How Many Contact Hours?

Thumbnail for version as of 11:46, 29 March 2010I received this email from Lisa about how many contact hours a religious education program should have per year:

Joe,

I see at times you post emails you receive from individuals and ask for feedback/information from “the group.” Could you possibly help me?  I’m wondering how many classes per year other parishes hold for the RE classes and the length of them.  I’m told by our Archdiocese that 30 contact hours with students is the norm, with 24 being the “bare minimum.”  I inherited a program 18 mos. ago that gives us about 22.5 contact hours and I’m trying to figure out how to fit the Grade Level Specs requirements into that time frame – and – some of the more fun, interactive, multiple intelligences type activities (which are my strong suit) that make faith come alive.  There are so many wonderful things to do with students that balance traditional classroom instruction with active learning but… my time is limited.  We meet 18 times a year for 1.25 hours each session. Your help is appreciated!

Peace,
Lisa M. Jachimiec, St. Leonard Congregation, Muskego, WI

In my own experience, 30 contact hours per year has been a “rule of thumb” for parish religious education programs to shoot for. Some parishes do more than this and some less. I think that 30 hours is a good norm to shoot for and usually provides a decent amount of time to cover a fair amount of material in a curriculum and also do a number of other formational experiences. Of course, there never is “enough” time to do all we want to do.

Tell us about your parish RE program and how many contact hours you have over the course of a year. I’d especially love to hear from those of you who expanded the number of contact hours per year and how you dealt with that (i.e. how you “sold” it to the parish).

About Joe Paprocki 2179 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.

24 Comments on How Many Contact Hours?

  1. Before I started, the program met from mid-September through March.

    I’ve started the kids meeting from mid-September through the end of April. I didn’t ask, I just did. I explained to the catechists that the Diocese requires programs to meet more hours. They agreed (at least from any of my catechists who said anything). I honestly don’t think families noticed… I just gave them a schedule.
    The problem is sports start and in March the kids start missing. My attendance is 50% at best. I think next year I am going to start with the school year and begin in early September.

    Right now, the classes meet 26 hours. The teachers don’t get through the whole Finding God book.

    I try to supplement with family days and various family activities, but not very many families come. So I’ll keep trying more activities! Theoretically these would be contact hours on top, but I don’t consider it that since I’m not seeing many families at them.

  2. We meet 30 times during the school year, 15 before Christmas and 15 after Christmas for 1 hour and 15 minutes each time. Our Open House is usually the third Sunday in August with classes starting the next Sunday and our classes go to the end of April. We usually have something that cancels out one class during the year, either ice and snow or a special feast or activity or a building problem, etc. If we didn’t have the extra time worked in there, we’d never finish anything. We could use 2 hour classes with the older teens. They actually put in more time with the Service Projects, though.
    The parents haven’t complained, so far. It has been this way for some time now. We’re in Georgia.

  3. Our sessions meet on Sunday mornings 29-30 times per year for one and one-half hours, making for 43.5 or 45 contact hours. We, too, lengthened our program at one point with the agreement of our catechists. It seems to work best when our schedule coordinates with the local public school schedule, which most of our children attend. About six times each year, we have an “inter-generational” type family session, such as Advent, Epiphany, All Saints, etc., when we will all meet together. Families are “required” to accompany their children. Parishioners are invited, but few attend. I lead these sessions, giving our catechists a bit of a break since they may assist, but are not responsible for planning.

    I would dearly love to meet every week, like our other Christian church neighbors do, but it will be difficult to change the habits of our families and catechists. Moving away from this school-year model might encourage the life-long learning we would love to promote. I have considered offering a “summer” session, probably intergenerational, that would be more “voluntary” – has anyone had success with year-round catechesis? Our parish does a one week VBS with our neighbor Methodist and Disciples of Christ churches, which has served all three congregations nicely.

    It is good to learn what others are doing – thanks for sharing your insights.

