It’s Never Too Early for Apprenticing Young Children

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

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of apprenticing others into discipleship. Since then, I’ve been asked, “Is it possible to apprentice young children into discipleship, or does this apply only to teens and adults?” Without hesitation, I would say that yes, we are called to apprentice young children at the earliest possible age! So, what does this look like?

By way of quick review, an apprenticeship involves the following: the mentor and apprentice working closely together; hands-on work; learning knowledge and skills; on-the-job training; guidance, encouragement, correction, and constructive feedback; and the sharing of personal wisdom, tips, strategies, approaches, experiences, stories, insights, mistakes, and successes.

All of these things can and should be present when working with young children. I find that, when my wife and I spend time with our grandchildren, all four below the age of five, a good deal of that time is spent showing them how to do something. One of the questions they ask most when they are with us is, “Can I do that?” And so, when we are cooking, cleaning, fixing things, feeding the fish, cutting the grass, or typing on a computer in their presence, the kids want to be a part of it in some way, shape, or form.

Ultimately, discipleship is about thinking, speaking, and acting differently in imitation of Christ. Catechists of young children are definitely apprenticing young children by teaching them to think, speak, and act as disciples of Christ. In addition to teaching young children knowledge of the faith, catechists apprentice them in:

  • how to pray the Sign of the Cross, genuflect, bow, show reverence, recite prayers, sing hymns, pray the Rosary, and participate at Mass.
  • wearing scapulars, praying novenas, and celebrating seasons and feasts.
  • participating in corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Young children may not be able to go to serve in a soup kitchen, food pantry, or homeless shelter, but they can participate in preparing care packages for people who are experiencing hunger or homelessness.
  • practicing stewardship (sharing!).
  • imitating the saints, who imitate Christ.
  • practicing virtues.
  • reading the Bible (Bible stories).

…just to name a few!

Young children are naturally curious, and they want to participate in most everything and anything they see others doing. As catechists, we can and should make the most of this time of natural curiosity and desire to participate by showing them how to think, speak, and act differently as disciples of Christ!

What are some of the other ways that catechists apprentice young children? Share your insights in the Leave a Reply box below.

About Joe Paprocki 2736 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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