Gathering Activities

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? Page—Finding God Grade 7 includes a review page at the end of each chapter. Sometimes I use these as a pre-assessment before the session […]

The Power of Witness and Appropriate Self-Disclosure in Faith Formation

St. Paul VI once wrote, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” (Evangelii Nuntiandi) As someone who recently transitioned from youth minister to third-grade teacher at a Catholic school, I’ve been seeking a balance between my identities of witness and teacher in order to bring my students closer to Jesus. I have been on too many retreats where “witness […]

Incorporating Movement into Faith Formation Sessions

One of the young people in my group asked if we’d be moving around at all during the session. It hit me as a necessary reminder that I need to be intentional about incorporating movement into my sessions. While not every session has elements of movement that bodily-kinesthetic learners might appreciate, I try to include varied activities such as: Learning Stations—I’ve been incorporating sacraments learning stations into my classes for several years now, and last […]

Let’s Stop the Catechetical Pendulum from Swinging!

Recently, I came across an article in America Magazine that caught my eye: “How Can We Strengthen Faith Formation Classes?” The article by Becca Meagher and Claire Shea, both ministering at Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in St. Louis Park, MN, makes a compelling argument for a more relevant and creative approach to adolescent catechesis. Permit me to begin by thanking Meagher and Shea for their excellent contribution to the ongoing conversation about effective catechesis. Perhaps the […]

How to Build a Sense of Community in Your Learning Space

Every faith formation experience should strive to form community since we, as people formed in the image and likeness of a Triune God, are inherently communal. It is in community that we experience Christ and are formed in Christ. The National Directory for Catechesis reminds us that, “Catechesis prepares the Christian to live in community and to participate actively in the life and mission of the Church.” (20) In his book, The Intentional Christian Community […]

Accompaniment Requires Trust

One of the key phrases in our current conversations about evangelization and discipleship is what Pope Francis has described as the art of accompaniment. To accompany someone is to walk along with that person on his or her journey. It is important to recognize, however, that a prerequisite to accompaniment is trust! If someone is going to allow us to walk with him or her on the journey, that person needs to know, first and […]

Creative Approaches to Reading from a Textbook: Paired Interviews

Welcome to the fourth and final installment of my mini-series on creative approaches to reading from a textbook. As I noted in earlier posts, reading from a textbook is only one strategy in our entire arsenal of approaches, albeit a significant one since we are a Church of Tradition, which must be faithfully transmitted. In this post, we explore a strategy known as “paired interviews,” a strategy which is very effective for interpersonal learners, who […]

Creative Approaches to Reading from a Textbook: Graphic Organizers

Welcome to part three of a four-part series on creative approaches to reading from a textbook in your faith formation sessions. In this series, I am sharing with you some creative ideas for reading from a textbook that make it, not only more engaging, but also more effective. The third approach I offer is known as a “Graphic Organizer.” Graphic Organizers A graphic organizer is a worksheet that is given to participants to help them visualize, identify, organize, and […]

Creative Approaches to Reading from a Textbook: Listen to the Sound of My Voice

Welcome to part two of a four-part series on creative approaches to reading from a textbook in your faith formation sessions. As I mentioned in part one, I have always been an advocate of teaching “beyond the book,” which means that we use the book as a critical resource but not as the be-all-and-end-all of a faith formation session. Since it is our job as catechists to present Catholic teachings fully and faithfully, we rely on […]

Engaging in Dialogue with Your Students

“I know why many religious education programs at parishes are struggling and yet why youth ministry is growing in some of those same parishes,” my friend Sarah said to me one day at a coffee shop. “I’m sure that some of these parishes have various factors involved,” she continued, “but I have found a common issue in my 12 years of being a youth minister. It’s pretty simple too.” I urged her to tell me […]

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