Anyone Starting RE Class THIS Week? Anyone Already Started?

Most parish religious education programs begin after Labor Day, so I’m sure a number of you are beginning classes this week. My first day is next week, Monday, September 13!

When do you begin and how do you feel leading up to this year’s first class?

Anyone already started? How’s it going so far?

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. We are having a CCD Open House on Sunday, September 12th and following it a Fellowship Potluck Luncheon. Our first classes will be 19th.

    Nothing is better than starting CCD off on the right foot and the best way to do that is to have an Open House prior to classes starting. Having a CCD Open House allows parents and students to meet the catechists, pick up class information, tour the classrooms, and ask questions. This gives the catechist a chance to greet each family individually and to collect requested items and information. By having a CCD Open House it will alleviate any worries and questions parents may have and it will give the family reassurance and encouragement of what the CCD program is all about. Students and parents will understandably feel more confident when they know exactly where they are going and what to expect the first day.

    >This is what I plan on doing during the CCD Open House-

    Welcome everyone that comes into your class during Open House. Smile, introduce yourself, and give parents an introductory letter. The catechist can provide the parents at the CCD Open House with information of what is expected in the classroom and what the children will be doing during the year. They can also inform parents of the expectations and rules of the class that will help in making the classroom productive, creative, and enjoyable year for all.

    >This is what I will provide to the parents and students-

    Welcome parents to the open house and tell them how pleased you are to meet them.

    The CCD program s discipline policy, including procedures regarding absence and tardiness.

    Describe the goals you hope to accomplish this year.

    The timing of report cards and progress reports.

    Emergency procedures for bad weather and other events.

    Go over class rules.

    Classroom attendance and tardiness guidelines. Make-up work policy.

    Classroom grading policy.

    Amount of homework and homework policy.

    Policy for addressing academic and behavioral problems.

    Provide a calendar of the CCD schedule (days and times CCD meets), upcoming events, such as class field trips and future parent-teacher meetings, etc. and the policies concerning them.

    Give detailed information how parents can get involved in their child s faith education and how they can volunteer at CCD. Provide Volunteer Sign Up Sheets for parents interested in helping at CCD. Have a Class Contact List for the parents to fill out to obtain information that can help aid the catechist in better understanding their child and how to contact them.

    Answer questions from parents and students.

    Provide copies of all information to give to parents.

    Have the classroom prepared and set up like it is a normal day in CCD. Students and parent enjoy seeing what the classroom will be like and it will also disperse any apprehension.

    Introduce the curriculum that will be used in the classroom and the supplemental activities that will enhance the lessons so the parents and students will be familiar with them and know what to expect. Show the students and parents some activities, crafts, games, etc. that will be done during the year in class. This is a great way to introduce how you make the aspects of what you teach more concrete and easier for the students to understand and how much fun they will have in CCD as well. Place these items on a large table to allow students and parents time to look through them at their own convenience.

    Be sure to thank the families for coming during the Open House. I would also send a thank you note to the families ASAP after the Open House. A card or email will reinforce communication and how much you as a catechist appreciate the parents enthusiasm for promoting their child s faith education.

    • Amazing Grace,

      That’s all? 🙂

      Seriously, this is so impressive and I’m deeply grateful that you would take the time to share all of this information with my readers! I wish you well with your open house and with your year!

      • I have been thinking long and hard about our CCD Open House all summer so I wrote down everything I wanted to do this Sunday. I do hope the Open House goes well and we get lots of new students. 🙂

  2. Yes,
    We will begin our classes this year on Catechetical Sunday. We have
    5 new staff members soI am really excited. May God bless all our
    programs, children and families.

    Also a response and a question to the recent webinar. To Rocio, there was
    a great article on RCL/Benziger eNewsletter about Partnering with Families
    that may be of some help to answer your question.
    My question: Does anyone have any ideas how to incorporate at the kids’
    level the USCCB thematic? We have some great ideas and resources for engaged, married and the adults of the parish, but Ihaven’t seen much for the
    kids. Thanks. And Blessings on everyone’s year.

    • Jodie, thanks for your comments and best wishes as you begin the catechetical year on Catechetical Sunday!

      Thanks also for your response to the Webinar question and for your inquiry about incorporating the USCCB theme (“Matrimony: Sacrament of Enduring Love”) at the kids’ level. I haven’t seen much myself along those lines but I have given it some thought. Personally, I’m going to focus on how married/family life teaches us about the SELFLESS LOVE that we need to follow Jesus. I plan to emphasize this notion of SELFLESS LOVE and develop ideas and activities that can help kids to see the difference between selfishness and selflessness. I wrote a brief article on this theme for the Loyola Press Website: Also, I suggest you look at the Activity Finder on the LP Website and search for activities about helping your neighbor, serving others, loving others, and so on. Of course, if anyone has some practical ideas to share, you’re welcome to do so right here!

