Keep teens engaged the whole time
How would you like to get your teens to actually pay attention during your Confirmation prep program?
Not just some of the time.
Not just during the “interesting” sessions.
The whole year long. Day 1 to your last day.
In this post, we’re going to show you how to structure what it is you teach your Confirmation prep teens so that they’ll pay attention and stay engaged throughout the whole program.
Not only that though…
Understand the Key Paradigm Shift
There is one key shift in the way you present your program that will make a huge difference in their interest.
When you do this, your Confirmation prep goes from being “just another subject” they learn about on a given day to something so compelling they can’t help but sit up and pay attention.
We’ll walk you through this shift below.
But we’ll also show you even more.
Keep them Catholic after Confirmation
Would you like to understand how we can help more of your candidates hold onto their faith after Confirmation?
You’ll see them not just “get” the faith during your program. They’ll have what they need to fight back when the world tries to undermine that faith.
Imagine seeing your candidates living joyfully Catholic lives throughout their teens and twenties.
This post is going to cover all these things.
It’s important because, for many people working in Confirmation prep, this just isn’t what they’re used to seeing.
Is Any of This Going In?
Typically, what we hear from parishes is that they struggle to keep their candidates’ attention.
Their candidates are on their phones or zoning out (when they show up for class at all).
As their catechist, this can be incredibly frustrating. It leaves you wondering if they’re hearing anything you’re saying at all.
Math, History, Spanish … Religion
While you may be frustrated by teens not paying attention, you are also trying to cover everything the USCCB asks you to cover.
And it’s kind of a lot.
You need to keep moving and keep teaching. Somewhere in all of that, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees.
That can leave you in a place where your Confirmation prep program feels like just another subject your candidates “learn” about … for them AND for you.
From “Sealed in the Spirit” to “Fallen Away”
Another disheartening challenge we can experience is the pain of watching our candidates lose their faith after Confirmation.
We spend an entire year (or two!) walking with them and sharing the faith with them, hoping it will catch hold.
But then after they receive the sacrament, they go off to college and we see the world confuse them and deceive them about who the Church is and what it teaches.
But don’t lose heart. In this post, we’re going to give you tools to fight back.
Before we do, we want to point out a couple of traps to avoid as we proceed.
Don’t Assume Too Much
You need to start at the beginning.
It’s tempting to think that these candidates (many of whom have been through four to seven years of religious education at this point) are already familiar with the faith.
It simply isn’t true.
We often hear from DREs and catechists around the country who are mystified to find that their graduating eighth graders still can’t tell them about more than a few stories in the Bible.
The best way to proceed is to start from the very beginning. Cover the fundamentals.
This will provide an opportunity for those candidates who need to begin there to get up to speed.
And for your more knowledgeable candidates, it will serve as a helpful refresher.
This brings us to our second pitfall to avoid.
You Are Not Your Audience
A lot of catechists leading Confirmation prep sessions fall into the trap of thinking that they are their audience.
They think that just because they find some aspect of the faith interesting (devotions, saints, spiritualities, etc.), then so will their candidates.
This is a mistake. How we present the faith needs to be tailored to our candidates.
They are our audience. We need to be presenting the faith to them based on their interests, their needs, their desires.
All too often in the past, we’ve failed to do this, and it’s led us to where we are today.
Don’t Call It a Crisis
We’re not looking to be fearmongers. Our goal isn’t to scare you.
But there does seem to be a lack of urgency.
Time and time again, we hear about how young people are leaving the Church.
We see the numbers and they are bad. And they are getting worse.
We’re riding in our canoes, languidly paddling as the roar of the coming waterfall grows louder.
We need to act. We need to change.
One thing we can do is look at how we approach what we teach in Confirmation prep.
Does it lead candidates to a relationship with Christ?
If yours doesn’t yet, don’t worry.
We’re going to show you how right now.
Step 1 – Prepare the Soil
When we begin Confirmation prep, we need to start at the very beginning. This way, we meet everyone where they are.
We don’t begin with doctrines and dogmas. We begin with the candidates as human beings.
Some call it “pre-evangelization.” What it means is that we start out by showing them that we understand their deepest questions about themselves:
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
All of us have a fundamental need to be understood and cared about.
When we show our candidates that we understand and care about them, it gets them to care about what we’re saying afterward.
This step is so important and so foundational. If you skip this step, your candidates won’t even know why they should care about any of this in the first place.
Step 2 – Plant the Seed
Now that you’ve gotten your candidates to buy into your program by promising to satisfy the deepest longings of their hearts, it’s time to move to the next step.
Here we introduce them to the initial proclamation of the Gospel: the kerygma.
This is the same message that the apostles shared after Christ ascended into heaven.
It’s the message that won thousands of souls. And it’s the message that the Holy Spirit blesses.
The basic four-part kerygma goes like this:
- God loves you and has a plan for your life.
- Sin has interfered with that plan.
- God sent his son Jesus to conquer sin.
- So if you reorient your life to Christ you can enjoy eternal life.
To nail this, make sure you make it clear what you’re inviting your candidates into.
It isn’t about “graduating” from religious education.
It isn’t about a “rite of passage” into adulthood.
Jesus is offering them an invitation to become his disciples and be in a personal relationship with him.
They need to choose how they will respond.
If you skip this step, your candidates may become confused about why they come to Confirmation prep in the first place.
Is it just another class like history or math? Of course not. But unless you are careful to get this step right, they’ll often lump this in with the rest of their schoolwork.
Step 3 – Offer Water and Sunlight
After you’ve done this much to bring your candidates along in their appreciation for the Faith, you don’t want to see their faith choked by the world’s misconceptions about Catholicism, do you?
That is why this third step is so critical. With the groundwork laid, now it is time to catechize your candidates.
It’s important to notice that this is step 3, not step 1. Sometimes, in our excitement to share the faith, we can jump right to this.
But that is a mistake. It would be like offering water and sunlight to untilled soil with no seeds in it.
We need to make sure we bring our candidates along in a way that respects where they are in this process.
When they have reached this step, then a good, thorough catechesis that shares the full richness of the Catholic faith will protect your candidates’ faith from being undermined by the misconceptions and misunderstandings they’ll hear about Catholicism.
Without this step, they might believe it when they hear that faith and reason are opposed to one another.
Instead, your candidates will have the solid foundation of the Church’s rigorous intellectual tradition to stand on.
Take This and Run with It
Now that you have a clearer understanding of how to structure your Confirmation prep program, bring it to your candidates.
We’ve been given such a remarkable mission by Christ to bring his Gospel to the world.
That can begin in your Confirmation prep meeting room.
If you’d like more help with your Confirmation prep, check out Chosen: Your Journey to Confirmation.
The entire program is built on the structure we’ve laid out here, so you can be sure it’s incredibly effective.
It keeps your candidates engaged and excites them about their faith while helping make your job as the leader easier.
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