Pleasant Grove resident Rylan Evans sits down with his wife and four kids for family home evening on a Monday night. It's his 8-year-old’s turn to plan FHE, this time on the First Vision. In less than a minute the child had everything planned for the gathering — the lesson, song, scripture and even the activity — thanks to his dad’s family home evening app.
“Families now, with our fast-paced world that we live in, everybody is so busy with teenagers in and out. You can simply say who is going to be attending, pick your songs, and everything is ready to go,” said Evans, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “It also brings a whole new form of structure that the traditional family home evening doesn’t do.”
Evans’ app, LDS-Family Home Evening Tools, is designed to make planning and executing FHE more effective and convenient for members of the church. It was released for iPhone and iPad users on Feb. 5 and is free to download.
Users can stick with the traditional song, scripture and lesson, or they can customize FHE with new elements such as family rules, calendaring, bearing testimony and spotlighting someone who did something nice that week, Evans said. The app is designed to be displayed on a TV for everyone to follow along.
“There’s nothing else like it,” he said of the app.
Steve Wirrick, an LDS member from Sammamish, Washington, has three daughters ages 12, 9 and 7. He said he likes the way the app walks them through step by step with embedded multimedia straight from Mormon Channel to keep the kids engaged.
“For those that find it hard to craft a family home evening, I think it’s the ultimate tool of convenience,” he said. “Even if you were on the road or at a park or doing something outside, it enables you to have a cool experience because all those tools are right at your fingertips.”
Wirrick said navigating the app was a little bit of a learning curve initially due to the many categories to choose from, but there is a way to disable certain items when planning the agenda if you want to keep it simple, he said.
“The best thing about the app, too, is that you can really delegate family home evening to one of the kids and they can pull it off because it’s all laid out for them,” Wirrick said.
He said he also plans to use the app as a backup when he is asked to be a last-minute substitute in Primary. The key for him, he said, is being able to search by topic so he doesn’t have to go “hunting” for content.
The search feature was also important to Evans, who created and linked to enough content for more than two years of weekly family home evenings without duplication.
Evans, an independent app developer, said the app came from “years of tinkering” and understanding process development such as basic formulas in Microsoft Excel. A University of Washington alumnus, Evans has worked as a process-improvement manager in which he said he “finds ways to automate things and make things better.”
“My idea came from doing my own family home evenings and realizing there has got to be a better way than just everybody using our little LDS charts that we all hang our names from and rotate,” Evans said.
“How can I make this more robust with technology?” he thought.
In June 2017, Evans enrolled in classes at DevMountain coding school in Salt Lake City for four months, where he received formal training in IOS development and Swift, a programming language that makes IOS apps.
He had spent about a year and a half working on spreadsheets to pull available resources and lessons together. Once he started working on the app, Evans said it took about six months from start to finish.
DevMountain IOS program director Andrew Madsen served as Evans' mentor in the program. Madsen said he tested the app and it works well for his family.5 comments on this story
“I think he’s done a great job picking a problem he has in his own life and figuring out a solution to it, something that makes life easier for him and hopefully for other people,” Madsen said. “It also shows he’s put a ton of work into it. I’ve had hundreds of students, and this is among the better apps I’ve seen from a student or recent graduate.”
Evans said he plans on keeping the app free as content comes directly from LDS.org.
“It’s my way of giving back to the community and what I cherish most in my family,” Evans said.
FHE-Family Home Evening Tools can be found in the Apple App Store and downloaded here.