Teaching Apologetics classes, need advice


#1

Hey all,

In a few weeks I’ll be assisting with CCD classes at a parish in Northern Virginia. The idea is that I’ll be introducing 8th graders to apologetics, and then later–mid February or so–I’ll be “teaching” classes to a general audience.

I have some experience with this kind of thing, but talking to 8th graders will be a first. Maybe I’m just getting old, but the idea of talking to kids kind of freaks me out. I’m not that old, but it seems like they’re far different than I was at that age.

So, my question is mainly just a call for advice. Obviously I’m not going to be teaching them Greek or Latin, (I was a terrible Latin student myself), but what advice might you have for introducing this stuff to kids? I suspect that most of them have never had real challenges to their faith, and much of this stuff would be over their heads. On the other hand, I don’t want to be condescending–kids are smart. Maybe smarter than most adults we know.

Has anyone had experience with this kind of thing? Any CCD teachers out there? Anyone ever attempt teaching apologetics to young, impressionable minds?

I wonder if this is a fruitless task. I seriously doubt that if they’re receiving challenges from their fundamentalist peers that the level of dialogue is fruitful and reasoned, but still, I suppose if a seed is planted, they’ll one day remember that their faith can be defended, and is worthy of defense.

Anyway, let me know.

Thanks,
MM


#2

MM

Catholic Answers has many resources that you can use. They even have a series of booklets for sale called Beginning Apologetics,

Here is the link to the Apologetics and Evangelization shopping page.

Also, in the Library there is a section on Practical Apologetics.

There is more helpful information on Catholic Answers that may help you if you have a specific topic you want to discuss.

I hope this helps.

PF


#3

if they don’t know the basics of the faith and salvation history you are wasting your time. build the foundation before you add walls, windows and doors.


#4

Apparently they’ve had some kind of orthodox, Oxford-trained theologian teaching the the basics for the last few months. I’ll just be “teaching” an introduction to apologetics toward the end. So, it sounds like they’ve got as good a start as they can. We’ll see.

The current religious ed teacher said they might benefit from seeing a younger “cool” guy teach the class. Perhaps. I doubt my “cool” credentials, but I certainly could have benefitted from seeing someone be aggressive about defending the faith…


#5

The Rock, its a Catholic Thing (and companion Rosary book) from Contemplation Corner Press was compiled by teens in Tennessee, the bible belt, to give them answers to questions they were getting from their peers, CCC types, fundamenalists. That would be a great text for a beginning course, and definitely has “cool” credentials, wait till you see the photos. I am not at work but will post sources as soon as possible.


#6

My husband is a Catholic High School Religion Teacher. He also used to teach Junior High. He liked the Junior High Age kids far better than the high Schoolers. He was able to challenge the 6,7, and 8th graders with material that he could never challenge is high schoolers with. Junior High kids are eager for information, it is still cool to be smart, and they do not question everything.

My husband points out every year to his high schoolers when they complain that his class is too difficult, “funny, the 6th graders I used to teach didn’t have a problem with this very lesson”.

Obviously, the kids need the basics, they love apologetics. They love the idea that they can defend their faith. They will latch onto the apostolic nature of our church. Just remember the whole justification for our faith is “Whose Authority”. Don’t worry about teaching over their head. They will understand information far better than even adults and teens.

God Bless.


#7

I teach a group of 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders apologetics. I use the Friendly Defender Cards from Ascension Press as a stepping off point. The first thing the kids have to do is own a good Catholic Bible they can highlight and write in. Make sure they are all the same translation…the*** Navarre Bible*** is good for this, I think.

I then have them*** make book marks*** with the old Testament on one and the New on another. Then I have them memorize the books at their own speed. (I don’t require it, but I motivate heavily with Skittles candy for anyone who can recite the books in order) Don’t think these kids can’t do it…they’ll do ANYTHING for a bag of skittles.

The first thing to stress is that*** apologetics is explaining and defending your Faith in LOVE and we don’t have all the answers, but we can always look it up somewhere. *** This takes the pressure off. I always stress that they pray to the*** Holy Spirit*** when in a debate or discussion with someone.

I use"*** Catholic for a Reason" and the Catechism*** for my own reference and teaching guide. "Catholic for a Reason is great for typology which I think is so cool and very easy for kids to get.

After each class we play a game I call,*** “Bible Thump***” I give them 3 chances to win a bag of skittles or some other candy. I just read a chapter and verse (John 3:2-7) and the first kid to stand up and read the verse wins. It’s a fun way to get used to your Bible.

After we complete 3 topics, let’s say Church Authority, Mary and the Saints and Holy Orders, we have a contest where the kids split into teams with me asking the questions…of course the prize is always skittles for the winning team. At the end of the year we do a game show style format that is absolutely hilarious and the kids love it.

Let me tell you…these kids RUN TO my class. They love it!

I hope you find some answers in my suggestions…I’ve been doing this for 2 years now and have started keeping a notebook of the lessons. Maybe I’ll get a cirriculum out of it one of these days!