  4. Our program begins early October and ends in mid or late May with a potluck for all the families. If you offer Advent, Lent, Mardi Gras…programs with families can’t you include that as some of the hours given you do mutligenerational catechesis on the Seasons with activities at those events? Take home packets, information and faith sharing can be included or have a “Retreat” for families during the course of the year on an evening or Saturday morning or Sunday with a potluck. Everyone is welcome and invited to attend. Peace, Val

  5. I usually have 23-25 contact hours with our program. Yes, this seems like the bare minimum to me, but our attendance is excellent. Our program runs from the last week in September to the second week of May. We also provide days off to follow the county school system holidays. That way, if families want to travel on a three day weekend, they can. If I were to begin earlier in September, families would be stressed with balancing Back to School nights with muliple children. I also like to wait until after Catechetical Sunday, so my catechists begin with their commissioning. If I try to extend the year later into May, spring sports take over and children leave. So we make the most out of our three sessions of one hour each and pray for the parents’ support. Love to hear from some other diocese.

  6. We meet for one hour a week from the week after school starts (the day after Labor Day) so around the 2nd Tuesday of September until the 3rd Tuesday in May. We have two classes in December for our Christmas Pageant practice and play and two weeks for Confessions (Advent and Lent) plus 2 weeks at Christmas and 1 week for Spring Break (or two weeks if the schools happen to be off for 2 weeks as they are this year). We also substitute the Stations of the Cross during Holy Week.That gives us approximately 30 hours that we have contact with them although not all are in the classroom. We feel the other items noted above are necessary. The Confirmation class goes to the week after their Confirmation which this year is Junr 9th.

  7. My parish is in NJ – we meet 26 times for 75 minutes – but, to be honest, the first 15-minutes are really spent taking attendance, waiting for the latecomers and morning prayers (I teach 3rd graders).
    As with Jenn’s group – we do nto get through the whole workbook with the children. I have already gone through the days we have left and what I will be able to have the children work on. ALSO, we attend Mass once a month as a class – so we (technically) only have 3 Sundays a month – depending on holidays, etc. during that month.
    It’s hard to have the children meet the “curriculum” credentials they should: know certain prayers by 3rd grade, know the seasons of the church, the saints, Fruits of the Spirit, etc. – what can be done? I think the parents (at times) are barely able to give up that hour each week for the children to be at CCD/faith formation. I have a couple of children in my class that rarely do their homework. I have written home to their parents and spoken to them about it – no avail…..

  8. Our R. E. program meets weekly which is 28-30 weeks. Each class is 90 minutes or 42-45 hours a year. I’ve done this for years and have had no complaints. It works well for us because we have time to complete the book and do three large group celebrations plus child safety training.

  9. I eased the additional days through an earlier start in year i.e. week after school begins, and end the first week in May. That gives us approximately 35 hrs. I use some of those hours as a FAMILY event, on evening of class, which has become quite popular with the families. Since we meet during the week, we usually have at least a holyday and always Ash Wednesday as additional Family events. Our next ‘class’ will be Stations in Church with Families and since it is right before Holy Week (and Spring Break for Public Schools in our area), the lesson of the evening will be the Triduum & Stations done as a powerpoint in Church. Last year was the first year we did this venue and afterwards Adults were telling us that they had never participated in Stations before! Our last class is a Family Marian Service in Church with special tribute to our 6th Graders who are ‘moving out’ of our program into the Jr/Sr High program.
    It is most rewarding to use Church Season events as Family Class time. For some, it is the only time that a Parent is working on something religious with them, and taking it home, brings the Parish and Domestic Church a bit closer.
    I truly believe that using the scheduled class time for Family events works the best, and themes that are introduced are most likely a chapter in the textbook anyway!

  10. I agree with Jenn in that when I was brought on board I just gave the parents and catechists a calendar of dates and we went with it. My pre-k thru 6th grades meet for a total of 24 hours a year. I supplement with Mass participation or participating in additional forms of parish life. I also offer family retreat mornings which unfortunately I have to make mandatory. The parents grumble about it ahead of time but once they get there they do have a great time as a family. My 7 thru 10th grades actually meet for 36 hours a year. One way to get over the sports obsticle is by doing an intensive study program for a week in the summer, followed by another week in the winter. We are off the entire month of January so that we avoid most of the heavy snowfall that usually occurs at that time so we are able to do a study program then. If you have a good youth minister they can always supplement to the program. Mine meets twice a month and does a fun night one week and a study/work/fun night the next.

