Engaging Our Little Ones in Service: It Is the Way

children packing food - photo by Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/DigitalVision/Getty Images

One of the first lessons we teach our children when they begin interacting with other children is to share. Even if something belongs to them, we encourage them to share with others. To borrow a phrase from The Mandalorian: “This is the way.”

Indeed, sharing with others is integral to “the way” of Christian life. We call this way of living stewardship—the sharing of our time, talent, and treasure with others. I would contend that, in our faith formation efforts, we need to do a much better job of apprenticing those we teach into this way of life.

In recent decades, there has been an increased emphasis on engaging young people in service experiences as part of Confirmation preparation. While this is laudatory and a good first step, it is not enough. We need to be apprenticing all of our faith formation participants in experiences of service and works of mercy, starting with our very youngest children and extending through to our adults engaged in the RCIA and all forms of adult faith enrichment. This is not an “add-on” to our faith formation curriculum. It is not an extracurricular activity for those interested or available. It is an integral part of the faith formation curriculum.

Our Protestant brothers and sisters are very effective at this, engaging children of every age in mission. There is no reason we should not be doing the same in our Catholic faith formation programs. While little children cannot volunteer in homeless shelters and soup kitchens, they are very capable of assembling supplies and resources that will be delivered by adults to those in need. As they work on assembling things like care packages for the homeless, we can and should be catechizing them about how Jesus taught us to share God’s abundance with others; how the saints did this; and how people all around us in our faith community are doing this.

Why? Because “it is the way.”

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 www.catechistsjourney.com.

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