In response to this question, 54 percent of respondents said a lack of parental involvement poses the greatest challenge to religious education programs for children.
Many readers suggested that formation begins at home. Leah Ramsdell, a parish staff member in Norwood, Mass., wrote, “We can offer great programs, but if it’s not reinforced at home, it’s not going to stick.” Readers also cited other challenges. Fifteen percent of respondents said conflicting schedules with other youth activities present the greatest challenge, and 15 percent pointed to problems with the curriculum or pedagogy.
Patrick Higgins, a parishioner in Pasadena, Calif., was among those with concerns about pedagogy. “When I was in C.C.D. as a kid, religious education consisted of making collages out of magazine clippings and learning hand gestures to church songs,” he wrote. “Now we’re the catechists, and we don’t have a strong background to draw from.”
And Emese Hasznos, a parent and parishioner in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., said she favors a “play-based” approach that centers on environmental literacy, culture and includes “no testing, no homework.”
Respondents made a number of suggestions to improve religious education programs at their parishes. Jeanne Duell, a teacher in Fairborn, Ohio, recommends “changing the Sunday Mass time to make it easier for families to attend Mass and then the religious education program.”
Maura Sweeney, a parish staff member in Fitchburg, Mass., agrees that family formation is important, but she thinks outreach efforts should start with adults. “Young parents rarely have integrated faith lives that connect them to the church in general, or their parish in particular,” she wrote. “Without those connections, their children are likewise disconnected.”