How Much Time is Enough?

Religious education classes at the parish where I serve as a catechist are 75 minutes. That’s not a bad amount of time although it really seems like 90 minutes would be more effective, especially to allow for more substantive prayer experiences. I think it would also be nice to have occasional “extended” sessions that last 2 to 3 hours, perhaps once a month or at least quarterly. Where is it written that classes must be the same length every week?

Anyway, I’m wondering how much time you feel is needed for an effective religious education session. Let’s hear from you.

About Joe Paprocki 2472 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

8 Comments on How Much Time is Enough?

  1. Our classes are one hour a week, but we have children aged from 5-10yrs in 5 separate classes. The confirmation children (mostly 11 years old here in north-east Scotland) have a class of just under 2 hours, but for three months prior to the confirmation, not for the whole school year. The older ones get a lot out of that longer session.

    The main problem is realising that you are doing more than just filling the gaps in the children’s knowledge. As they approach First Communion you begin to realise that most have very little knowledge taught by their parents – even those who are regular church-goers.

    I do enjoy reading your blog. Keep going, please!

  2. Fiona, thanks so much for telling us about your experience in north-east Scotland! I’m thrilled to converse with a catechist half-way around the world!

    We do indeed do a lot more than fill in the gaps! Now if we could find some effective ways of helping the parents…

  3. We currently have 60 minute sessions. Previously we had 90 minute sessions but it was difficult for the younger grades. With the older kids, I think 90 minutes would be ideal. I barely have time to cover the lesson in the book, and I would love to spend more time in prayer, talking about the liturgical season and feasts, and just building the community in the class.

  4. Marie, I can see what you mean about the younger kids…it might be hard for 90 minutes. But, I agree, more time with the older kids sure seems needed. Thanks.

  5. Our parish sets 1 hr 45 min for Confirmation program (called Confirmation Youth Group or CYG), late September – late April. Grades K-6 get about 90 min (actual productive time of 70 min or so)once a week. When I took over as Confirmation Coordinator in 1998 I moved the program out of the CCD classroom time and setting to Monday nights, 7-8:45PM (its for junior high kids). We use just about every minute but no hassles or hurries. Here’s what we do. Our parish is small and candidates average about 35 (2 year program) so I sought out 5 catechists to allow for small group work where kids could learn more effectively. Each group is about 6-7 kids with catechist.

    First 30 min is a video (life of Christ, morality, moral-themed story, life of a saint, chastity program, etc)which we watch as a whole group.

    Then, as coordinator, I give a 10-15 min presentation on the topic (doctrine, morals, liturgical season, etc.) and bring in lives of saints, something we saw in video, etc.

    Next 30 min is small group discussion, reading (whatever is on the agenda) on the night’s theme (we basically cover the 4 pillars of the CCC). We have found that RCL’s “Our Catholic Identity” workbook is an excellent fit for our program. It goes to the heart of each doctrine or moral teaching and provides some acitvity as well as text.

    Remaining time (usually anywhere from 10-20 min) is spent up in the church where we have an Adoration Chapel. We teach the kids how to pray formally (rosary, stations) but especially personally in their own words and most of all in SILENCE. They have no quiet time in their lives. We start out with “baby steps” and by the Springtime most of them are somewhat comfortable with SILENCE and personal prayer in the church. Sometimes we also provide background music for their prayertime. By the time of the Confirmation retreat (April) they are so used to silent time that we are able to have the afternoon in silence with a Holy Hour.

    About every 4-5 weeks we have the parish priests come over to the church for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And in Lent we take some of the video time, add it to the prayertime and do the Stations of the Cross.

    The kids seem to like these CYG evenings and our attendance rate is steadily at 95%. They often bring friends (have had about 3 baptisms from this)and kids from other parishes often enroll, citing they want a non-classroom Confirmation preparation. We ask that the parents inform their pastor and none have ever said “no”.

  6. David, thanks so much for the details of your program. It sounds like it is very effective and I’m sure that it will provide some food for thought for people who are looking at the best way to schedule for religious education sessions.

  7. we have 90 min classes for many reasons one being the parents of our parish sometimes aren’t taking these classes seriously like “real school” as it has been mentioned and are always late dropping the children off for class so the first 15 mins is used as prayer time till everyone gets in and seated this also allows the teacher to reach all the children on the level of learning that is good for them we also do separate programs for the scraments and these classes are geared for that scrament only in adition to the basic ccd classes we have found that a lot of the children might be up on the basics but not scraments and the additional class gives us the time to effectivly introduce the scrament to them they also run for 90 mins

  8. Mary Lou, thanks for your comments. 90 minutes usually provides sufficient time for accomplishing some significant learning. One caution I do have about your comments, however, is that I would hate to see prayer thought of as a type of “filler” until all the kids have arrived. Prayer should be a significant part of every child’s experience.

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