31 days to becoming a better religious educatorJared Dees has just written a book entitled: 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator.  I had the opportunity to review it and enjoyed it very much.  He has been generous and given a glimpse below from his book.  Enjoy!

How and Why We Pray for Our Students

 

Be honest, how often do you pray for your individual students as a religious educator? I don’t mean a general intention like, “Lord, bless my class.” I mean, how often do you offer the specific needs, dreams, and desires of individual students to God during prayer? I know I don’t do this enough, but it is a hugely important practice to incorporate into your daily or weekly prayer life.

 

As religious educators, we’re called not only to be leaders for our students, but more importantly, we’re called to be their servants. One way in which we can serve our students is to pray for them. It is all about the way we think about our role. If we look at ourselves like kings expecting our students to listen and obey our every bidding, then we will fail. Pope Benedict XVI described Jesus’ role as king in this way:

 

“As king he is servant, and as servant of God he is king” (Introduction to Christianity, 220).

 

We’re called to be servants. So even when the kids drive you crazy, remember we’re supposed to pray for everyone, even our enemies. “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:45).

 

How to Pray for Our Students

 

So, how should we pray for our students with a servant’s heart? Try the following approaches:

 

1. Pray for students individually. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Pray for each student one person at a time. Go deeper into prayer for them. Think quality not quantity.

 

2. Use a seating chart or an attendance sheet. It is hard to naturally remember each student in prayer. Try using a seating chart or attendance sheet and check off the names as you pray.

 

3. Spread students out over a one-week or a one-month period. Pray for them all, but try praying for each person in groups of three or four students at a time and rotate through the list.

 

4. Ask them about their needs. When they offer something during in-class prayer intentions, take note of it. Repeat the prayer in your personal prayer time. Or ask them in a conversation what they have going on in their lives right now. It is a great way to get to know the students better and to know what God can do for them in their lives.

 

5. Get help from the saints. Turn to the saints and Mary to intercede on their behalf. Do you know any patron saints that connect with their needs? Ask for their prayers. By default, turn to Mary, Christ’s first teacher, to intercede on behalf of your students.

 

6. Close with an Our Father. We are united in this prayer as one family. He is the Father for you, me, and all of our students. That is why we pray for each other. We’re in a family together and we need each other’s help.

 

This article is adapted from “Day 13: Pray for Your Students” in 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator now available at Amazon.com and AveMariaPress.com

 

Jared Dees is the creator of The Religion Teacher, a website sharing practical resources and teaching strategies for religious educators, and the author of 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator


Do you have Confirmation in the 8th grade?  Do the students in your program want to attend class each week or do you see that they are less than excited?  Last year we began a new program that we entitled S&L (Spirit & Life).  We promoted it as a Confirmation experience for all 8th graders – both our School of Religion students and our Catholic School students.

Here what we did: Our School of Religion/Religious Ed. office have teamed up with the youth ministers to create an out of the classroom experience.  It is more of a group gathering model.  We knew if we could help teens grow in their faith in a way that was not the traditional classroom model we would have a better chance of engaging them in their faith and fostering in them a desire to stay involved long after the 8th grade year.

Our Format on a given Sunday goes more or less like this:

~ Gather in the Gym where many adult mentors are around greeting them, talking with them and playing basketball, frisbee, & hacky sack.

~ We begin usually with an icebreaker/activity.

~ We move into the Youth Room and either show a video, have some kind of skit/role-play and intro to the topic of the night.

~ Usually one of our youth ministers shares something about the topic and gives some thoughts about it.

~ Then we break everyone up into small groups to explore further the topic of the night.

~ Finally, we gather in the Youth Room to de-brief and encourage them to live their faith.  We often have something that we give them to remind them of the night – a bookmark, a sticker that they put on their shoe (I will follow Christ), etc…

The feedback we received last year and so far this year is very positive.  Almost all the students prefer this format to the classroom model.  This year we asked all the parents and students to attend on the first night where we gave everyone a glimpse of what we do and what our vision was.  That too was well received and really helped give parents an insight to it all.

 

What are you doing in your program that is helping your Confirmation candidates want to stay involved even after Confirmation?


So Far So Good

Almost 2 months have passed since our Year I Confirmation students have been encountering a new curriculum on the major events of Salvation History.  This curriculum that we have created seeks to not only convey the major events of Salvation History, especially through the 6 major covenants, but also aims to engage 7th graders in a fresh way.  Students rotate classes approximately every 30 minutes.

Today’s Topic

During the first 30 to 40  minutes students review the lesson from the week before and then the current lesson not only shares about that particular covenant we are talking about but it also answers the homework questions that were given to them the week before. The hope is that they will have read and reflected on the Scripture that speaks about the covenant we will be focusing on that particular class period.

Practical Application

Next students build on what they are learning by going to 30 minutes of what we call “practical application”.  For example, last night each class (we have 6 Year I classes) discussed God’s covenant with Abraham, His Call, and his journey.  After about 35 minutes discussing this covenant students switched classes and went to “practical application” where they discussed how we are “maxed out” in our lives and so busy with noise and activity that we don’t hear God.  The question they explored is does God still speak to His people like He spoke to Abraham?  Students were broken up into groups and given a skit they had to perform.  Skit #1 was entitled: “Constant noise – never even noticing God”, skit #2 was entitled: “No time – too many important things to do – doesn’t stop for, recognize, or make time for God”.  Skit #3 was entitled: “We do all the talking – Too busy talking to every listen”. These skits were followed up by some questions.

Spotlight

During the last 30 minutes students switched to spotlight and encountered a great video about Abraham and Isaac.  The video was 17 minutes and very powerful.  There were also discussion questions that followed the video.

At the end of each class we encourage catechist to do a brief review and go over what their assignment is for next week’s class.  Finally, we ask the catechists to close in prayer.

What We Are Hearing

We are getting great feedback about this format and how students are engaged and really talking and interacting.  Catechists are really enjoying this format and there is a great vibe from them about how things are going.  Praise God for these blessings!

P.S. We have 6 classes and each class has a “team class” which means when it’s time to switch the students for example in Class 1 go to their team class, 2 and class 2 goes to into class 1.  So when one group is covering practical application the other is covering spotlight and then after 30 minutes they switch and experience the section they have not covered yet.  I hope that makes sense.  I thought it might sound a little confusing if I articulated it up above.