Letting Go this Summer and into the Future . . .

It’s been prayer and soul searching this summer. Two college bound children, orthodontics for . . . everyone, and six children we love, means I am in the full-time work world, whether I like it or not. This summer has included too many hours of work away from those busy blessings of our Kiddos.  So this fall, I will pursue teaching and tutoring Catechesis AND secular academics again, in addition to continuing home schooling my  own family.

I’ll still be a phone call away for questions about Vacation Bible School and our materials will still be available, as Catechesis is placed deeply into my heart. Please pray for our family, as we make changes in priorities. We empathize with you, as Catholic educators, as you are likely in similar situations: either you’re watching your own adult children raise families, helping new families along the way in faith formation OR you are raising your own children. Being Catholic is such a blessing! God Bless you and yours. ~ Julia

More Catholicity from . . . Brrr . . . Minnesota

Deep Freeze Minnesota

The news called it historical, but when you’re born and raised in Minnesota, like my husband and me, it’s simply another exciting winter week.

30 below zero weather did make for enjoyable, indoor times, prayer for fellow Minnesotans and an exciting three days out of school and buses. One of the best parts of growing up in Minnesota are announcements from your school district that there will be no school.  Children and parents anxiously wait to see their school name, followed by “CLOSED,” slide across the bottom of the television screen. One “Watertown School Distirct: CLOSED TOMORROW,” was silver. Three days? Those were golden!

Although we home school, we still felt excitement as everyone hunkered down in their warm homes and to-do lists waited for the thermometer to rise above 10 below. Youngsters blessed with fireplaces, imagined furnaces breaking down from too much work. Children and parents would be forced to snuggle together, in toasty pajamas, by a roaring, crackling fire. Yet, furnaces labored on and instead, little hands prayed for those not blessed with warm homes, hoping for all Minnesotans to be safe.

Ironically, our little home school celebrated a few Summer “Jesse Tree Journey VBS” activities to think “warm” as we “cozied up” in our farmhouse. We colored Joseph’s colorful coats, danced to “Rock of Faith,” and role played lessons learned from Scripture. And, now that we are thawing out, we hope you will think about summer, too. Perhaps you will visit www.godisgoodvbs.com to feel the warmth of fun Catechesis, too.


Stay warm!

Cave Vacation Bible School? Meh. What’s the Best VBS for your Parish?

“Meh. I could do without another VBS Cave Theme.”

This winter time of the year, God is Good VBS enjoys many calls, from Church leaders and educators, as they choose the “right VBS” for their parishes and archdioceses. After all, today’s children are in desperate need of energetic Catechesis and it is critical that they become engaged with forming faith and developing a relationship with Jesus.

While we share our thoughts and expertise, God is Good VBS also asks the following questions to help educators, volunteers, diocese employees and priests discern the perfect VBS choice for their parishes and archdioceses:

