Three-Dimensional Formation of Catechists

The Wai’anae and Ko’olau volcanic mountain ranges flank the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Miles of scenic hiking trails wind through their ancient forests and majestic peaks. Some trails are easy and child-friendly, others steep and strenuous. One trail in particular requires great stamina to conquer: the Koko Head Crater Steps. The stairs (pictured above) are remnants of railroad ties from the World War II era, built to haul munitions to the crater’s 1,200-foot summit. It’s […]

Active Learning That “Sticks”

I’ve always been a proponent of active learning—making sure that learners are actively involved in the process of accessing new information—and I’ve written about this here previously. Now, let me give you a specific example that I find very effective. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved stickers! Who doesn’t? I know that my wife and I found stickers to be one of the best ways of keeping our kids occupied on car rides. […]

How to Prepare for Class

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success,” said Alexander Graham Bell—and so says any catechist who wants to be effective. But how do we prepare for class, especially when we might have just a few minutes before each session? I’m not talking here about planning the session in terms of what to teach and what techniques to use, but the immediate preparation on class day before the young people arrive. Here are five […]

Sacramental Preparation Should Rely on a Language of Mystery

When my mom was 13 years old and unbaptized, she hung around with her best friend Ramona who, like the rest of her family, was a practicing Catholic. Once, when my mom went with Ramona’s family to Sunday Mass, she observed them all go up to receive Communion and come back to their places to kneel in prayer with a look of joyful contentment on their faces. After Mass, my mom asked Ramona’s mother, “What […]

Four Ways to Meet Them Where They Are

By now we’re all settling into our routines for the year and getting to know our students. Inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola, who advised “meeting them where they are” as the starting point for conversation, I’m wondering, do we meet them where they are? In order to take this Ignatian approach, we need to get to know them. Beyond playing a few get-to-know-you name games, which have their place, how do we go deeper […]

What Exactly Is Apprenticeship in Faith Formation?

Years ago, it was common for a young person to learn a trade by being apprenticed by someone who was a “master” in that trade. Twenty years ago, the General Directory for Catechesis (#67) created some excitement by declaring that faith formation was to be an apprenticeship. So just what does it mean to apprentice someone into the Catholic faith? To answer that, let’s look at the essentials of an apprenticeship: The goal of an […]

Paired Interviews

A few weeks ago, I shared some tips on how to shine the spotlight on those we teach by shifting the focus away from ourselves. As you continue to practice ways of requiring students to take responsibility for their learning, here’s an idea that helps, called the Paired Interview. If you have a rather large chunk of text to cover in your textbook, divide the class into two groups and have group one read independently […]

Four Ideas for Setting Up the Classroom Environment as Sacred Space

Setting up a prayer center in the faith-formation classroom is a key element in establishing an environment of prayer. The visual reminders of our Catholic faith invite young people to remember to quiet themselves in the presence of the holy. While we all know that God is everywhere and we can pray at any time, a dedicated prayer center is a special place where young people can gather in the presence of God. But beyond […]

Kids Need Transition

For many kids, faith formation feels like just one more thing on their busy schedules. They hurry through their school day shuffling from class to class, race to extracurricular activities, squeeze in a meal (often fast-food), and get dropped off at religious education classes, where they are usually met with a flurry of announcements and activity. And here we are, as catechists, trying to get them to suddenly come face-to-face with the issue of their […]

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