How to catechize a middle-schooler?

My middle school son needs to learn his faith more deeply. He had a good start a few years ago, but with all the changes in our lives, and the lack of CCD programs in local churches that are worth the time and exposure.

I’ll explain: I have seen books from one faithful parish. They seem boring to me, like bland watered-down Catholicism. I asked another faithful parish about their CCD books, and was told that the books are all chosen by our diocese, not the local parish. Our diocese is known for really watered-down Catholicism. (Rochester, NY). Furthermore, one neighbor went through CCD straight thru 5th grade, and when my son told him he was going to Confession at our church down the block, he said, “What is Confession?” This was enough to make me say: "I am not wasting my time on that. I’ll homeschool "

Trouble is I haven’t, and I need some direction. I could read him a good book. I’d like him to develop an awe and undersatnding of the Mass. I have Love and Life series we have started, but don’t want to do this one everyday. I’d love to hear reccomendations. Thanks.

I’ll start off by saying that the Faith and Life series is pure orthodox Catholicism. The text for 7th and 8th grades is (deliberately, according to the textbook) a little above their reading level, and (according to me) a little on the dry side. But if you supplement it with your own explanations and educational games, it makes a good text to work from in teaching the faith.

I’ll finish by saying that, just because one child was unaware of what confession is, doesn’t mean the parish’s textbooks or even the whole CCD program is inadequate. It simply means that that particular child did not learn what he should know – which could easily be a result of the attitudes in that particular family, i.e., learning and practicing the faith is not important. I teach 7th & 8th grade CCD and I can tell you that what one kid learns, for another it goes in one ear and out the other.

In my opinion, parents should not be so quick to home-school. Group discussion, group service projects, and peer interaction and comaraderie in the faith are all important in faith development. Parents are free to supplement the CCD classes with home instruction. Get ahold of the text and the teacher’s lesson plans and expand upon at home what is being covered in class.

Why not volunteer to teach in the CCD program. They are always looking for good volunteers and if you are motivated to teach your son, you can spread the joy to 15 or 20 others at the same time. You will find it very rewarding and educational. Nothing will motivate you to learn your faith better than recognizing that you need to know it well enough to teach it. Plus, it will force you into a rythm that will make sure you actually teach your son. They will give you everything you need. And I’m sure you will do a good job.

I’m sure this isn’t what you were looking to hear, but sometimes these things come for a reason. Be part of the solution…

I can only offer our personal experience: we read the Gospels each day with our children which was followed by very open discussion which tended to be based on a combination of the gospel passage, events in the news and events at school. This was followed by prayer. By the time we got through the four gospels I don’t think there was a major subject not discussed. We’d get out the Catechism generally half way through a discussion to see what the Church taught on a particular subject and then incorporate that into the remainder of the discussion.

And, of course, it never stops - we continually discuss things (and in our own house it’s OK for anyone to say they think the Church is wrong, but we’ll look to see why the Church teaches what it teaches and take the discussion from there). As they get older the main challenges for us come from atheism (I can understand that as I was an atheist for a long time) - and that is quite a different challenge (and a difficult one - I’m a believing Ph.D. scientist with 20 years experience of being an atheist and I still find it very challenging to rationally explain why I believe now but didn’t before).

Good luck! Most of all I would say just always try to keep the discussion going.


Would he have understood you if you had said that you were going to “reconciliation”?

To the best of my knowledge, children are not taught about “confession”, it is now referred to in most dioceses as “Rite of Reconciliation”. I don’t think the yongsters in my parish would know “confession”.

Hi Eliza,

I’ve been a catechist to 5th and 6th graders for 5 years. I have very fortunately been allowed by my DRE to use the St. Joseph’s Baltimore Catechism. For that age group I really don’t think I have seen a better catechism (imho) and I have examined a few. One method I adopted was to study Fulton Sheen’s catechism series (a section at a time) of 50 lessons (as well as Fr Corapi’s 50 part series) and use his method of explaining the faith to enhance the content from the Baltimore Catechism. This is very effective when coupled together.