  1. What do you want to teach about this summer, during Vacation Bible School? Often, parishes have already presented topics during faith formation that they want to pass on during the summer. Although that isn’t a bad decision, sometimes it works to enrich what children learned about (during the school year) in the summer, through VBS. For example, if children learn about the Jesse Tree during Advent, parishes might enrich this topic with learning about the Old Testament during Summer VBS.  But, when parishes want something “different from what’s already been taught,” vocation education is rare and special so we often suggest a vocation VBS. Alternatively, we hear, “I haven’t taught our children much about the Gospels this school year, so I’d like to choose a VBS about Ss. John, Luke, Mark and Matthew.”
  2.  Are you accustomed to a specific publisher? We ask this question because larger publishers, that leaders are used to, have somewhat perfected user-friendliness. That doesn’t mean that they are a perfect fit for everyone though. Smaller companies have the ability to spend more time working on what’s important to them and more importantly what’s important to parishes. Small, but solidly Catholic curricula publishers have also mastered user-friendliness for Directors of Religious Education. We are authentically Catholic, which encourages children to embrace the richness of our Church and develop relationships with Christ. Relationships with Christ will encourage children to deepen their desire to know, love and serve Him and His Church! God is Good VBS does not speak for the other small “fish in the publisher pond,” but our curricula is developed by educators. We help leaders who have little to much experience, TEACH and ENJOY. These verbs are amazing combinations to act upon, for children’s faiths to be formed.
  3. Are you concerned about your VBS boasting a mountain, beach or cave theme?  Surprisingly, answers to this question vary. Many leaders tell us that that they’ve been there done that. We even heard one leader say, Meh. I could do without a fluffy, VBS beach theme.”  On the other hand, religious educators and children are accustomed to “faith formation on steroids!” (I cannot take credit for that terrific quote, but my response is like many: Faith Formation on steroids isn’t necessarily a good thing.) Of course, our black and white Baltimore Catechisms are chock full of the BEST Catechesis out there, but vacation bible school is different. It is a vacation from regular Catechesis. Children are bright, and good publishers, teachers and parents know this! Children are able to focus on the natural beauty of our Catholic faith and the awesomeness of God. They already intrinsically know that God created everything out of nothing. If parishes want more for their children, we encourage them to think about what the VBS theme focuses on; secular themes or Godly themes?
  4.  So, perhaps you don’t want to focus on caves anymore but what about decorations, t-shirts, and music for your parish? We haven’t met a VBS leader who doesn’t emphasize the importance of some or all of these Vacation Bible School aspects. Decorations and music are very critical to most parishes and publishers should understand. A fun atmosphere without distracting children, where everyone is enjoying music and dancing makes vacation bible school  unique from other good methods of Catholic education. Our company chooses music from World Library Publications which is child AND adult friendly. Leaders and parents thank us for the music being enjoyable for them, too. Other Catholic publishers provide good music, too. Consider what’s important to you and your VBS team.
  5.  Does the appearance and topics of the guides concern you when purchasing a VBS Director’s Kit? One universal answer we receive is that “guides need to be user-friendly and parishes want learning stations, so that VBS is different than Wednesday night faith formation.” We provide a large Director’s Guide as do most publishers, and we feel this is the most helpful guide. Our volunteer guides are for Art, Game, Snack, Role Plays and Prayer Stations. Although stations vary from publisher to publisher, we pride ourselves on our guides being regular book size and colorful. Consider if these qualities are important to you and your team.




Typically, we encounter many questions returned our way when we chat with people like you! We are more than happy to talk Catholic Education. Our hope is that this short post helps you think about this wonderful avenue to forming faith . . . Catholic VBS.


Looking for more information? Call us at 952-290-0483.


Here’s to our Mary(s)


Merry Christmas Season, Faith Formation Directors and Mamas alike.  Like many readers, I anxiously awaited Mary Poppins Return for almost half a century. Nearly fifty years old, I have delighted in Mary Poppins for as long as I remember.  Lest you roll your eyes and assume our youngest Catholic daughter was named in honor of Ms. Poppins, you are mistaken. Of course, we honored our Mother in Heaven, when naming our Mary Bella.

This Catholic mom and educator must admit, though, that I adored Mary Poppins Returns (and Mary Poppins, again) during Christmas break. In fact, I’ve spent entirely too much time thinking about her. Hopefully, you will relate to the following prayer and may our Father (and Mother) in Heaven have a rich sense of humor:

Dear God,

Although Mary Poppins movies are not touted as Catholic, they remain my favorites. As you know, I refuse to be reminded that Mary Poppins is make believe. Sure, P.L. Travers and Disney made Mary “practically perfect,” and those that know me, tease me for quoting Mary Poppins and carrying a small carpet bag. However, I educate in the faith, parent six children and happiness is contagious, so I ignore the grown ups in my life.

A sparkling Catholic forum contradicts the dark people who make Mary Poppins secular. For Catholics such as myself, Mary could represent the Blessed Virgin Mary . . . at least in the deep recesses of our hearts. The Banks family is troubled by materialism in both films; and secular feminism is wayward when the Banks children are forgotten by their mum (1).

