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A Good Start and Lessons Learned

Last night we had our introductory meeting of our The Apostles study group. Looks like we will start out as a group of seven. I am not in the least bit disappointed with that number. It is a beginning. However, I have learned that starting such a group is not as straightforward as one would think.

First of all, in a parish that does not have a culture of adult religious education, a blurb in the bulletin under the religious education banner does not get the word out. Every person that attended last night was there because I contacted them via email about the group. No one saw the notice in the bulletin. The fact that I had their email address means they had shown a previous interest in adult religious education so my outreach effort was made to a receptive population.

Here is my question: How do we draw in those who don’t even know they are supposed to be learning? If you are reading this blog or other Catholic blogs regularly, you are already way ahead of most of your pew mates. How do we convince the rest that continued study of their faith deserves as much attention as their favorite television shows, kids’ sporting activities, and the Indianapolis Colts vs New England Patriots football game? I think we first must do it by example. We must be willing to make time in our own schedules for these programs. Then we have to be willing to extend the invitation to others to join us. The programs need to be structured and well planned. If people are going to make time to come, they need to receive quality instruction. Depending on the parish personnel resources, that may mean utilizing quality pre-packaged programs. There is no reason each parish should be expected to re-invent the wheel.

I would love to hear from you if your parish has been successful in igniting the fire of learning among your members. What lessons have you learned?


Anonymous said…
I wish my parish (or any parish within 30 miles of here) would offer adult religious education classes -- or even a Catholic Bible study. I'd sign-up in a heartbeat for something like that. Unfortunately, there is nothing available to me along those lines. As an adult that now realizes just how poorly catechized he was as a child, I am basically left to study on my own with the help of blog sites such as this one and a few orthodox Catholic web sites. In terms of receiving a Catholic education in a formal or even a directed setting, all I can do is hope that my parish will host a Why Catholic? program this year and then hope that those teaching the course are not terribly schismatic.

Good look with your class. And by all means, please keep blogging!
suzannemg said…
When I lived in California, some of the women at the parish started a mother's group that had free babysitting. I had small children at the time and thought the group might offer a nice break. The women in charge brought speakers in to present talks on a variety of topics including... adult catechesis. What drew me in for free babysitting and a chance to meet other mothers turned into an opportunity to learn more about my faith. (And the "religious" talks were always the ones I found the most interesting) I think if you want to reach those that don't normally attend adult formation class, you might want to consider offering something that doesn't sound like adult formation. Of course now I would prefer the adult formation!
David Jackson said…
Two things.

Food and free child care.

We had over 60 people a week come to an eight week seminar on Theology of the Body, and I'm convinced those were two of the key ingredients. Each week we got a few people to volunteer to bring the pot luck for the next week. And we had a 30 minute fellowship time before the presentation began where people snacked and socialized. That really seemed to make a difference.
Ebeth said…
It may be the content too, The mother's group at my parish asked me to facilitate a "Sacramentum Caritatis" discussion one responded. We even labled the title "The Sacrament of Love" Folks do not seem to be ready for anything too heavy. Little do they know how wonderful our Pope writes! I facilitated a discussion group on his encyclical and 5 ladies showed up and by the second night were all saying how easy a read Benedict is.
JLF said…
Just this week my family and I attended the a whole community catechesis program for the first time. The monthly program began in September and is designed to encourage families to participate in faith formation together.

The two hour lesson is held on Sunday morning before the 11:30 am Mass. There is an introduction to the topic, then the children are excused for separate related activities during the more in depth part of the lesson. They rejoin the group later for the conclusion. My husband and I have a two-year-old daughter so we chose to attend Mass on Saturday evening rather than after the lesson. She was absolutely wonderful during the program, but we thought another hour of sitting still would be asking too much!

This month's topic was the liturgy and it covered both the liturgical calendar and the Mass. It was very interesting and informative. The speaker was the associate director of the office of worship for our diocese. I wish we could have had a full 2 hour lesson on the Mass itself since there is so much meaning in every part of it. Next month's topic will focus on Advent.

Our parish has been trying to promote the program with inserts in the bulletin and announcements at Mass. My husband and I talked about attending when we heard the first announcement, but we just didn't fit it into the schedule. Reading the recent discussion on your blog gave me the necessary push to quit thinking about it and actually participate. Attendance was lower than I had hoped (three families with children, and about six other adults), but I hope the program will continue to grow.

I'll end this overly long comment by agreeing that food and childcare can go a long way toward encouraging people to try something new.

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