FAMILY OF FAITH

 

 

 

 

MAKING

Disciples

TOGETHER

 

 

August 2020

Dear St. Mary Families,

Over the past few months I’ve had the occasion to speak with many of you, and underlying the trials and hardship associated with the pandemic is an overwhelming sense of isolation. Therefore, in this ongoing season of uncertainty, our education ministry must extend beyond the catechetical to the upbuilding of our community. For in building community with each other, we also build hope.

Months before the pandemic we were already discerning ways to cultivate more community among families. And for the kids, who often feel like religious ed is just an extension of their school day, we desire to make learning the faith as fun as constructing a giant rosary from pool noodles, assembling the Last Supper scene using Legos, or participating in livestream Mass with treasured stuffed animals (thanks Cole!). While COVID-19 may prevent us from using our limited classroom space in the traditional sense, it did provide us the opportunity to press in and seek the Spirit’s guidance on how to evolve our approach to children’s formation.

Just this month we concluded a pilot study with a dozen families using an entirely different model. Led by a catechist, small groups of families experience faith sharing with each other: parents with their children, parents with other parents, and children with their peers. While still evolving, we are encouraged that in just a few weeks' time families are having faith conversations and enjoying activities together, and evidence of small group bonding has started to emerge. Below are a few quotes from the parents, and I’ll be posting a full description of the program in the coming days.

In His Holy Name, 

Chris Stier, DRE

Today in the car I asked my kiddos about nature and what things they love the most that God created. My son, 9, says trees and mountains. My daughter, 6, replied ‘the pool!’ We still have some work to do!!

We completed the Bible basics worksheet first. I made it into a game. Whoever answered the question first got a Skittle! Surprisingly, my 16 year old daughter was the big winner.

I love the idea of the group and I truly enjoyed our group meeting a few Thursdays ago! It was good for my soul. You are very right when you have said that we need community. I would love to get to know these families more.

 

 

To begin, just imagine...

Instead of textbook lessons in a classroom, our children learn the faith from stories we tell, games we play, conversations in the car...all in the course of our daily routine.

Instead of hurried drop-offs at the church after work, we gather once a month for weekend Mass, a relaxed meal, and activities for the whole family.

Instead of feeling awkward talking to our children about Jesus and our faith, we have the information we need and a group of friends making the journey with us.

 

Now picture each month...

WEEK 1: Attend an online Small Group Parent Meeting

  • We create small groups of 7-8 families. With successive meetings, the intention is to build community as parents get to know each other and establish bonds of friendship. 
  • A designated facilitator leads the group in a discussion on two faith topics that will be the focus for the month.
  • The central purpose of the meeting is to demonstrate how each faith topic can be illuminated through engaging activities and conversation within the family.
  • Meeting times will vary by small group. The facilitator will consider family schedules. Meeting content will also be posted to the parish website.

 

 

WEEKS 2-3: Try a few of the activities with your family

  • There are two book resources for families. One is the Activity Book which contains - you guessed it - activities for children of all ages. The other is the Parent’s Guide, which provides instructions on how to complete each of the activities.
  • For each faith topic, parents review and select age appropriate activities that match their children’s interests and learning styles.
  • To offer flexibility, there is no set schedule of when to complete activities, but notionally one topic per week for planning purposes.
  • The essential component for any activity is the conversation it evokes. Indeed, some activities are simply conversations over dinner, while riding in the car, etc.
  • Your children will be learning not only from the fun activities they do with you, but even more from your example and witness!
  • To build community among the families in each small group, we will use a private group messaging app (Slack) for sharing your family’s experience with different activities. In this way, the cute and sometimes funny reactions/responses by the children can be enjoyed by all!
  • During the pilot we found families to be very creative with the activities. By sharing this creativity with the group, we make the journey of faith together. Indeed, it is the intention of the program to urge each small group to take responsibility for the well-being of all families in the group.
  • “Success” is when all families feel like they belong to a caring community, where there is an interdependence that is based on the Spirit, and all members are growing in their faith!

 

WEEK 4: Gather for worship, food, fellowship and fun

  • Towards the end of the month, we’ll aim for an in-person gathering of small group families for Mass followed by a community get-together in the Parish Center. This would likely be held following the Sat 4:00 PM or Sun 10:30 AM Mass.
  • For the pilot we were able to easily distance each family, and all were respectful of the face covering mandate. We designed activities to get families interacting across tables, and also enjoyed an outdoor scavenger hunt.
  • Note: We understand not everyone is comfortable with in-person events, so we'll be discerning an online compliment to this gathering.

 

What are the activities like? See for yourself...

We've selected A Family of Faith from Sophia Institute as the foundational resource for our community building model of formation. Beyond learning the truths of the Catholic Faith and how to apply them, parents and children of all ages have the opportunity to build strong relationships through discussion and reflection on topics that matter in their lives.

The Parent's Guide and Children's Activity Book contain a plethora of activities; for the month of October used in the pilot study, more than 30 pages worth! Lest you be quickly overwhelmed, know that the purpose of the Small Group Parent Meeting at the start of each month is to break down the content and familiarize the group with what’s available. Acting like gourmet chefs, our catechist planning team does the hard work of preparation such that you can simply order off the menu.

To give an idea, here were some popular activities from the pilot study:

The simple act of making the Sign of the Cross professes our belief in the Trinity and is a mark of discipleship. Parents model the faith by signing themselves before/after prayer, at mealtime, in the morning and evening, etc. Faith is not a blind leap but rather an active trust. To illustrate, take a "trust walk" - one person is blindfolded while another person leads them on a short walk around the house or outside. In the ensuing conversation, parents ask if it was hard to trust? If so, why? Some activities are conversations themselves. Each month offers a hanging car tag with conversation starters so you can have discussions while on the go.

 

When does it start? Did I miss registration?

Relax. Breathe. Knowing our families have their hands full right now adjusting to the new normal for schools during the pandemic reopen, we’re intending to use September as a “get acquainted” month for Family of Faith and launch more formally during the month of October. Moreover, enrollment never closes. We welcome families any time of the year.