Altar Serving "Class" - what to do


Hello All,

At my (former) parish, there is a Catholic grade school. When the students are in 4th grade, they begin to learn how to be altar servers. The current priest is not extremely invested in the kids, and I have been asked by the religion teacher to give the 5th graders a “review” on serving and in the future will probably be teaching the 4th graders.

Now she has given me a basic view of what she wants me to cover, but she told me I am free to say whatever I want, whether it is directly about altar serving, or just anything, even something like vocations. I will be formulating what to do/talk about, in the next 9 days before I do it, but I am posting for some further suggestions. My question, then, is what would you say to a group of 4th/5th graders who are either brand new or quite new to altar serving? a) about altar serving, and b) anything else related to Catholic liturgy and whatnot?

For those wondering, there are both boy and girl altar servers.


I would begin by teaching them basic movements, such as standing, sitting, kneeling, genuflecting TOGETHER. I would also cover where to hold one’s hands when standing, sitting, kneeling and genuflecting. All of these are important and frequently problematic. I would review body posture, including standing and sitting up straight, not fidgeting, eyes focused on the altar or wherever, not looking around, not having a sullen or boring expression on one’s face, etc. Grooming should be mentioned, such as clean face,hands, fingernails, etc. Any expectations for hair, footwear or anything else should be mentioned.

Mention how it is an honor to serve Holy Mass and other sacred functions, and how we must look as if we believe that while serving. Then I would teach them the two parts of the Mass, and give them a tour of the sanctuary and sacristy. Show them the vessels and other items that they will be handling, teaching at least some of the proper terminology. This should interest them, and then you can begin practicing specific movements and duties.


I am assuming you are teaching serving in the Ordinary Form of the Mass. With that in mind, here is a link to the first of many video’s available on the side bar of this lesson.

The problem today is that too many parishes are far too casual about this stuff which in turn can degrade the Mass.

Good luck.

  1. Altar Serving from a Byzantine Catholic viewpoint.

Saint Tarcisius, patron saint of acolytes, martyr of the Eucharist, pray for us!

Saint John.Bercanns, patron saint of altar servers, pray for us!




Your content seems right on the mark!
A few things that I notice, as a very curmudgeonly person:

  1. I think the servers forget that it is polite to cover their mouths when they yawn. Maybe remind them of that.

  2. Is it possible to ask their parents to buy them a pair of black dress shoes? And that the kids would actually wear them? Their colorful athletic sneakers never seem like the right match for their vestments. I suppose that’s too much to ask though…

  3. I think there are charming old-fashioned books about altar serving. Maybe there would be something helpful in there? If you look on amazon, it seems like there are books about altar serving. New and old.


This is great! My son just asked about being an altar server and I am going to tell him about these saints–thank you!


teach them to use the thurible/incense properly
the names of clerical vestments and places in a church.
to arrange the corporal, the purificator, the chalice, the pall, and the Missal on the altar,etc.


Thank you all very much for your responses so far - all good suggestions. Keep them coming!


You’re welcome.


How to Serve” by Dom Matthew Britt OSB is specific to the EF but I learned much about gestures, postures, how to incense, etc. from this book. It has helped me be a more reverent and graceful server.



We started serving about that time. We each got a red booklet with the Latin responses and the proper pronunciations, were given about a month to memorize them, and then each selected a mentor from the upper grades to partner with, practicing at each other’s homes when we could. The first serve would be with the partner and was for a complete week. This was back in the 50’s though and most walked to church, FWIW.


If you have them in the church, show them the proper way to vest, process in and out, ring the bells, how and when to light the candles. Also, if possible, let them practice serving; it’s great to have the priest for this, but it’s not necessary. If you have more than one priest in your parish, find out what their preferences are so you can instruct the servers. Good Luck!


Great suggestions, but don’t forget to teach the ‘why’ of things are being done. I think knowing why something is done a certain way can help one remember it, and even fall in love with the mystery even deeper, therefore perhaps drawing one closer to the vocation.


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