    If you offer a variety of programs including intergenerational programs you will get the people on board. We have a couple of dinners throughout the year and I happened to mention what do you do for the kids? Wouldn’t it be nice if the families felt welcome? Now we offer family and kid activities at these and everyone can’t wait for the next one to see what they can win or what new activities they come up with.

    Once last thing, don’t sell VBS short. Its a great way to get the kids back in the swing of religious education, they can invite their non-Catholic friends to it and is another way you can involve multi-generations. We finish the week off with a presentation during our 12:10 Mass. I was alittle apprehensive at having the kids singing and dancing down the main aisle (lets face it, the average age at daily Mass is about 65) but we invited the parents and the kids were decked out in their tie-dyed shirts and everyone rocked to the music. We got lots of positive feedback from everyone who witnessed our praising God!

  11. Like Peggy, our RE program meets approximately 14 times a semester (so 28 times in a year) for 1.5 hours a week, so we have about 42 hours of contact. But not all are spent in teaching. It takes us about 15 minutes for attendance, announcements, and paperwork – and some weeks are spent doing prayer services, reviews, and 2 classes (one each semester) are for test taking. We follow the school year as far as beginning and ending months and do have some issues with school activities and sports but most of our kids (at least in the confirmation classes) are still maintaining good attendance.

  12. I have 235 children in my program. Each class is 90 minutes in length. Our program is 35 hrs. you’re right so many wonderful things to do with the children. Still there isn’t enough time. So many beautiful traditions they should know.

  13. Four years ago, I inherited a program that met 30 times per year at 6o minutes per session. As a person who was a catechist for a long time before I became a DRE, that just didn’t seem like a whole lot of time. We usually ended by April 30th. The reason given was that softball and baseball took up too much time anyway. I wasn’t seeing that problem, so the first few years I was here, I just slowly tacked on a day at the end of the year, so we now start the first Wednesday in September and go until the second Wednesday in May. It has gone pretty much unnoticed. I also increased our class time from 60-75 minutes, which also seems to have gone pretty much unnoticed. In those additional weeks I have added catechist only nights where we meet for fellowship and our own formation and two mass celebrations. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but it all seemed to work. On the other side of the coin, it usually takes a good 4-6 weeks for all the students to finally start showing up to classes, so that extra 15 minutes turns out to be quite a plus.

  14. Our RE program for grades 1 through 6 begins on the Monday after C. Sunday in Sept. and goes until the second week in May. Grades 7 and 8 begin in mid October and end in mid May. Confirmation, grade 9 is a review. It meets from January until April or May depending on the date of Confirmation. In general we have 29 contract hours in class and several more with activities. Classes meet for one hour with the exception of 7 and 9 which is for 75 minutes. We are not able to cover our entire text in any grade.

  15. It’s so interesting to see what others are doing. Last year we expanded our time to 90 minutes each week for our junior and senior high students. We begin in the middle of Sept and go through April. This year Fr has Mass once a month for both the afternoon elementary and evening students. When I include those Mass days, our contact hours are 36 hours for our junior and senior high students and 25 hours for our elementary. For our students in grades 7-11, we combine a fun activity and food on the evenings we have Mass.

  16. Our norm is 30 classes, and I use them all, that is no Halloween, Christmas, or year-end parties. I record my classes and thus know that I get between 53 and 55 minutes of real classtime. This year we lost 4 meetings due to Wednesday night conflicts; cutting 4 classes was a real hardship.

    I wish we had something more like a regular school year of 36 weeks = 36 meetings. I think it’s difficult, if not impossible, to properly catechize with a 30 week schedule, especially when a couple of classes are typically lost to parties.

  17. Carol writes:

    Try combining some of the Religious Educational contact hours with other events, including both family events and students only events. For example, we have Saturday visits to Veterans Homes and Nursing Homes with some before and after short periods of Religious Education. Also, for Lent we are having several Soup and Sharing meals after evening Mass. Since short instructional periods are included with the Soup and Sharing, and these event-meals include Families, the participation levels are usually very good.