#8

Philomena,

That sounds AWESOME. Nothing quite like sugar bribery to get the little ones to do your bidding. Muwahahah…MUWAHAHAHA!

Luckily for me, this is just a three night deal where I add two cents toward the end. The first night, I’m just an observer. The second, I do some talking after the “formal” part of the CCD class. The third night it’s all me, so the pressure isn’t too bad.

And event though it’s a few weeks away, I find myself curiously aprehensive. They’re just KIDS, right? I’m a fairly decent entertainer with a couple of bottles of wine and my friends, but do I have what it takes to keep kids interested? These are the questions I’m asking myself all of a sudden.

Anyway, good advice. I’ll digest it and incorporate it into my approach. Thanks!


#9

Phil–a question:

How do you introduce them to the topics? My worry is that I’ll use a hypothetical example and then create a seed of doubt.

Also, how open are you to class discussion? Surely they’ll have questions that need to be answered. Or, what if you have a class of mute kids?


#10

If I were teaching this course, I’d do what Aquinas did.

State the question (in the simplest monosyllabic terms)
Give the Non Catholic objections (the best two or three you can find)
Give the best Orthodox answers to each objection (with Biblical citations included where possible)
Conclude with your own comments and ask the students to raise any questions remaining in their minds

Each of the exercises might be a printed handout for students to take home and discuss with their parents. That way the parents get educated to defend the faith right along with their kids.


#11

[quote=montanaman]Phil–a question:

How do you introduce them to the topics? My worry is that I’ll use a hypothetical example and then create a seed of doubt.

Also, how open are you to class discussion? Surely they’ll have questions that need to be answered. Or, what if you have a class of mute kids?
[/quote]

Well, can you talk to the CCD teacher and see what he/she thinks? Can he/she poll the kids ahead of time? I find that kids are interested in relics and blessed objects, purgatory, and confession. I like to teach on Mary because the apologetic material is so rich. I took 4 weeks to teach on Mary. Plus all those cool apparitions are a great starting point. The kids love miracles…so even getting their attention with stories about Eucharistic miracles and teaching on the Real Presence is good. There are miracle stories in almost all facets of our faith.

A good way to start out might be to just ask** them** the pat questions that you’ve gotten in your travels…like why do I have to go through a priest to confess my sins? why do Catholics pray to Mary and dead people? why do you worship a piece of bread? why do you think that yoiur pope is infallable? then see if they can answer any of them. They probably won’t be able to. These can be questions that when they find they don’t know the answer, can lead them away from the Faith later in life. Let them know that there ARE answers! Show them where to find them. Just showing them how cool our Faith is, may save them later!

Don’t worry about mute kids. Pray that the Holy Spirit will speak through you and touch the hearts of those kids. You may never see the fruit of what you are about to do…just do it. God will do the rest.
About open discussion…go for it, if you feel comfortable with it. But let me warn you, it may end up all over the place. If you pick 1 or 2 topics and do well with them, they may ask you back! This way yoiu are best prepared. Remember, the best answer to a question may be…“I don’t know, but I’ll get back to you with the answer when I find it!” I will pray for you, Montanaman.


#12

[quote=Carl]If I were teaching this course, I’d do what Aquinas did.

State the question (in the simplest monosyllabic terms)
Give the Non Catholic objections (the best two or three you can find)
Give the best Orthodox answers to each objection (with Biblical citations included where possible)
Conclude with your own comments and ask the students to raise any questions remaining in their minds

Each of the exercises might be a printed handout for students to take home and discuss with their parents. That way the parents get educated to defend the faith right along with their kids.
[/quote]

This is great advice. The Friendly Defender Cards are set up like this in cartoon format. They are $12.

Montanaman, if you can afford it, get a bunch of apologetics material to give away…like the Cath Answers pamphlets, or the Guerilla Apologetics pocket book…maybe even a “Prove It” book for kids. But I also like a prepared handout with the basic objections and the Catholic answers.


#13

Wow! Great replies. :thumbsup: I will be doing something similar in April and have copied all the hints. Are skittles available in Australia? :smiley:

Another suggestion. You said that you will be observing for two weeks and teaching for the third. Why not have the kids write questions in the first two weeks for you to answer in the third. That way you will homing in on their interest level and on questions they may have been asked in the playground. It will give you a week to find out the answers. If questions are a bit thin on the ground you could do some general stuff as has been suggested.

One important thing you have to make clear to the children is that the person who is coming up with the objections has to source accurately the objection. That way the Catholic doesn’t waste valuable time searching out one line non sourced quotes which supposedly’ prove’ that Catholicism is the whore of Babylon… The children will have to understand that just because we can’t come up with an answer to satisfy a questioner it doesn’t mean that there is no answer. Also to be remembered is that some things have to be taken on faith and we must pray for understanding. “Lord I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” As a Catholic I don’t know where in the bible that comes from. :wink:

Most important of all, be aware that we are but instruments of the Holy Spirit - it’s not a ‘see how clever I am’ thing. We should pray that the Holy Spirit will work through us and we should pray for the people with whom we will be using the apologetics.

Good luck. Be sure to get back to us and let us know how you are going.


#14

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