5 Action Steps for Nurturing Children in Faith
What are the best ways to help children learn and live their faith? How can we engage children so that faith comes to life for them? What are some approaches to religious education that create significant meaning for children? This article suggest five action steps that can be a starting point for nurturing children in the important ministry of faith formation. So let’s dive in!
Action step 1: Create an environment of exploration and enjoyment
Faith formation is most effective when it occurs in an environment that is welcoming, open to honest conversation, and marked by a focus on exploration and discovery. Learning should be engaging. The more that catechists and teachers enliven lessons in meaningful ways, the more learning actually occurs. Bringing lessons to life through focused activities, role-plays, discussions, and reinforcement games not only addresses attention spans and learning styles, it has been shown to positively impact learning.
Action step 2: Guide the children through the Church year and the liturgy
The Church year provides an outline and a guide to finding faith in life, so leading children through the seasons of the Church is important in faith formation. It is also important that we root children in an understanding of the liturgy. Though it may take some time for them to understand everything that is being said and taking place, the Mass and all Sacraments are celebrations that are at the heart of who we are as Catholics. For this reason, guiding children through the Church year and the liturgy is a crucial step in enlivening faith in children.
Action step 3: Model prayer for the learners
It its essence, prayer is communication with God. Effective faith formation models many different forms and expressions of prayer, such as spontaneous prayer, meditative prayer, intercessory prayer, singing prayer, and even dancing prayer. By introducing children to prayer in meaningful and intentional ways, we help them build their relationship with God and develop spiritually. Faith is more than just head knowledge, so we must spend adequate time leading children through experiences of prayer and reflection.
Action step 4: Give children opportunities to recognize and use their gifts and talents
We each have God-given gifts: free will, reason, conscience, and creativity. Effective faith formation gives children opportunities to use these gifts according to their stage of development. We can give children the opportunity to use their free will by offering choices when possible. We can help children reason through hypothetical situations and thus develop critical thinking skills. We can help children to judge right and wrong in both real and hypothetical situations. We can help children develop creativity through opportunities to draw, construct, act out, imagine, and pretend. We also want to create an opportunity for children to discover their talents by offering a variety of experiences in which those talents can develop and shine. It is helpful to remember that each one of us has God-given gifts and talents to use and share!
Action step 5: Support and encourage the faith formation that happens at home
As the saying goes “Children learn what they live.” Quality faith formation supports and encourages the faith formation that happens at home. To this end, it is important that we communicate with parents in every way possible, by email, by text, by social media, by sending home notes, newsletters, or a page of upcoming events, and/or by making various prayers available for parents to include in family prayer. Our ministry is to support the core ministry that is happening in the home and help parents embrace their primary role in the faith development of their children. Effective faith formation means being a catechist or teacher not only to the child in front of you but to the entire family.
Put it into action!
“Enkindle the love of Jesus in the hearts of the young.” —Saint John Baptist de La Salle
These words from Saint John Baptist de La Salle are the heart and goal of the ministry of faith formation. While we can tell children many important ideas about the practice of faith, they mean little if they do not help the children discover the wonders, depth, and delight of a life of faith. As you seek to engage your youth, incorporate these five action steps for teaching and reaching children in your faith formation program.