I am not the only  Catholic who yearns for a Christian connection to Mary Poppins. Julian Ahlquist, reminds British nanny fans that the wind might represent the Holy Spirit, the fun, energetic characters are Charismatic Catholics, to which this mom adores. And, Admiral Boom, oh so cool, may be that Traditionalist Catholic, which I need in my life, daily (that may be why you gave silly me my dear, serious Catholic husband) (1).

Unknown-13Father, when we began our new Church year, the first week of Advent, I asked, as I often do, that you keep the Virgin Mary in my heart throughout the Church year. I continue to ask you for trust like Mary; to say “yes” to You and raise my children with a gentle, loving and pure soul. Oh how I try to be like the Virgin Mary.  Then, I fail. I try again. And, when I keep failing, I go to our Mother in Heaven and ask her to pray for me to clean up my blessed messes of human frailty.

And, Mary Poppins? Forgive me for embracing this make believe character. But, Lord, she reminds me too, about being lovely and maternal.  Mary never “explains too much,” and is kind and firm.

Help me, God, to be disciplined in my vocation as a Christian daughter, mother, wife . . . and “never allow others to interrupt my schedule.”

Mary Poppins places, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” and “Spit Spot,” on my lips many times over the years in the classroom and at home, when there is nothing left to say or we are in a hurry.  Guide me to make school and life full of “Splash and Play!” Remind me to provide “spoons full of sugar,” to everyone I meet, especially my children.

When I look in the mirror, help me to see your image, but to also be cheeky and say to myself, “It’s wonderful to see you.”

When something or someone gets lost, help me remember to say to my little ones, “Nothing’s gone forever, only out of place (from us).”

And, when my children yearn to grow up too fast, help me to say, “Well, we’ll have to see what can be done about that,” as I implore them to slow down and remind myself to be childlike, too.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, of course, I close my prayer with, “Amen,” so that I may say, “yes,” to this “practically perfect” prayer.


To my Sisters in Christ, we say to Mary, our Mother in Heaven, “Hail Mary!” And, to Mary Poppins, in the year 2019? “Off we go!”



1 Vogt, Brandon. “Mary Poppins Catholicism Interview with Julian Ahlquist,” August 15, 2018. Brandonvogt.com (web).

Photo Credits:

Photo 1: Comics.com

Photo 2: Wikimedia

Photo 3: Yahoo


Summer Studies: Faith Formation is my Favorite

As warm, summer days grow a bit shorter and we approach the season’s middle, I attempt to tap into what’s on your minds and hearts. Besides more lesson planning, decorating VBS tees and, most importantly, spending time with my own children, here’s what I explore in July:

  • Decorating (and we aren’t talking Home Decor)
  • Faith formation teaching
  • Planning for the fall


We field questions about how to decorate for VBS themes from God is Good VBS, every week. I try to provide a mix of decoration ideas that will help parishes throughout the summer AND school year.

For all faith formation scenarios, it is important to begin with classroom expectations. I call these “Images of God Expectations,” and suggest posting them in faith formation classrooms and your VBS spaces. I have used them for decades and they include:

  • Love God
  • Love one Another
  • Do your Best
  • Raise your Hand to Talk
  • Hands to yourself

Posting pictures of saints is also a great way to remind children that saints are simply people who have sinned but keep trying, just as we all sin and keep trying. Saints are ideal for praying with, discussing, emulating, and teaching Catholics that we are all one happy family. Mother Theresa is featured here, because she’s awfully cute, and I loved that, in her fiery way, she admonished political leaders who were “pro-choice.” But, I mix many older heroes with younger saints, too, so that children relate easily to posters and images.


Specifically, for our VBS programs, I suggest an assembly banner for the theme you choose. We boast our favorite Gospel writer for St. Luke VBS, the Garden of Eden for Amazing Apostles’ Creed VBS, a Jesse Tree for Jesse Tree Journey VBS and an old-fashioned ship for our Discovery Mission Vocation Bible School.

Because Discovery Mission Vocation Bible School is our most popular, this summer, we feature the photo below. You might also borrow an old-fashioned canoe to remind children of missionaries,  trunks that boast vocation necesseties (bridal veils . . . patens  . . . Bibles . . .), and our adorable, popular stand-up cut outs. The trunks also help leaders play fun games with children.