An essential ingredient in imparting the faith to others is the degree to which the catechist (in this case you) enters into the faith, into to the life of Christ himself. This seems evident, but to the degree that we enter into the life of Christ through our own practice of attending mass, receiving the sacraments and having a deep devotional life, it is to the same degree that we become effective catechists.

God bless you in your efforts to impart the faith Eliza.

Just about any book on catechesis will help you both but it needs an application. Every grade level can be addressed if you begin with the churches calendar. In other words, the liturgical calendar.
Most families that I have seen who are really ready to live the “days between” all the Sundays and the major feasts seem to be the most successful. Right now we are in ordinary time and the color green is given to help us all to understand that it is a time of growth.
I know that seems too broad an answer however, you didn’t say how you currently apply what he has learned so far or how your family walks in a day to day way with being Catholic.

Amy Welborn’s “Prove It!” series would be be worth looking at.

The Didache Series for High Schoolers is wonderful!

Thank you so much for these replies! It gives me some much-needed direction.

The “Prove it!” series looks great. I am going to see about ordering online or locally. Also I will bookmark the Diache series for another year.

“Jpjd” mentioned the Faith and Life Series. Yes, this is a good one and I used the 4th grade and we never finished the 5th grade one. Jpjd, do you think that its okay to just jump in and do the 8th grade one?

Thanks also to Diane for her suggestion to put a focus on the Church calender. Good idea.

Ruben, I will look into Fulton Sheen’s catechism lessons. I wasn’t aware of them but they should certainly be teachable. I have a young child’s version of the Baltimore catechism wheihc we used when my son was in 2nd grade.

Michael your idea of gospel reading and using the catechism as a reference for areas of question is great. I tried reading him John Hardon’s but it would work much better as a reference for when we have a question. Thanks for the practical advice.

There is a time and a season for everything. I don’t feel called to try to be an “inside” parish worker under the direction of Diosean leadership I am in such disagreement with. .

I think such efforts would conflict with focus on my vocation as a mother, which has been handicapped by divorce and the wake of that. I am praying for new leadership in our diocese, or a miraculous conversion within the existing leadership. I do think that is being a big part of the solution.

My heart hurts for our diocese and our parishes, and for people I know and see who are affected by the years of bad teaching, leadership and example here. I cannot fix this but only try to be open to Gods prompting day by day of when I can be a help, particularly for individuals God puts in my path. But I never say “Thats not my problem” – I pray, and I know that that is a real contribution to the solution - even though it is not something that shows for others to see.

When I found out that the faithful priests at our parish were not allowed any input AT ALL into the text used for the text-driven CCD, and that they HAD to use the dull workbooks that our very problematic diosean officials chose, I decided it was not worth my time.

I see you say that class discussion is good, and you can supplement that at home.
But maybe you are not facing some of the time constraints I am. I work during the schoolyear, we now live with my mother who needs assisatance, and my childs life is broken up by the blocks of time (frequent weekends and some weeks) for court-ordered visitations (where faith is not imparted) and then there is homework and school activities during the schoolyear, and now counseling to help us adjust to all this mix. No one is here helping me manage any of the daily chores of life, or the driving, or helpng me impart the faith, or sharing my day with me.

The idea of committing to driving across town to a weekly class that has only a *fringe chance *of teaching the true Catholic faith - and in fact is in danger of instead teaching the falsehood that to be Catholic is this watered-down imitation - something I will have to unteach - seems CRAZY.

People need margins in their life. Time not rushing places all the time. I used to be a stay–at-home homeschooling Mom and I am now trying to make tiny spaces for a tiny little bit of that peace in a life that has very little room for that.

So remember that homeschooling CCD can be a good place for that focused parent-child interaction when there is so little time allowed for that in many lives today with the demands of school and work and custody arrangements. Hope that makes sense.

I just looked up Diache Series and its from Scott Hahn and we will be using it for High School! Thanks for the reccommend!

