Gathering Activities

girl pointing pencil toward other students

Grabbing the attention of young people can be challenging when they go straight to their classrooms after being dropped off. With young people arriving in staggered fashion, straggling in one at a time, we need to have something for them to do as they arrive. Enter the gathering activity.

What’s What? PageFinding God Grade 7 includes a review page at the end of each chapter. Sometimes I use these as a pre-assessment before the session to help the young people start to think about themes we’ll cover once the session begins. This works best when the chapter covers material more familiar to the young people from previous years.

Activity sheet—Worksheets of various sorts can be great gathering activities. Crossword puzzles, coded phrases, or word searches all work to get the young people thinking about something we’ll cover that evening in a way that most enjoy. One activity sheet I’ve used includes a maze with the deadly sins. The instructions call for young people to find the definitions of each term and write those down before doing the maze, which leads the young people away from the sins. Of course, the maze gets a lot more attention than do the definitions, but for a gathering activity, it’s OK if the students follow the tangent; they’ll get the meat of the lesson once we delve into class.

Question—Often I write a question on the board and invite the young people to think about their answers. By writing it for all to see, I don’t have to repeat it with each arrival, but I do like to repeat it after every few students sit down to call their attention to the question. I say the question will “get their brains moving” so we can get started. After opening prayer, I’ll discuss the question with the young people as our lead-in activity to the rest of the session.

Game—I haven’t used this technique much but plan to try it in my next session. I’ll provide copies of the Sacraments Matching Game and pair up the young people as they arrive to play a round or two as their classmates gather. This should be a fun activity for those who come to faith formation a few minutes early. Because of its nature as a gathering activity, a simple game that’s appropriate for younger children works just fine—little explanation needed for independent play but thematically relevant.

When the bell rings, I’m ready to welcome the young people and call them to prayer with them already having a hint in their minds as to the day’s theme. Gathering activities have been effective for my groups. What successes have you had with gathering activities?

The Blackline Masters (worksheets) provided with the Finding God and Christ Our Life programs are often good sources for gathering activities.

About Denise Gorss 115 Articles
Denise Gorss is a catechist with more than 20 years experience, mostly in junior high. She appreciates the gifts of Ignatian spirituality and likes sharing various types of prayer with the young people in her groups. She enjoys seeing the world on pilgrimages and lives in the Chicago area, where she works as Web Editor at Loyola Press.


  1. For our K-2nd graders, I use Children’s Worship Bulletins. These are blackline puzzles related to the Gospel for the coming Sunday. The children then hear the Gospel during prayer, and become familiar with it prior to attending Mass. For Grades 3, 4, and 5, I put a sticky note on the attendance folder, with a journal question on it, for the teacher to put on the board. Each child has a journal that they bring to class each week in their folder. The question usually relates to the topics they are discussing. They are given time to reflect, pray, and write their answer to God.

  2. In previous years, prior to our Family Faith Formation program, we met on Wed evening and all grades gathered in the church to begin our time together. The parents were welcomed and encouraged to join us for our opening prayer. We met for approximately 15 mins each time and gave announcements, reached out for volunteers for different things going on, discussed the saint of the day and the liturgical season. Our prayer was always different, and if there was story behind it or a bit of catechizing that could be done in regards to it, that was shared as well. We began on time, but it was a nice transition for those who hadn’t arrived on time. It was a very nice moment for us all to be together.

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