Teachers, now more than ever, must consider strategies for managing children’s behavior. This may sound clinical, but families are busier than ever and they are looking to faith formation leaders and classroom teachers to help them raise their children. I could lament about this sad, new dynamic in faith formation and education for hours. HOWEVER, I serve others better by embracing today’s world and trying to help. The following tips will help you  . . . help families.

We are not called to be children’s friends. As formerly mentioned, families are too busy.  Children are craving routine, structure and steady discipline from adults.  Discipline sounds strict, but in reality it means to teach. In the faith formation world, we should think, “teaching to be Christ-like.”


Our little ones are lonely for parents’ attention and we are called to slow down and notice their needs. Most often, children who misbehave are screaming for attention and are likely exhausted from their busy lives.

Young adults need discipline too. These students crave friendship with their youth ministers, but parents who have raised children, KNOW that teenagers also require guidance from trusted Christian role models. Sixteen year old “social media experts,” need face to face relationships with adults who care about them. Telling young adults that God loves them as their Father, is an incredibly important message to deliver, as you require the best from them.

Provide positive attention, help your students feel loved and avoid power struggles. As long as children are safe, then approaching misbehavior in a careful, concise, matter of fact manner, without arguing, is the best way to handle misbehavior.  \

Take time to plan. Lesson plans are important. Whether you are using older faith formation curricula, trying something new or adding a bit of creativity, it is critical that faith formation curricula is studied!

You may be surprised how long we take to develop plans, for all ages. After the objectives, materials, anticipatory set (attention getter), procedure, evaluation and enrichment skills have been completed we test our lessons on children and teens. There are more adjustments made, we place the curricula in God’s care and we PRAY that you use the plans accordingly. Nothing is perfect, but after decades of educating, I assure you lesson plans are there to help you and your students. Use them.

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Keep it positive. Because I work with people just like you and I am a teacher by trade, I empathize with how you feel the day after Labor Day. Gone are the days of lazier times. Some of you may be sad to send your own children or grandchildren off to school and, let’s face it, registration and the faith formation kick-offs evoke a little anxiety.

I often tell my children, “fake it until you make it.” This advice is easier spoken than taken, but if we pretend to be enthusiastic about hard, worthwhile work, we find ourselves becoming enthusiastic. We all know leaders who pass those “good feelings” onto their volunteers and employees and the results are amazing. Pizza parties and an occasional shared bottle of wine, with co-educators, doesn’t hurt either, as you plan, together, for the fall.

Consider variety. As formerly mentioned, curricula is important. Plans and lesson suggestions should be followed, for the most part. And, we cannot emphasize enough, that we teach according the Magisterium. Content, Teachings and Tradition must be adhered to when instructing our children. But the value of creative educators who are gifted with cleverness to get children excited about our Catholic faith cannot be understated.

Curricula doesn’t have to be strictly from textbooks, either. Reflect on adding a variety of lesson plans. Imprimatur approved faith formation magazines, Day Vacation Bible Schools for during the school year, “Formed Videos” for youth ministry, field trips and games are ideas to inspire. Don’t forget a sense of humor, enthusiasm and having fun are ways educators can encourage children to love their faith. For the quieter Catechist, you will discover that teaching students the beauty of contemplative prayer comes easily embraced by young and old: adore Him by His Holy cross.

As we reflect on our surroundings, classroom management and the future, imagine a world where children say, “My favorite subject is Faith Formation.”







Farewell Summer Faith Formation, Hello Fall Faith Formation

Fall is the busiest time for parish faith formation. As children attend state fairs, go boating one last time or begin school, you are rounding up volunteers, planning your school year calendar and contacting families. Say farewell to summer and look to God is Good VBS to share a few fun ideas for your classrooms!


FIRST: Remind teachers to plan and read lesson plans. We get busy, but volunteers are often teaching only once a week. Spending an hour, or so, reading through lessons makes a tremendous good difference in how classes go. Planning makes classes go smoothly, there is less down time and children learn better. We suggest making a copy of the lesson so teachers can mark them up with predictions, new ideas, attention getters (anticipatory sets), and more. These notes will help teachers feel comfortable and excited about lessons.

