What is the greatest challenge facing religious education programs for children?

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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.”

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J Cosgrove
8 months 3 weeks ago

Teaching them the reasons why one should be a Catholic should be primary. Apparently today’s religion teachers haven’t a clue. They probably don’t know why they are a Catholic.

John Keane
8 months 3 weeks ago

Teachers who know how to reach children.

Christopher Minch
8 months 3 weeks ago

All of these issues that these people in this article have stated are nothing new over the last 40 years. I was a trained and certified catechist for many years at all levels but mainly was trained for sacramental preparation and worked with HS level students. I served in two dioceses and both had strong catechetical teaching course that were mandatory before the teacher was allowed in the classroom. The teaching materials I had were for the most part good but not perfect and required some creativity to adapt to each classroom and group of students. Time was always limited to what needed to be taught which is why parental support and home example is always needed. And why parents are the primary teachers of a child's faith. Most important was a strong evangelical and biblical background and discipleship to Jesus. Students respond well to caring and authentically faith-filled people who witness to the faith rather than preach it. The issues mentioned in the article will most likely need to be solved at each parish and diocesan level with parental surveys and strong catechetical leadership and training programs. An Introductory Course in Catechesis for anyone genuinely interested in this subject would realize that Catholicism and Christianity is the basis for all grade levels.

Hilary Hutchinson
8 months 3 weeks ago

If religious education of our children is important, then hire professionals to do it rather than rely on good-hearted volunteers. Most Catholics in the pews today know nothing about their religion - wonder why? They were never taught. I can't speak for how religion is taught in the Catholic schools, but CCD classes are a usually a joke. Patrick Higgins is right about the collages and signing songs. I laughed out loud at that, but it's true of many religious education classes. A parish budget reflects its theology - choose to invest in the education of our youngest Catholics, and not just the ones who attend the Catholic school.


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