Most people consider Labor Day as the official end to summer even though the calendar shows the first day of Fall isn’t until the last week of the month. It’s also the time for Catechist to start planning the lesson plans for their classes. At last year’s Religious Education Congress hearing Bishop Barron say that the average age of disaffiliation is thirteen really resonated for me. It sparked really thoughtful prayer for me about how I could share my Church Social Tips to provide catechist with tools to share with kids that could spark life long spiritual habits.
Every year a Sunday Mass is designated Catechetical Sunday this year it’s the 15th of September and the theme is “Stay With Us”. Such a perfect theme for the challenge of creating faith formation that anchors young people beyond the teenage years. The USCCB has a great three part four minute video series to help provide some insight into the best way to engage the young people we are catechizing. The series underscores three important strategies.
Commitment to understanding who they are and focusing on getting to know them.
Cultivating a mindset of curiosity over defensiveness.
Listening to understand as opposed to Listening to fix.
Engage them by inviting them to showcase their knowledge of technology in creating videos, social media posts or even gaming skills to illustrate what they are learning. You don’t have to know how these tools work just evaluate their projects on their merits.
Share the Saints with them and for this month they are: St. Gregory the Great(September 3), Birth of Mary (September 8), St. Peter Claver (September 9), Holy Name of Mary (September 12), St. John Chrysostom ( September 13), Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14), Our Lady of Sorrows(September 15), Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian (September 16),St. Robert Bellarmine (September 17), St. Januarius (September 19), St. Andrew Kim and Companions (September 20), St. Matthew (September 21), Sts. Cosmas and Damian (September 26), St. Pio (September 23), St. Vincent de Paul (September 27), Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (September 29) and St. Jerome (September 30).
Then challenge them to share how they will live the qualities of the saint they choose for their confirmation name in the form of a vlog on You Tube, story on Instagram or Facebook or maybe a Tik Tok. Instead of asking kids openly questions use tools like mentimeter.com or kahoot.com where they can answer your questions using their phones. This way they are anonymous in responding to questions and can answer without fear of someone making fun of them.
Connect issues that affect young people as a part of your catechesis.
This month is Suicide Prevention Month and with recent numbers showing the rates for teen suicide is on the rise.Even more tragically, we also see this trend in the rate of teenage suicide, which is rising for both sexes in the US and the UK. The suicide rate is up 34% for teenage boys in the US (in 2016, compared with the average rate from 2006-2010). For girls, it is up an astonishing 82%.
-National Review March 2019
Share St. Dymphna and the concept of having an intercessor to turn to in times of trial or challenges with anxiety and depression. The book “Bruised and Wounded:Struggling to Understand Suicide” by Ronald Rolheiser illuminates the impact of the insidious nature of this trend. Introduce the element of Ignatian Spirituality and meditative prayer practices as a way to calm their anxiety. The Hallow App is an awesome tool that allows you to just play Lectio Divina or Taize to your session.
Look for ways to attach a little gamification to sessions and Mass attendance. This is an easy way to meet kids where they are. Many kids also need to know what happens behind the scenes. Allow them to learn about being a sacristan, altar society, Knights of Columbus, liturgy design, how is the Eucharist made and so many other things.
Have your pastor, associate priest and or nuns share the story of their calling to religious vocations as a session. Have them connect how their vocation helps them to be the change in the world that they may want to see.Community activism is very important to young people and giving them the opportunity to serve in a ministry is a great way to plant a seed that will grow into a tree of faith.
Lastly, assign them a mode of daily devotion that allows them to tap into spirituality on a daily basis.
There are many online and app based choices that you can share. We can no longer just follow a guide or workbook once a week and expect that it is enough to embed a life long connection with our faith, just because it worked for previous generations. Share your ideas about how you are doing catechesis well and success stories of how graduates are practicing Catholics in adulthood.