As I surf around various web pages and blogs where catechists are in discussion with one another, I can’t help but notice an obsession that many catechists have with the idea of making their classes FUN. Now, before you start thinking that I’m some kind of sourpuss, let me explain that I know what catechists are talking about. They are concerned when kids are bored and rightly so. However, I think that our goal is to make sure the kids are ENGAGED. When we reduce our goal to having FUN, we can lose focus on teaching the Gospel message of Jesus.
Having fun is one way of engaging kids. They can also be engaged through the drama and intensity of the Gospel as well as through the creativity of the Catholic imagination and heritage. A couple of the most engaging things I did with the kids this year were not necessarily fun. One thing I did for a class on Jesus was show them a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation of various images of Jesus from all over the world. They were fascinated to see Jesus portrayed in various ethnic images and it got them thinking about their image of Jesus and how the Gospels and the Church guide our image (understanding) of Jesus.
Another thing I did was begin class the first week of Advent by inviting (actually challenging) them to sit in silence for 2 minutes. We turned the lights down and just sat in complete silence. They were engaged at a deeper level that carried through the lesson and allowed me to talk about the spirit of Advent. My point is that, the Gospel is not all fun and games and I think we cheapen it if we rely solely on the concept of FUN. What we need to focus on with each class is, how we can facilitate each lesson in such a way as to allow the power of the Gospel to engage each student so that they can learn to love God with their whole mind, heart, soul, and strength.
How do you try to engage your students? What’s something you did that was engaging though not necessarily “fun?”