Helping Young People See a Path by Setting Goals

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I have long-argued that one of the problems with how we form people in faith is that we don’t present Catholicism as a “spiritual path.” Too often, we present it as a set of doctrines to adhere to or simply a way of belonging to a group of like-minded people. This explains why so many young people end up being attracted by New Age movements or Eastern religions that present themselves as a spiritual path toward some type of fulfillment.

A spiritual path has a goal and stepping stones. One of the ways we can assist those we teach to recognize Catholicism as a spiritual path is to help them set goals. A good example of this in action in the secular world can be found in Scouting’s merit badges: Scouts have opportunities to identify areas of interest and then to set goals to achieve knowledge and skills as they work with a merit badge counselor (a mentor) to help them achieve their goals.

Discipleship is a way of life—a path toward a deeper relationship with God through Jesus Christ—that is characterized by specific behaviors. In faith formation, we can help young people to recognize these behaviors or habits as stepping stones to a deepening relationship with God and then assist them in setting goals to achieve them. We can encourage young people to keep a journal in which they track their progress through the year and write thoughts about their experiences.

Here are a few discipleship behaviors that I might include for intermediate-aged children. What other habits would you suggest?

With God’s grace, I hope to achieve the following goal(s) this year in my quest to live as a disciple of Jesus:

  • Begin and end my day with prayer.
  • Learn to pray the Daily Examen or lectio divina.
  • Recall from memory the Ten Commandments.
  • Practice an act of kindness each day.
  • Pray grace before every meal, even in public places.
  • Wear a scapular or some other symbol of faith, and be prepared to talk about it.
  • Identify a virtue, and work to put it into practice regularly.
  • Integrate principles of Catholic Social Teaching into everyday life.
  • Attend Sunday Mass regularly.
  • Become involved in an ongoing service activity at my school or parish.
  • Go out of my way at least once per week to reach out to someone who’s hurting.
  • Participate in a liturgical ministry, such as altar servers.
  • Read and pray with Scripture regularly.
  • Recall from memory the Act of Contrition (or another prayer _______ ).
  • Learn to pray the Rosary.
  • Begin recycling at home.

Add your suggestions for discipleship goals through the Leave a Reply feature below.

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

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