Moving to a Family Catechesis Model

We human beings tend to be resistant to change. Our brains are wired in such a way as to take the path of least resistance, which means that the brain likes to develop habits and routines and stick with them. The longer we’ve been practicing a certain habit or behavior, the more difficult it is for the brain to change. When it comes to children’s faith formation, we have developed some practices and habits over many […]

Four Things to Remember When Choosing a Curriculum

Every couple of years in ministry I’ve had to discern if it is time to change our faith-formation curriculum. As a catechetical leader, I never want to change a program just for the sake of changing. Over the years, I have kept a few things in mind that help me decide if I’m choosing the right curriculum for the right reasons. 1. Remember the community. Deciding which curriculum program to use has great implications. Listen […]

Increasing Mass Attendance, Part Two

One of the biggest frustrations that catechists and Catholic school teachers have is the lack of Mass attendance of those they teach (and their families). Recently, I shared a story of a parish that made some significant, albeit short-lived, gains in Mass attendance—64% to be precise. That post has generated a lot of attention. First, thanks to the many folks who engaged in conversation at the end of that post. (Please take the time to […]

The Centrality of Evangelizing Households

Right before the holidays, I had the pleasure of enjoying a long, lazy lunch with my friend Tom Quinlan, Director of the Religious Education Office for the Diocese of Joliet and author of Excellence in Ministry: Best Practices for Successful Catechetical Leadership, part of the Effective Catechetical Leader series from Loyola Press and NCCL. Over a period of almost three hours, Tom and I chatted about a myriad of issues related to our shared passion—the catechetical […]

Collaboration Through a Reflection and Planning Day

Last spring, I observed a parish catechetical leader facilitate a marvelous reflection and planning day. Throughout the year this leader had carefully guided her catechists in preparing and teaching lessons appropriate to their grade. Yet while grade-level sessions were helpful, she realized that the mission to form students and families in faith would be better served if they examined their students’ faith formation along a continuum instead of in discrete grade levels. For example, given […]

Increasing Family Attendance at Mass: What Works?

Since buying a lake house in Wisconsin a year ago, my wife and I spend most weekends away from our home parish, Christ the King, in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. So, recently, when I attended Mass there, I was surprised that the crowd seemed bigger than usual. Sure enough, in the parish bulletin that week, the pastor, Fr. Larry Sullivan, wrote about what he was thankful for in 2017, and one of the top […]

Managing and Leading Catechists

When it comes to supervising catechists, it helps to make a clear distinction between managing them and leading them. Managing what your catechists do and how they perform their duties is important. To help them flourish, an effective catechetical leader helps them understand why they serve as catechists: to help bring about the Kingdom of God. To be honest, learning to balance management and leadership took years for me to figure out. But I am […]

Family2Family Advent Connections

Several years ago the faith community within which I ministered adopted the Advent theme “Taking Hope to Others” for our seasonal focus. The idea was to encourage members to find ways of living out the hope the Christ Child brings in real and practical ways. I pondered what this might look like for my religious education families and how busy suburban families could possibly find ways to “take hope to others.” I struggled, as many […]

Helping Parents Connect Faith and Daily Living

One of the saddest things I hear is when people explain that they don’t practice their Catholic faith because they don’t find a connection between it and daily living. I believe that it is the job of every catechist and every homilist to show how our faith connects with daily living. Too often, when we talk about getting parents more involved in their child’s faith formation, we jump to the fact that they don’t know […]

Family Catechesis, Adult Faith Formation, and Combatting the “Drop-Off” Mentality

Perhaps the biggest challenge that I hear catechetical leaders and catechists talk about is reaching the parents of children in religious education programs. Over the past half-century or so, the Church has done a very effective job of training parents to drop off their kids at religious education classes so that “we”—those involved in the parish catechetical program—can teach them the Catholic faith. Years ago, when families and communities reinforced Catholic values, teachings, and practices, […]

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