  3. Hi. I am new to organizing CCD at our church. There’s been interest expressed by teachers to find a new program for the kids. I’m looking at Loyola Press and I’m a little confused. What is the difference between “Christ Our Life” and “Finding God”? We have a very small parish and have to combine age groups. We typically have three grades together in each class. We would probbaly use the book for the middle age group. (ie: 3-5 grades would use 4th grade books). Does anyone have feedback for me as to which program would be best to look at?

    • Hi Gail. The Christ Our Life program is the longest-running catechetical textbook in the United States, written by the Sisters of Notre Dame (most recently revised by LP in 2009) and is known for providing a solid doctrinal foundation and lots of activities to reinforce the content. The Finding God program, introduced in 2003, is known for its emphasis on spirituality. while both programs offer solid catechetical content, Christ Our Life can be characterized as a “head to heart” approach while Finding God can be characterized as a “heart to head” approach. For a much more thorough description of each, I recommend you contact one of the educational consultants at LP and toss the question at them!

    • Gail, I have been teaching from the “Christ Our Life” series for 12 years . We are also a small parish and we combine grades. I have 4th 5th and 6th grade, we change grades every year – one year is 4th then 5th then 6th. This has worked well for us. Good Luck!!

  4. My first day is Sunday, September 19th and I am super-excited! I have learned so much from attending your 2 webinars, and I’ve found some excellent resources on the Loyola Press website. I can’t wait to get started! I work closely with our DRE (as I chair the Religious Formation Parents Organization in addition to being a 4th grade catechist) and I’ve been sharing my enthusiasm with her. She has asked me to speak at our general catechists’ meeting next Monday 9/13 and share my enthusiasm with my fellow catechists…wish me luck! I definitely plan to encourage them to use the Loyola Press website and to keep an eye out for future webinars 🙂

    • Lisa, your excitement is contagious! Thanks for sharing and you’ll do great at the catechist meeting as long as you speak from the heart!

  5. September 13! Wow, I feel lazy! Our program doesn’t start until the first week in October! But then, here in Southern California, many public schools won’t begin until September 13, due to district budget problems. I feel like I have a few weeks of vacation left before R.E. begins!

  6. Hi Joe,

    We haven’t started CCD yet, not until the 19th of this month. However, I am getting a bit excited 😀 always have and always will.
    First of CCD is always fun!!!

    I enjoy playing “Getting to Know you” games with the children. Of course, there is a set of rules to go over and what to expect this year. There is something else that is special about that first day, which leaves me in awe. Can’t put my finger on it, can’t name it expect that It Is Beautiful.

    It is that first day feeling that “other” mystery that keeps me coming back as a Catechist. Who knows I’ll probably figure it out in the near future, not too concern.

    Have a wonderful week and Many Blessings on your First Day of CCD.

    • Thanks for sharing Connie….hold on to that excitement and don’t try to “figure it out”….just let it propel you because it’s the Holy Spirit’s way of touching your life.

  7. We started Aug 28th as a get to know you day and go over the class schedule and give them their books. I’m helping with 2nd year first communion and your class I attended at St Pious X and the two Webnar were a great help. The ideas can be used with this age group.

  8. Our classes began August 28th already. We meet every two weeks for 2 hour sessions. I must admit it is very hard to remember all the students names seeing them only twice a month… but a seating chart helps with that. I keep it in my hands at all times to call the students by name. Last year I had 34 students, this year I have 18 (so far) so it should be much easier for me.
    *Thank you Joe for sharing all your wonderful resources*

    • Kathleen, thanks for sharing and I’m glad to hear that your class size is so much more manageable this year. Even 18 is a lot unless you are a professional teacher. Keep up the great work!

  9. From Dusty…

    Our Faith Formation classes start on September 13th. I teach 6th
    grade at Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Lagrangeville, NY.
    I am very excited for classes to begin. We decided to switch to a new
    book and are using Christ our life from Loyola this year. Book is
    great and so is their website.
    We had our annual Catechist meeting last week and I told the Catechist
    to make sure they sign on to receive your Catechist’s Journey. I
    really enjoy receiving it each day and have used so much of the
    information you provide.
    Thanks so much.
    Dusty Maiolo

  10. From Linda…

    We’re starting 9/19-9/20… Have my catechist meeting Monday, 9/13. Always excited about starting up but totally
    totally immersed in getting things in place for my catechists.