  18. Brigid writes:

    Our hours we cut down significantly this year so realistically we only have 22 hours with the kids. How to increase that? We offer whole community events for the family (2 so far, about 2 hours each) and there’s always Vacation Bible School. Even at only 3 hours a night for five nights, you’re adding 15 contact hours and a lot of fun!

    We are in the process of moving from a Sunday morning to a Wednesday evening program so hopefully, we’ll gain some more time next year. But the whole community events will continue too.

    God bless,
    Brigid

  19. Julie writes:

    Dear Joe,

    Thank you so much for all the wonderful assistance you give us through the Catechist’s Journey.

    I wanted to comment on the request for information on the number of contact hours for an RE program. Here at San Martin de Porres Parish, in Laredo, Texas, we do 37.5 hours a year, and some of my catechists think that this is not enough. Our diocese mandates that we meet a minimum of 25 times, but it does not mandate the number of meetings by contact hours. I am happy to see your comment on the 30 hours.

    Blessings,

  20. Wow – thanks everyone for your responses! We are currently offering what we call “Family Enrichments” which range from Veggie Events, movie afternoons, learning centers, etc. At this point they are optional and poor attendance doesn’t begin to describe it (two families attended our movie afternoon this past Sunday). I had a “five year plan” when I moved into the DRE role and we are in year three. By the end of the five years, attendance at two of the offered seven or so enrichments will be a mandatory part of the program. I’m sure there will be a grumble or five but…

    I’m impressed with the dedication of your catechists. I currently work with six catechists plus youth helpers in our preschool / K5 program and 28 catechists in our Grade 1 – Grade 6 program. Between the two I have responsibility for 400 plus students and we offer classes on Sunday mornings, Monday and Tuesday evenings.

    Thank you, again, for all of your great input – I appreciate the details for our planning for the future!

  21. ajcdon23 writes:

    Hi Joe,
    Since I took over the position of DRE three years ago, we have moved from a 25 week schedule to a 27 week year and also increased the time each week from 1 hour to an hour and a half. In the beginning, there were a few complaints, but as time went on it just became “standard operating procedure”. Many of the families now attend 9:30 am Mass and then come over for instruction. I’ve found the extra weeks helpful, especially if the students have several absences due to illness, family commitments, etc. Now, I think the parents are enjoying their extra time off and I plan little talks/breakfasts/videos (some of which are required) in that time. If you feed them, they will come ! It’s another chance to connect with parents in an informal setting too. Good luck and God bless!

  22. Our Diocese (Diocese of Orange) recommends that we devote 28 to 32 sessions for Faith Formation for Pre-K through 8th grade. With regard to my particular parish, each session is 1-1/4 hours to 1-1/2 hours. My Monday classes average about 30 sessions because of the Federal holidays and Christmas and Easter whereas my Tuesday classes are usually 32 sessions. We start in September and go to Memorial weekend. We do use “Sadlier” and have no problem covering the content of the “Parish Edition” adding some videos to certain lessons, giving “tours” of our church for our 1st Communion candidates, and carolling at Christmas with the Jr. high students to bring cheers to a large nursing home, etc.. God bless you.

  23. We have 32 classes from Sept. 1-April 30. We usually have 3-4 masses in there–Ash Weds and a Marian mass, open and closing masses. We have some classes that are not ‘class’- about twice a year they do a service project and a mini-retreat. We do the living rosary and living stations. With these, we have 40 hours of contact time. We rotate confessions in there as well 2x a year. It doesn’t take all night, so they usually can condense a lesson too.

    The one I have difficulty with is opening and closing masses–the parents seem to think of them as ‘optional’ class times. So this year I didn’t have them. We did a liturgy of the Word instead and a Bible blessing. Not sure how I feel about that.

    Next year, I am working with our youth ministry team to possibly have youth group follow RE for a few weeks to get them ‘hooked.’ We have been having YG on Sunday nights, but Sunday should be a family day.

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