It IS Possible to Have a Normal Conversation with an 8th Grader!

BXP46517sI was absolutely delighted to have an enjoyable 10-minute conversation with one of my 8th graders before class last night!

This doesn’t happen often for me. For one, the kids usually don’t arrive early or stay after class. Second, I don’t usually seek out conversations…it’s just not my style. Third, I’m very careful about not presenting myself as their “buddy” – I’m not seeking their friendship, just their apprenticeship.

So, needless to say, I was surprised when one of my students arrived early last night as we (all 5 catechists met together last night in one room to show a segment of Jesus of Nazareth) were getting things set up. I was dutifully connecting my laptop to the LCD projector when I heard a “Hi, Mr. Paprocki!” It turns out this this young person has decided to serve as a catechist’s aide for the first session of RE that takes place before our session. Needless to say, she was already in the building and came over to the room in which we were gathering.

She has chosen to serve as an aide for her Confirmation service and she is working with the kids who have special needs. As I continued to attach my wires, she pulled up a chair and I asked her to tell me about her experience. She was just so thrilled to tell me all about the kids she was working with and what she’s learning from them! Her catechist even invited her to come in with some ideas to reach the kids so I helped her brainstorm some ideas for presenting the Our Father to them next week.

She also was telling me about the things she likes about our class that she wants to do with “her kids” such as passing the candle around to invite students to pray a petition.

We continued with a pleasant, relaxed conversation as I continued to set up my AV equipment and, what I enjoyed most about it, was the way she kept talking about her kids that she was now serving. Might she be a budding catechist?!

I have to admit to being very guarded in such situations, especially when the student is a young lady. We all need to be fully aware of our role in providing a safe environment for kids, mindful of engaging them in such a manner that clearly communicates boundaries.

What a privilege to be able to interact with our young people in this manner! It’s humbling (and refreshing!) to know that some of them find us worthy of speaking to! 🙂

About Joe Paprocki 2742 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


  1. I totally get the necessity for clear and appropriate boundries but it is sad that so many of us in our field are surprised when we have moments like this. Personally I think that some of our youth are missing the guidance that we can offer them because we are so often guarded. I think we the adults miss out too on the richness that these kids have to offer.
    There is alot going on in their young heads and the hands off approach that so many of the adults in their lives (parents included) take sometimes leads them to be overwhelmed or draw the wrong conclusions.
    I liked how you mentioned that you were working setting up your AV equipment. I often find that side by side conversations work well with kids. Were intense face to face conversatins can make them feel uncomfortable.
    It is undoubtedly a fine line we have to walk but totally worth seeking the balance.
    At the end of last year when we had our catechist meeting I had a young woman who is a senior and a 1st grade catechist who had co taught a class with another senior share with all of the catechists how thankful she had been that we had taken her faith and ablities seriously and supported her in her catechetical ministry. It was a pretty humbling moment.

    • Maura, thanks for you thoughtful comments. I especially like your notion of the “side by side” conversation…I do think that makes a difference. So glad to hear about the young lady who thanked you for the difference you made in her life…those are indeed precious moments.

  2. To be clear she wasn’t thanking me she was thanking the group of catechists she worked along side during the year.

  3. My 8th grade CCD class is also amazing. We have a full class (about 20), and the kids are hungry for the Word of God, in His many forms. They love to read the Bible, and ask questions. They are not quiet, because they participate.

    Last week the church had a kids-fest and all the 8th grade CCD girls volunteered at the face-painting booth. It was fantastic to see them all working together & participating in the life of the Church, sharing God with kids of all ages by their service.

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