    Linda Buckley, DRE
    St. Anne, Mother of Mary
    Mexico, NY

    Also getting ready to do our presentation of your Catechists Tool Box at our annual Journey of Faith Conference in
    Syracuse, NY. We’re wearing Bob the Builder T-Shirts and playing two songs from Bob the Builder: The Right Tool for Job and Can We Fix It? (Yes we can!) Excited about our first presentation to our peers but a little nervous & scared. We’re up against some well known presenters in our time slot and also–IT’S RIGHT AFTER LUNCH!

    • Linda, good luck with the catechist meeting and with the start of classes. And special wishes for success with your Toolbox presentation…what a hoot!

  11. From Maria….

    I had my first 6th grade class on Tuesday afternoon. I had 24 students and I was very impressed with how behaved they all were. They came from various junior highs in the area so some knew others but, on the whole, they were strangers to each other. We did an icebreaker and that helped a lot. I laid out the ground rules for the class, how I expected them to treat each other as well as my co-catechist and myself, and made certain they understood that we “were there” for them.

    Today, however, is my first class for the 3rd grade and since I’ve been doing this grade for the last five years it is not as stressful as was the first day of 6th grade.

    I decided to try my hand at teaching 6th grade because I feel I am able to get along with this age group (I have/had grand neices and nephews is this age group and get along with them pretty well and they keep me up-to-date on the most current “lingo” of this age group.

    As time goes on, I’ll keep you posted on how I am handling the two very different grades and ask for help when and if I need it.

    Thanks for all the info you have been providing in the Catechist’s Journey format.

    Maria Casas
    Katy, TX

    • Maria, you are quite the trooper, teaching TWO grade levels and one of them being 24 students! That’s a lot, but it sounds like you have them under control. Good for you. Be sure to tell us how you do it! Thanks for your kind words and for inspiring us by your willingness to teach 2 different grade levels!

  12. From Catherine…

    we start sunday and i am totally ready i miss not having my little angels in training around God Bless all of you and the best of luck

  13. Hey there! I start classes on Friday Sept 17th (that’s the day of rest for us here in the Middle East while Sunday is a working day). My group comprises of the 13-14-15 year olds….and I’ve been racking my brain/ googling to find a get-to-know-you activity for our introductory class. Any ideas??

  14. Last night was probably the best first class in 7 years of teaching 6th grade catechism. We covered the first 2 chapters of Genesis straight from the Bible, the kids were super participants.

  15. We begin this Sunday with our annual Kick Off celebration for grades 1-6.
    On the docket … A Family Scavenger hunt that focuses on the Mass.
    We have several new families this year so I will be paying special attention to helping them feel at home. I’m hoping none will be scandalized by the idea of a scavenger hunt in and around the church.
    Individual grade classes begin next week.
    I’m psyched, my catechists seem to be too.
    Come Holy Spirit!

  16. Yep, we just started yesterday. Getting up at 6:30 on a Sunday, after going to Saturday night mass forever, isn’t easy! lol
    They seem like pretty great kids –the kind that I started with back in the late 80s (Yikes!) that inspired me to go into teaching full-time–and not the kind that sucked the Spirit out of me right before I left to have my son. I’m actually pretty excited! I have about 16 kids and two amazing aides who are about 13. I’ve never had aides before in all my years of teaching–even when I had 30+ in a class! I’m not sure what to do with them but they are so great, especially never having done it before, that they take the initiative and do things on their own! OK, I’m REALLY psyched about them–and to think they’re just helping out! WOW!

    Do you have any simple activity to start the discussion of baptism? It’s early and hot in the classroom and it looked like we could all have just taken a nap yesterday. I want to get them involved in a discussion or some activity that gets them into the chapter.

    Thanks for the help and support!

    • Hi Kathy and thanks for the great report! So happy that things are going well for you. Be sure to put those aides to work…have them facilitate group activities, etc. What a great gift!

      As for baptism, it sounds like you can make the most of the room being hot by bringing in some ice cold water and beginning the discussion around the attributes of water (soothes, renews, refreshes….but also be sure to bring in the notion that water also destroys and kills…both aspects are crucial to the symbolism of water in baptism: dying and rising).

      Let us know how it goes!

  17. We start on the 15th. I am looking forward to it. This is my third year of teaching. My first year I had 1st grade and last year I had 5th grade. I have 5th grade again this year, so I’m looking forward to improving on what I did last year. A couple of resources that I found very helpful last year were the Big Book of Bible Skits and Big Book of Bible Games. Each skit is only 2 pages and ties in to Bible readings and each game also ties in to Bible readings. I also did a power point on church structure last year. I need to polish it a little, but I think the kids liked it. Joe, if you are interested I can email it to you and you may be able to post it for others to use.
    Thanks for all the helpful posts!

