Most religious educators tell me there isn't enough time in a classroom session to cover everything they'd like to teach. Add a large-group element to the program and there is very little time left to cover the basics. At the same time, Pope Benedict XVI has declared a special Year of Faith that continues through November 24, 2013 (the Feast of Christ the King). He has called all Catholics to deepen their faith through prayer, study and the celebration of Mass. Below are five strategies to help live out the Year of Faith in your classroom.
1) Start each classroom session with a Year of Faith prayer. Our Sunday Visitor has prayer cards available for the Year of Faith and the Vatican has declared an official Year of Faith prayer as well.
2) Focus on joy. Pope Benedict XVI exhorts us to become "joy-filled witnesses to Christ" in this Year of Faith. Incorporate the topic of joy into your small-group sharing or circle time. Why is it important for Christians to be filled with joy? Who is a model of joy in your life? How might we spread joy in our daily lives?
3) Read the gospel passages about faith and talk about how faith makes us stronger. Or read the Beatitudes and talk about how these are Jesus' guideposts for living. What does it mean to have faith?
4) In this Year of Faith, we are called to witness and "open the door of faith" to everyone we meet. One way we witness to our faith is by caring for our brothers and sisters in need. Incorporate a food drive or blanket collection that students can organize. Be sure to share the results after Mass so all parishioners can see your kids' work.
5) We are encouraged to read the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church anew in this Year of Faith. Introduce your class to these documents by finding sections that tie-in to the lesson. Allowing your students to explore the Catechism helps them learn how the book is ordered and arranged.