Children ask a lot of pointed and profound questions about God that can be difficult for us to answer. Right up there with the question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” has to be the question “What’s your story of faith?” or “Why do you believe in God?” While our students might not ask such questions using exactly these words, they will often try to ferret out from us why we believe what we do and why our faith is important to us. Caught off guard when asked these questions, we often miss the opportunity to witness to our own story of faith. We also lose the potential for the moments of evangelizing catechesis that come naturally when we explain the reasons why we believe.
As catechetical leaders and catechists, being able to share our story is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to our students. Not only will it help them become better witnesses, it will also connect them to the universal Christian story in a much more personal and inviting way. Sharing our own stories—a spiritual “show and tell”—models for our students the value of passing along the faith.
Here are some suggestions to help you share your story of faith. Using the following questions as a starting point, jot down any thoughts or feelings that are significant for you. Initially you might find this process difficult, so beginning with a simple prayer of your choosing will help to focus and direct you as you sift through your memories. After reviewing your experiences and sharing your story a couple of times, you will find it much easier to condense and to know which aspects of your story resonate with others.
- As a child when did you first feel a sense of the sacred in your life? Perhaps it was your First Communion day, at a special Mass, or at Christmas time. Start with that moment and ponder why it touched your life so much and has stayed with you.
- What experience as an adult most shaped your understanding of your faith? What was it about this experience that changed you? How were you different before this moment? How were you different afterward?
- If you could describe your faith journey in three words, what would those words be and why?
- What is your favorite Scripture or quote and why? How does it relate to your story?
Using these questions as a guide, tell a simple and quick story which you can readily share with your students in class, and focus your entire lesson on sharing your stories. Adapt the questions for your grade level and focus your lesson on the use of story-telling in the Bible. Highlight one or two parables that will speak to your students’ hearts and minds (for example, the parable of the mustard seed, the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price). Encourage your students to share their own stories of faith with their parents, friends, and family members. You will find that children naturally are excited to share their stories with others and this is a great way to evangelize.
Recognizing that we all teach and witness to each other in the shadow of the greatest teacher and witness of all, our Lord Jesus Christ, is a lesson that will stay with our students for life. So start sharing!
Julianne, thanks for the encouragement we all need to share our stories of faith! I believe this is what the New Evangelization is calling us to do: not just teach the Catechism in new and exciting ways, but to bring faith to life by telling our stories. Young people especially benefit from hearing about our struggles, challenges, and joys.
I think that sharing your story of faith and helping others to identify and share their stories of faith is one of the keys to the New Evangelization. Not only does it bring the kergyma alive but it helps to and personalize your encounter with Christ. A catechist inservice or retreat based around this topic would be a wonderful addition to your catechetical year.