The intro begins: *“The past forty years have witnessed a serious malaise in the area of catechetics. The root of this crisis can be traced to the doctrinal confusion spurred by theological dissent in the years following the Second Vatican Council and the adoption of secular educational pedagogies that came into vogue in the sixties…” *

Yes, thats EXACTLY it! My diocese and the powers that be (of absolute power) that choose the curriculum here are rooted in Theological dissent, and our diocese is a clear example of the malaise of that. When I read the books the diocese chooses, its not only the watered down Catholicism that bores me, but the “secular educational pedagogies that came into vogue in the sixties” on which these books are formatted. I’m just way turned off.

If our Diocese started using Faith and Life, or Prove it, or Diache, the classes and the volunteers would grow steadily!!!

But they will not choose it. They are deeply mired in the 60s and 70s here, and those series conflict with their theology.

But that series is definately for us!

Now its a matter of what to do for 8th grade. (And whats left of the summer!)

I love the Faith and Life series also. It is what my parish uses. I also agree that there is great value in group activities because then children learn that our faith is not something singular to your family, but is truly shared by everyone in the parish. I would also strongly recommend that you volunteer to teach. You can then be sure your son learns what he needs to, but also that his friends learn the same things.

To keep your son close to the faith I also encourage you to have daily family prayers with everyone expressing their intentions. To participate in your parish or diocese special Masses and events. To pray regularly yourself and let your children know you do. Go to the church and pray in front of the tabernacle. Make a plan to get the entire family to confession once a month (you can’t make your children go in, but they should come with you anyway). Make sure your kids know the priests–stop to say hi and a few words with him after Mass, perhaps your son can be an altar server. If there is a youth group for middle-schoolers have him join.

If my parish allows the use of that I would certainly teach too! But its too Cathoic for this Diocese.

Good ideas, thanks. Youth group - Hope to give it another shot. We tried a good one at a parish in the next town where we used to live. But the kids had known each other for years, and the families knew each other, and I tried to get involved but it was hard and being a single Mom among intact families had something to do with it, probably, besides their all knowing each other. But the problem was the kids were not that welcoming of my son as a newbie; they already had formed their friendships and were enthusiastic to renew them in this new setting. After giving it a good shot over a good period of time, my son wanted out before there was time to break through these barriers. (I am sure they would have broken eventually). So he is a bit sour on youth groups. I hope to pray him into trying another one closer to where we live now sometime. But he said a firm NO to this when I tried earlier in the year.

It might not hurt to at least talk to the director of CCD at your parish. sometimes things aren’t as bleak at they might initially seem. Perhaps the director is also vey Catholic but has been having a hard time recruiting like minded catechists.

To skip a grade is to skip certain areas of learning; it’s not like all grades learn the same thing only more indepth – rather, every grade level covers a certain area. For example, in our parish, the 6th grade covers Old Testament (i.e., the main stories and how they forshadow the coming of Christ); 7th grade covers the sacraments and the concept of grace; 8th grade covers the Church (church hierarchy, church history, etc).

When you say that you never finished the 5th grade one, do you mean your son hasn’t gotten any religious instruction beyond 5th grade level? You could jump in at the 8th grade level, but that would mean missing teaching about the Old Testament and sacraments. Although any given year builds on the previous one, I would say teaching the 7th grade book is essential, i.e., don’t skip that one. There’s a lot of meat in that one: sacraments, grace, beatitudes, virtues, etc.

I can’t say I blame him. It’s excruciating for a kid to be solitary in a group where everyone else is friends and he doesn’t know any one of them. Of course, a good youth group would be very inclusive of all the kids and work hard to incorporate the one. I’m not sure what to recommend to you here – but I offer prayers that something works out for your son.

I wish you lots of blessings in your efforts !
One series that I do NOT recommend is the Faith First series by Benziger…

We are have been in a “discussion” regarding manna with this publisher.

According to the them, manna grows on a bush and that is what sustained the Israelites for 40 years in the desert.

Oh well… it was given an imprimateur…


I need some help as well!! I am eighteen years old and will be teaching our parish’s 6th grade CCD class - and I know your first thought is probably thatI’m way too young, but I recognize the need for this age level to be fed spritually. I helped with this group last year and they were bored with reading from the book and when they left they weren’t excited about their faith at all. Anyone know a way to relate to them and help them understand the importance of our faith and at the same time still giving them the Catholic teaching they really need?!

