Combatting the “Drop-Off” Mentality

photo (1)This afternoon, I met with Deb Breakey, the DRE of St. Cajetan Parish in Chicago, to brainstorm a new way to kick off the catechetical year this Fall designed to combat the “drop-off” mentality that so many parents have when it comes to their children’s faith formation.

We are working on designing an experience on the first night of religious education that, in essence, will be an intergenerational event.

  • Parents will be asked to gather with their children in the Parish Center where the first half hour will consist of a welcome/greeting, a prayer service that will include a blessing of the children, the catechists, the textbooks, and the parents, and finally, a prayerful sending forth of the children to their classes for the next hour.
  • The second half hour will consist of a short video (TBD) on the role of parents in faith formation followed by a brief discussion in small groups. Following this, Deb will go over the nuts and bolts of the faith formation program but will also introduce opportunities for adults to gather to share and grow in faith throughout the year.
  • The last half hour will be an opportunity for parents to socialize but also to complete registrations and other necessary paperwork before their children are ready to be taken home (these are all things that Deb finds herself doing on that first night already!).

Our hope is to begin to change the drop-off mentality by engaging parents during the time that their children attend RE classes. I’ll update you as the plan unfolds and develops. If you have any suggestions from your own experience, Deb and I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.

Deb points out the logistics of the gathering space for this kick-off event








photo joe
Joe looks over the space where a prayer table will go front and center
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. Sounds super! The program I’m managing right now (not the regular parish religious ed program) requires a parent or parent-designated guardian to stay on site. We put them to work helping out in class, and some of the parents congregate in the nursery to chit-chat while helping with the little ones. (All parents are Virtus trained, certificate on file, etc.) We’ll be offering NFP appointments this fall.

    –> With a larger program like religious ed, where you really don’t need that many parent-volunteers, my thought is to offer a coffee-house area (like that cafeteria) where parents can socialize, and then some kind of faith-formation program every week, even if it’s just playing a Fr. Barron video or what have you.

    The parents themselves may have an idea of what they are looking for, though not always expressed in specific terms, so a little trial and error is par for the course.

    Good for you guys looking out for the parents!

  2. In the parish where I served for 13 years, all the adults and children learned the same concept each month. Each family attended once a month. The parents were very happy to know what their children were learning and they enjoyed learning the present teachings of the church as well.

    • Julie, that sounds like a great plan. Thanks so much for sharing. How did you “frame” this? Were parents “required” to attend once per month? What kind of attendance (percentage of parents) did you get?

  3. In our parish we begin catechetical Sunday with mass where catechists are commissioned. after Mass, Everyone comes over to the building where religious education takes place and gathers in auditorium. Children go to classroom with catechist and parents stay behind with DRE and Deacon. A 1/2 hour is spent on theme of catechetical year using scripture with reflection, movie clip on the theme and than leaving them with reflective questions on how the theme relates to home.Next half hour of rel ed parents meet catechists in the classroom and kids come to auditorium for a pep rally involving catholic songs and cheer for their parish. parents return to auditorium with catechist and we end with a family blessing.

    • Nancy, thanks for sharing this. It sounds like a very effective kick off to the year and a way to combat the drop off mentality.

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