Teaching Church Behavior

340139RKTRGB1Last night, we had our end-of-the-year grade level meeting with Arlene, our DRE, and we talked about how things went this year and what we can do better next year.

One of the main issues that came up was our concern over the kids’ behavior in church when we go over for prayer services or Mass. Each year, we go to the church probably five or six times: opening prayer for the year, Advent Reconciliation, Lent Reconciliation, Living Stations of the Cross, end of the year Mass. To save time, we generally have the kids report directly to church on those occasions. While this has been efficient time-wise, we’re concerned that the kids simply enter the church as if they were entering a movie theater – extremely casual with little sense of reverence. Then, they tend to bunch up way too close to one another in the pews, which leads to trouble.

What we hope to do next year on these occasions, is to:

  • have the kids meet the catechists outside (each of us or our aides will have a sign) so that we can then process in with the kids after we’ve had a chance to instruct them on the proper behavior.
  • have music playing in the church as they enter in order to provide a more prayerful climate.
  • have assigned seating for each class that provides ample space for kids to sit three per pew, nicely spaced apart from one another.
  • provide more prayer aides that include parts for the assembly so that they participate more fully instead of acting like spectators (especially for the Living Stations).
  • play music as we dismiss and head back (process) to the school building following the prayer.

Hopefully, these small measures will add up to a more reverent and prayerful attitude and behavior in the church. Any other suggestions?

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 www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. As was reading the first bits I was thinking 3 per pew would work well. I hope y’all have a humorless nun to enforce the rule against “butt kneeling.”

  2. I’m sorry but I have to share this. Two years ago our parish began construction on a brand new parish hall. And you know where our kids met for R.E. during the project? In the church. Week in and week out, more than 400 kids in our program sat in the pews for 15-30 minutes, breaking into small groups in the portables adjacent to the building for the remainder of their classes.Were we nervous about all those kids in church every week? You bet. Did we pray about it? Yep. A lot. Everyone from the pastor to the DRE to the staff to the volunteers must have prayed really hard, because do you know what? It was one of the best experiences our parish has ever had. You might say it was a year long lesson in good church behavior for all of our grades. Every single suggestion you make, Joe, is exactly right on. We did all of that. And because our kids met in church so often, they became quite accustomed to being respectful and reverent. By Christmas, they were used to blessing themselves and genuflecting. Reverence became very natural for them. And they “got it” about Jesus being in the tabernacle. So what was supposed to be a huge inconvenience for our parish turned out to be a huge blessing. So I can tell you that it’s really important to do all of those things you’re talking about, Joe, and to do them often. We can’t be afraid to bring kids into church, as often as we can. It might be a challenge to keep them from getting squirrelly, but the rewards are endless!

  3. This comment came from Roaslie:

    All of your suggestions should make a definite improvement in the students behavior. If I could suggest just one more, I would also involve the students in as many ways as possible. Could the students, especially those who are ready, by called upon as prayer leaders, lectors, cantors, etc.?

    • Thanks, Rosalie. I agree that involvement is important and our DRE does a nice job of having kids do all of the parts you mention. One mistake that we sometimes make, howeveer, is thinking that involvement at liturgy means creating more liturgical roles. What we need to concentrate on is more involvement for the assembly as a whole so that they are not sitting passively watching an event. We are talking about including more prayers and responses during experiences such as the Living Stations and providing a prayer aid so that the assembly has a more active role.

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