Melissa, in all fairness to you, I don’t think you’re ready to teach 6th graders! :eek: Teens in our parish are only allowed to assist catechists, not actually be a catechist. 6th graders tend to get bored WAY easily…this past year, we went through 3 (count them, 3!) catechists before we found one who could deal with the 6th graders! And the one who ended up sticking with them is a 65year old, easy going man who has raised several kids of his own. This is not to say that you couldn’t add to a class, but for a DRE (or for that matter, a PASTOR!) putting an 18 year old in charge of a 6th grade CCD class just gives more credence to the OP’s dilemma! It also underscores another poster’s comment on this forum to me several weeks back–that he remembers CCD being a place to play games & talk & not learn anything.

This is not always true. It depends on the 18 year old. We had an 18 year old teach 8th graders in our ccd program and he was excellent. He knew his faith and was very devout and is now in the seminary. Don’t be so quick to dismiss an 18 year old.

So, Melissa,
the trick to teaching anyone is to a) know the material and b) be enthusiastic about it yourself. Practically speaking, if they know you are serious about it and expect them to learn, you will be okay. But you need to make sure that they understand why you and they are there. It is to learn about their faith. It is not to play games. and it is not to be popular. I suspect if you are serious enough to want to take this on and make the effort to know the lessons well before you enter the class, you will do fine. And remember, if you get someone who is not cooperating, send them down to the office, otherwise they will take the whole class with them.

Just so you know, the easiest age for you would probably be 4th grade. They will not challenge your authority at that age. Once they reach 5th grade, they will be looking to expand their independence and will become more challenging and this continues to get more pronounced each year.

churchsecretary, you know I too would be concerned if an 18 year old was a catechist - unless when I helped last year I recognized the need that wasn’t obviously being met by those ten, twenty, and thirty years older than me. When 6th graders don’t know the basic elements of the faith - like the Sacraments or hardly any of the prayers - something needs to happen and when I helped last year reading solely from the book wasn’t doing it. Please don’t judge me before you know me - I didn’t really start learning our faith until the year of my Confirmation and it breaks my heart that kids aren’t loving their faith until that age and maybe not even then (including my twin sister who is helping me). Have all the doubts about me that you want, you are not the first and you are not the last - including the DRE at my parish. Granted, I don’t know everything nor will I pretend to. But I love my faith and my Church and I have no intention of doing it alone - with Christ all things are possible. It really saddens me that I see so many posts on here about wanting the youth to embrace their faith and then when we do and want to help strengthen the Church people treat us like we aren’t ready or we are too young. It makes me feel like Jeremiah when God first called him - but I am not going to let your doubts or my weaknesses stop me from helping these sixth graders grow closer to Christ. And I am definitely NOT going to do it by watering down our faith or trying to gain popularity!

1 Timothy 4:12 - Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity.

thank you paul c for your support and advice.

You seem motivated for all the right reasons so I suspect you will do fine. Not that it will be easy every day, because we are tested throughout our lives. Explain on the very first day the very things you said in your note to church secretary: that you are trying to take the Gospel to heart and to teach the faith and that youth is no impediment to God. Encourage them to follow your example. Many of them will absolutely embrace that thought because they want to be taken seriously too.

As I mentioned briefly in my previous note, my daughter (who is now 18 like you) had an 18 year old teacher for her 8th grade confirmation class. This guy had lead a pretty hard early life, with family difficulties, but somewhere in his early teens he had found God and that saved him. He related the story to the class and my daughter was really, really impressed. She only had him for about 3 weeks, because he was teaching 3 classes (that’s how motivated he was). but in those 3 weeks, he made an indelible impression. 4 years later, this guy is in the seminary and I have no doubt that he will make a great priest…

In my parish, the 6th grade curriculum is the old testament. What is it for you? I’ve taught everything from 3-8th grade so I can probably give you so more pointers if I know what you are teaching.

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