Top Ten Little Things That Can Make a Big Difference for Catechists

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Over the past year, I have picked up a number of handy suggestions from various catechists—little things they do in their classes that I think make a BIG difference. Here are the “top ten” things that you can do on a regular basis to help you become a more effective and engaging catechist right now—without adding tons of additional planning time to your preparation for class.

  1. Greet your students at the door each week with a task they need to complete (e.g. hand them an index card and have them write down the most significant event/experience of their past week). Keeping them on task from the moment they enter is a form of “preemptive” discipline.
  2. If your class is reading a long block of material from the text book, call on the first volunteer to read and then tell him/her to pick the next reader and so on. It adds a little twist that kids find fun.
  3. If you’re leading a class discussion, bring in a foam ball and toss it to someone as a prompt for him/her to respond to a question you’ve asked. Invite him/her to toss it (gently) to the next student they wish to have respond.
  4. Begin class by asking the young people to mention something good that happened in the past week. (Use the foam ball mentioned in #2!)
  5. Follow up by asking them to mention someone or some situation that needs our prayers. Gather all of these thoughts into your opening prayer.
  6. At the end of class, go around and ask each young person to name at least one thing they learned that session. (Wow, you can use the foam ball again!)
  7. As the young people leave your class, stand at the doorway with a bowl of holy water and have them bless themselves (or you can bless them).
  8. Create a simple Prayer Box (a shoe box, wrapped in nice paper, and a slit cut in the top) and place it in the room. Invite the young people to write prayers at any time on small slips of paper and to drop them into the box. Designate a time for reading the prayers out loud.
  9. Have the young people set up your prayer center at the start of every class (table, cloth, Bible, crucifix, candle, flower, etc.). Make a ritual out of it.
  10. Invite the young people to bring their own symbols to add to the prayer center as the year goes on.

What other LITTLE ideas would you suggest that catechists can do on a regular basis that can make a BIG difference in their teaching?

About Joe Paprocki 2165 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.

19 Comments on Top Ten Little Things That Can Make a Big Difference for Catechists

  1. Place small plastic, battery operated candles , one for each child around the Bible. Each week when children enter, they push the button to light their candle and silently ask God’s blessing on the class, their families…At the end the candles sre turned off.

    • Sr. Joanne, thank you, really meaningful. It would allow each child in my class to participate in the setting up the prayer table weekly.

    • Sr. Joanne, This is a beautiful idea that I am definetly going to implement in my 7th grade Faith Formation class. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. I have each of my classes pick a patron saint. The students do a project on researching saints at the beginning of the year and have to create campaign posters (one year I made them do the posters in the styles of icons!) for the one they researched (like a political election) and why they should be our class’ patron saint. The students then vote on them and whoever ‘wins’ the vote becomes the class’ patron saint for the year. At the end of every prayer we finish with Saint ____________, pray for us!
    It’s a simple way of reminding the students of the importance of the saints’ intercessory prayer and a great ritual to have.

    I’ve also then used it as a way to bring the students back to focus after a group activity. I said “Saint ____” and the students respond “pray for us!” and then I know that I have their attention.

  3. Since I work with 5-8 year olds I think we ought to teach them the religious calendar so they know what season we’re in by creating a poster for each season throughout the 1st year but bring them out the next year to remind them the following year. And maybe the same poster technique with the commandments, since we only have a few hours each Sunday this may not take away a whole lot of time but will instill some basics that they need to know.

  4. I suggest to catechists that they assign spaces in their rooms as “learning stations” so that children can move from station to station as the hour progresses. The stations can include “reading/lesson,” “talk it out/discussion,” “activity/craft,” “breaking bread/snack” (if one is provided) or something inspired by the lesson but there’s always a station for “prayer.” For smaller children, they sing or suggest creative ways to move between stations; older children simply move. The idea is to allow the children an outlet for the squirms and wiggles and changes the people dynamics as children regroup. All supplies needed for each station already are in place before their time together actually begins. With practice, the lesson simply flows.

    • Andi, thanks for the great ideas about learning stations. I think this is a very effective method of engaging children.

  5. I teach 5-6 year olds, and one of our goals for this year was to read through the whole Bible, from beginning to end! Now keep in mind that this was a children’s version of the Bible, complete with pictures and age-appropriate text, but we did it!! The children so enjoyed listening to the Bible stories, and after we finished, I had to find more Bible/religious stories to read to them!! This is a good activity to start the class…we begin with a prayer after which each child can mention the name of someone to pray for, then we settle in to listen to our Bible stories. You may also choose to end the class this way, with a Bible story and a prayer before you leave.

  6. Thank you Joe. You are to be admired in your spirit of mission. I have the privilege of teaching a Catechetics course to seminarians who correspondingly go out for a faith formation/catechetics experience for their field education. I am always looking for practical suggestions; yours are very helpful. I heard a new one this week. So often catechists are using someone’s classroom or at least a space that is not totally dedicated to catechetics. One catechists has enough laminated sheets for each of her students and she brings them to her class and covers the desks they are using so that class begins “with a clean slate” so to speak.

  7. Each class in our Rel.ed program decorates 3 boxes to be used in the classroom throughout the year. 1 box is decorated for the collection of soda & beer can beverages that are cashed in to use for our soldier care packages. So the students usually decorate with patriotic decorations. The 2nd box is decorated for Box Tops for Education which we collect to help defray costs in our Rel.ed program. The 3rd box is decorated with signs & symbols for “Works of Mercy” which we write down anything that we do or say to help others & then when time allows, we have discussions about these “works” & who they have helped.

  8. Wow, I picked up some really good ideas here: Something good that happened this week; Someone who needs our prayers; Prayer box; and blessing them as they leave are just a few. I also love Sister’s idea of small candles to click on as they come in to ask for God’s blessing for,their family. This is the start of my 20th year teaching Religious Ed and this just proves that you can always learn something new. One thing I’d pass on is that as each child comes in I give him/her a paper to work on that pertains to this week’s lesson – it might be a word search, unscramble, or just a picture to color. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas. I really enjoy the Catechists Journey.

  9. Having a prayer space in the classroom creates a wonderful opportunity to foster the idea of your class (I teach 6th grade) being a small faith “community” and group of disciples who are going to journey and grow with Jesus during the year. The extra movements – having the students get up out of their chairs to gather close to the prayer table, and blessing themselves with Holy Water (I have a shell with Holy Water in it) helps the environment become one of encountering Jesus.

    Our Parish is so blessed to have expanded Eucharistic Adoration during the week, so Catechists can bring their class upstairs for a brief visit (I keep it to around 5 minutes) before the Eucharist. Our curriculum actually builds such visits in to the lessons numerous times during the year, along with prayer sheets to help the students talk and listen to Jesus. (Catechists have the option of going more frequently) I can’t tell you how often I see beautiful “moments of holiness” in the students over the course of the year.

    Thanks for your special ministry and support of Catechists, Joe!

    • Thanks so much, Mary, for sharing your experience. You are so right about creating an environment in which young people encounter Jesus rather than just talking about him. I love that you can take your kids to Eucharistic Adoration on a regular basis. Thanks for sharing!

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