Biting Off More Than THEY Can Chew!

Food Porn Action Shot - Custom Burger at The CounterIf you have been following me here at Catechist’s Journey for any length of time, you know that my biggest chronic problem as a catechist is trying to do too much (biting off more than THEY can chew)! From time to time, I need to make an adjustment to narrow the scope of what I hope to accomplish (not lower my expectations, but just be more realistic). Last night was one of those nights. Overall, it was a good evening, but I didn’t come CLOSE to completing what I thought I would/could. Here’s the summary:

  • I was able to arrive early and use the time to sit out in the hallway and rip out the pages of the chapter that I was sending home with them to complete next week since we’ll be off for Columbus Day. I stapled them with the accompanying  Homework Notification Sheet .
  • Our opening routine continues to go nicely, especially our procession to set up the Prayer Center. Last evening, 2 more students brought in their personal symbols for the Prayer Center so now everyone has a symbol placed there. Having them write out their Prayer intention slips when they arrive has proven to be a positive step. When they offer them aloud, they are very well expressed.
  • We had a nice little discussion about our family stories (where our ancestors came from, etc.) and I used that to segue into learning about the Bible which is the story of our family in faith.
  • At this point, I re-distributed their Bible Learning Stations Fill-in Sheets from the week before along with their Bibles and we set out to review all of the information and make sure we filled in all the blanks. I WISH! We did not even come close to reviewing all of the information. Now, part of that is OK because they were interrupting with questions and that’s a good thing. At the same time, they were also interrupting with requests to go to the bathroom or to get a drink of water. I need to remember to have them take care of those needs upon arrival.
  • In particular, one of the students developed a giggling fit from a joke he and his neighbor had whispered to eachother. My several attempts to get him to collect himself proved unsuccessful so I had my aide escort him out to the hall for a timeout. Talking to a fellow catechist later on, I realized that I employed an “exit strategy” (how to get him out of the room) but did not have an “entry strategy” (telling him that he needed to recognize what he did wrong and, when he was ready, knock on the door to re-enter, apologize, and take his place). Thanks, Dan, for your advice about the “entry strategy” or “re-entry strategy” as I would put it!
  • The most effective thing we did (and probably the reason we didn’t come close to finishing, was we spent a good chunk of time focusing on the Table of Contents in the Bible and how to locate passages when given a Scripture citation (e.g. Jn 3:16). I drilled them at length at this so that they know how to find a passage when given book (abbreviated), chapter, and verse. We located Jn 3:16 in the Bible and read it aloud. I asked if anyone has ever seen a poster or sign at a sporting event with Jn 3:16 on it and one of the boys recalled that Tim Tebow, NFL quarterback, often includes that citation on his “eye-black.” Good example and I told them that now they know what that verse is (it didn’t hurt that I have that verse memorized! “For God so loved the world…”)
  • With 20 minutes left in the session, I decided it was time to move to our “sacred space” so that the young people could have an experience of prayer. It’s hard to do that when you feel that you’ve not completed the content, however, I was satisfied that we accomplished a few solid things (Scripture citation, and figurative language in the Bible) and I always place a priority on a prayer experience.
  • The guided reflection went very nicely and the kids were well-behaved (better than last time). I did a guided reflection from chapter 2 of Finding God on God’s amazing creation.
  • We finished with a lovely Prayer to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the kids seemed drawn to her story (not surprising).
  • I sent them on their way with their homework pages and stopped the “giggler” on his way out to tell him that I won’t tolerate such behavior in the future and that he needs to “get past it” when he finds something funny. He apologized and explained what went on…I’ll be keeping an eye on him!

[photo: Marshall Astor via Compfight]

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. Thanks for your honest self-evauation. We start a sacrament prep class soon and will learn by doing. Thanks again.

  2. Thank you for sharing this information. This is one of my greatest challenges. I plan the session; however, I can never cover all the material and sometimes I feel bad because I think that they are not learning everything they need to learn. However, if scripture is meaty, for better lack of a word, then it may be impossible for us to cover every single thing in one class.
    I too try to get them to use the restroom and get their drink of water before the session begins. Again thank you for sharing. I am constantly thinking of ways on how to improve and you are right we learn and grow as we go.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.