A Little Help!

I received the following email from a catechist named Frances who finds herself facing a tough situation. Let’s help her out! Please offer your comments and suggestions!

Thank you for all your e-mails.

I need some help, I teach CCD I have a 12 year old boy who has an attitude and no matter what I say he says he doesn’t believe in God, when he asked so who made God, I said Himself, he responded how convenient, I just don’t know besides praying for him what else to do.  any suggestions are welcome.

thank you,

About Joe Paprocki 2741 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.

14 Comments on A Little Help!

  1. Frances, there are times when you simply have to let go and let God. I believe this is one of them. No one can prove the existence of God, only our faith opens our eyes to see the truth. I think you should continue to teach and offer whatever knowledge and faith you have with this child and, most importantly, continue to pray for him. Some day, and you may never see it, the scales will be lifted from his eyes and all that you have said will make sense. Do not be discouraged.

  2. Sometimes it is best to ask God to shine His light through us. The young man may want to push everyone away but if you continue to reach out in Christian love to him, he will see God shining through you.
    The other students may be the support he needs to embrace a life of faith in God as they share their faith.
    Be positive and encouraging, include him in all participation (discussions, reading, crafts, games,etc.).
    In all things give praise!

  3. Frances,

    It is very difficult to approach topics like this with children and young adults because they have developed into the tangible stage of things. They want proof, and they want it now.

    I have a group of eighth graders that I teach that are, difficult to deal with to say the least. None of them are encouraged by the idea of attending faith formation classes, and most do it because they are forced to by their parents.

    This might be a situation where you do not give up on the child, but continue to plant the mustard seed of faith within him. Encourage him and give him the tools that he needs to develop his faith according to the catechism. Pray for him, pray with him.

    I have one student in particular that comes from a rough home life, she is disruptive, uncooperative and nasty. She will rip up homework assignments the minute they are handed to her. I never gave up on her and occasionally she will show a glimmer of hope when she does respond.

    Try not to get stuck in a battle with this child because it can detract from the faith building of the other children in the room. Try to use real life miracles in order to show him the real life workings of God all around us.

    I will say a prayer for you and your student tonight!

  4. I have had children like this many times. After talking with the parents, to air my concerns and to find out their take on it, I let the child guide the conversation by LISTENING. Believing in God comes naturally to some, but not so for others and his life may be giving him some blows that make it difficult. Don’t argue with him, but if he gets belligerent or loud, speak with him privately. He shouldn’t be allowed to ruin class, so ask him to try to listen to other children about their experiences and to give God a chance. I have also had luck with having them read a passage from the workbook you use and teaching a concept to younger children. It seems that they forget in their “disbelief” for a little while.

  5. Oh, to have a 12 year old question the existence of God is really not a challenge but a huge opportunity. Not knowing the child it is a little more difficult to offer suggestions. However, this just might be his way of questioning the existence as opposed to not believing. He’s 12, it is indeed attitude time. I know, I have a 13 year old who questions the existence despite how we live our lives. No worries, he’s a deep thinker and he is tackling topics I hadn’t grappled with until I was an adult. Are you able to talk to the parents? 6th graders are learning about the creation of the world in school and are taught about the “big bang theory” that’s when the deep thinkers start to challenge what they are being taught. He’s growing, keep praying, nurturing and leading by example, and as the other person who commented said, let go and let God. P.S. My son has 2 Bible versions downloaded on his ipod and pulls up the Sunday readings. God is Great!

  6. God be with you, Frances!
    I agree with AnaH that we can only pray and do the best we can to love this child and hope that the love he experiences through you will release him from his doubts. I read somewhere that at a certain level people view God, our Heavenly Father, the way we view our earthly Father. Though I may be speculating it seems possible that this child’s feelings for his dad has something to do with it… or maybe hears this kind of reasoning and cynicism from an authority figure. Either way, stand firm and know He is working through you.
    Be blessed…

  7. There are some things we don’t know such as how long you have known this young man, whether or not he is struggling with other things in his life, what his vision of God really is etc. However, it might be interesting for you to look at James Fowler’s stages of faith (just google it). Sometimes when we see conflict and confusion it is because faith is growing into another phase. It is hard for a 12 year old boy to articulate everything in his heart so the behavior itself could be pointing to a number of things. You are with him so you might be the best judge of that.
    Rather than try to change his mind, I suggest loving him just as he is. Let him know he is profoundly accepted. Let yourself be a window. The love of Jesus which is greater than any love we are capable of can flow through you (the window) onto this boy. I think that might be all you can “do” right now and it may be just the thing.

  8. Hi Frances,
    Everyone has offered some pretty good suggestions. I would add one more,
    the next time this young fella questions the existence of God, tell him it’s
    alright because God believes in him and loves him just the way he is. That comment seems to get them thinking and it is so true. Also, it would be good
    to see if you can find anything out about his home life and parent’s faith traditions.

  9. Frances, my 17 yrd old and I discussed your problem. May we suggest that this kid’s attitude has little to do with his belief or disbelief. He’s learned that he gets attention from negative behavior. It’s so hard to love a kid that is difficult. I agree with Mary that it’s important to make it clear that he has the right to disagree but that he must be respectful and not disruptive nor can he dominate the conversations. Then, give him attention where you can. Give him chores and tasks, if possible. Perhaps this is a great opportunity to share some of the great conversion stories. Grace said that he doesn’t expect you to say “Oh, you’re right! We must all be crazy. There’s no God.” She feels he just wants someone to listen to him. She said to tell him that your job is simply to give him as much information about our faith and our church and to come together as a community to serve others. The rest is between him and God. Oh, and that he’s in your prayers, always!
    You are in ours. God love you!

  10. Frances, I have read your story as posted, my suggestion is, God is testing your patience, through your son. God will answer prayers in His own time. So just be patient. Okay, I will keep you in my prayers. Lisa anasco.

  11. Hi Frances,
    I am sorry to hear about your situation ! I have found a really great blog online that is a great resource for my own children and all the questions they ask me about the Catholic faith, God,morals, etc. It is a blog that presents questions that Catholic young adults have asked about …everything from a to z …and an adult apologist answers them and posts them so that young adults and teens can learn from their questions.

    Here is the link to that:

    I think if you check it out you will like it and get lots of good information to be able to use in teaching this young adult the faith.
    Good luck and God bless you!

  12. Sounds like there is more going on behind the scenes that you will never be privy to. Try using his arguments as the other side of the coin. Try being a ying to his yang. A man convinced against his will is not convinced. Use the time to help the others in the class see how his arguments cant stand up to the truth. Dont argue with him but with what he says.

  13. I don’t have any additional insight to add to this situation. All of the previous comments each contain some wonderful nugget of “Wisdom”. I did want to say that God is present in all times, places and circumstances. He is definitely present here as this community that Joe has built surrounds you in their love and support. You and your students are in my prayers.


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