does not mean that family history centers cannot be places of inspiration and family discovery!
Discovery Activities in Family History Centers
The Family History Department currently is pilot testing in a selected group of family history centers worldwide a group of 20 family history discovery experiences. Many of these experiences focus on multiple generations and sharing family stories and recording memories. We are well underway in our pilot testing and have seen some exciting results in the centers that have implemented the experiences. We have provided basic outlines of suggested experiences that give leeway to the pilot centers to apply them according to local circumstances and resources. We are excited about these discovery experiences and anticipate soon making the outlines available to all family history centers.
The following are three examples of the kinds of experiences being tested in our pilot centers that are engaging families and significantly increasing the number of Church members coming to the centers.
Mom and Tot Day. Mothers and their young children come to the family history center at a regularly scheduled time, when the mothers can do family history research while their children play together with assistance from the center staff. This has been a highly successful experience.
New Convert Night. Members bring new converts to the family history center, where they add names, photos, and stories to FamilySearch Family Tree and determine ancestors who need temple ordinances.
Cultural Night. Families experience life in another culture through a variety of activities and displays, including posters, storytelling, food items, and such.
A recent director’s blog article nicely described ways in which all family history centers can go beyond the four walls of their current space to institute new, family-related experiences. As we receive the monthly reports from family history centers, we see that many centers and priesthood leaders on their own have already caught the vision and implemented experiences that engage families and youth. These centers are successfully helping Church members find family names to prepare for temple ordinances. Wonderful!
We encourage all centers to brainstorm how they might engage families, youth, and children in coming to the center for enjoyable, heart-turning experiences and then to try their ideas and have fun!