    • Dawn, I hope you get off to a great start this year! Thanks for sharing the Bible resources with us. Can you tell us the publishers of those books? And, yes, I’d be interested in your PPT on Church structure. You can email it to me at Thanks!

  18. First class last night (8th grade). Seems like a great group of 18 kids. Last night was an icebreaker….we didn’t have a lesson from the book. I was terribly touched (again) by the Gospel yesterday (the Prodigal Son) and we read it in class and did actually discuss it a bit along with the parable of the Shepherd running after his one lost sheep, etc. We spent about 10 min. in the chapel doing a guided reflection. I learned a lot about guided reflection last year and felt the first class was a great time to introduce it since everyone is a little hesitant (and quiet).

    Over the course of the class (90 minutes), I realized that we said the Lord’s Prayer 3 times and I told the class not to be afraid to fall back on this prayer as it truly was the prayer that Jesus gave us. I hope to spend more time on the Our Father later in the year (and there is no shortage of resources digging into the Our Father it seems).

    I tried to keep my ground rules simple for 8th grade including being respectful (meaning no talking when others….including me…are talking) as well as keeping an open mind with regard to our discussions, prayer time, etc.

    It’s been 4 months since my last class and I spent some significant time this weekend praying so that I might re-energize myself for these new students. I was reminded of my first year teaching and how important I realized that my energy was. The same thing applied last night…..I THINK I energized my class and they gave me a new energy.

    • Greg, what a wonderful and thoughtful synopsis of your first class! I’m particularly struck by the climate of prayer that seems to permeate your class. That’s wonderful. Thanks for sharing and I hope you continue to have a fruitful experience with your 8th graders!

  19. Okay, Joe, can you take yet another catechist chiming in on this one? But since you’ve inspired me so much, I thought I would share what we’re doing for our first class–still a few weeks away. (You’ll see your good influence throughout!)
    Our structure is a large group session (20-30 minutes) led by a grade coordinator (me). That’s followed by an hour in small groups, each of which is led by a catechist and assistant. For our first meeting with the big group, I will call the kids using the ritual words, This is the day the Lord has made, to which they will respond. Let us rejoice and be glad. Then, using the tea light electric candles another of your cool ideas–we ll have an opening prayer.
    Respecting that many of our kids are here for the first time, we ll begin with prayer basics: Sign of the Cross, Our Father and Hail Mary. (It will also be an appropriate prelude for later you ll see why in a moment.)
    We ll read the upcoming Sunday Gospel and have a brief Q/A.
    The key word for the week is FAITH. I will mention that it is the feast of St. Faustina and we will show the first few minutes of a movie about her life. We ll talk about her strong “faith”.
    We ll listen to the song “Stand by Me” (from the “Playing for Change” CD) as we stand in a circle and say one decade of the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. We will have already said two of the opening prayers.
    I ll do a ritual closing: Our big group session has ended. Go in peace to love and learn more about the Lord. To which they respond, Thanks be to God.
    In the small groups, the teachers will introduce themselves and do the preliminaries classroom rules, decorate nametags, etc. They ll bless and distribute the books. This year we focus on the Old Testament, so I ve suggested they bring in a big map or globe to show the kids where everything took place. They ll spend a few minutes on one story from the textbook Abraham and Sarah, and again, talk about their powerful “faith.” (I ve also forwarded your wonderful tips on reading from the textbook.) They will spend the last 20-30 minutes on a scavenger hunt, based loosely on The Great Race TV show. The teachers will have an envelope with cryptic but relatively easy–clues that kids will have to work together on. The clues will send them to the parish food pantry, where they ll find envelopes with their group number (to help them remember their group). This set of clues will take them to the pastor s office and we are blessed to have a pastor who really gets into this kind of thing. He s going to LOVE the drama of waiting for them with their next envelope (and a blessing.) That will send them into the church, where they will spend the last ten minutes in adoration before the tabernacle. I will have a CD going “Adoration II” (Pauline Records), featuring the angelic voices of the Daughters of St. Paul. We ll dismiss from Church.
    Also, Joe, wanted to let you know that I sent a welcome note to the catechists on my team. I used my Mac to create stationery evoking a giftwrapped package the gift is the link to your blog. Because you, your blog, your webinars and your books are truly a gift for all of us catechists!!
    God bless!

    • Wow, Connie, this is awesome! I love the detail of your plan and the variety. You are creating such an egaging approach that they should appreciate and that should result in a good level of participation. Love the scavenger hunt idea and the fact that the pastor is in on it…how cool! Thanks for passing along info about the blog to your team and for the kind words about my resources!

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