SECOND: Give teachers ideas to encourage good behavior. I encourage educators to provide motivation for good behavior and the rewards can be, but don’t need to be, purchased items! Start with posting expectations in parish classrooms. These rules should include the following:

  • Be a good friend
  • Be Christ-like
  • Hands to yourself
  • Raise your hand before you speak
  • Listen
  • Try Your Best


Then, teachers explain that by following these rules, “we are ALL becoming clearer images of God.” Evaluating your images of God is subjective, so filling a cotton ball jar, or writing down letters such as “IMAGES OF GOD,” or “You were Christ-like today!” to keep track of good behavior works. Or, simply decide to reward children at the end of each quarter if they become clearer images of God. These rewards can be purchased at https://shop.godisgoodvbs.com/t/god-is-good for our extras or at local stores. 

However, purchasing items is not the only way to motivate children to cooperate and learn about their faith. Games, free-time outside, good news letters, or small pizza or ice-cream parties are a few non-purchased motivations that children will love celebrating with you! 

THIRD: Adore Christ. We cannot emphasize enough how wonderful this experience is with students. If your parish is blessed to have its own Adoration Chapel, you’ll have a perfect place to attend, but praying in front of the tabernacle in the church will be lovely, too.

Concerned about the five year olds? Don’t be. They will pray for at least their age in minutes (five minutes or so). Their prayers make the hardest hearts soften. And, you will Unknown-2.jpegnotice elementary school to high school students not wanting to leave.

 A Divine intervention occurs as adults watch students become quiet and contemplative with Christ. I have often wondered what was happening between Jesus and my children, during Adoration, but understand that He only knows; and that is the way it is meant to be. 

Lighting a candle at prayer time, during class, can be a way to adore Christ, too!

FOURTH: Suggest the following, fun game for children to get to know teachers and one another.

KINDERGARTEN TO THRID GRADE FUN: Teachers who are teaching little ones should ask parents to stick around for a few minutes on their first day of class.

As children arrive ask Mom or Dad to help their children print a couple fun facts about themselves and families. For example:

“I hate beets, but I love strawberry shortcake.”

“I am good at baseball, but I have to cover my burps so my mom doesn’t get mad.”

“I pray for my grandma and my dad.”

“My family went to Texas this summer.”

Collect the facts. Once you begin your first class, ask everyone to sit in a circle with their parent(s). Read the facts and see if students AND you can guess who wrote the fact. Students will likely be better at this than you, but that is what makes it fun!

4TH GRADE TO HIGH SCHOOL FUN: Adjust the previous game so that parents do not need to stay for Day 1 classes, unless they’d like to! Another change to the game is that children should write THREE appropriate statements that include two true facts and ONE FIB. For example:

“I am a great singer.”

“My family went to Disneyland this summer.”

“I am new to this parish.”

Then, collect the facts and fib. Again, sit in a circle. Read the statements and try to guess about the person who wrote the statements and which one was a lie! This is a lot of fun and again, the students might know A LOT about one another.

LASTLY: Dance, Sing, Play, Learn. Vacation Bible School doesn’t need to be just during the summer. You  certainly don’t need to commit to a vacation bible school during the school year, but please remember two thoughts. We offer a unique Advent VBS called Jesse Tree Journey Day VBS.

Jesse Tree Day VBS is a fun way to celebrate Advent season and parishes use the curricula for faith formation classes.

19225410_1994090280812554_3933151123729968881_n.jpgSecondly, a song or dance before, during or after children attend class is not simply suggested, but implored for making Catechism fun. I am reminded of Pope Francis telling us not to be “Year Round Lent Catholics.” We must celebrate and learn about our faith through different methods. Vacation bible school activities don’t need to be simply summer activities. Parishes dancing and singing together will bring unity to families and children. We suggest St. Luke’s Tunes Dance DVD  for coming together, as it is our favorite and best production.

If you or your teachers would like more ideas or have questions, please call us at 952-290-0483 or you can email me at julia@godisgoodvbs.com. God bless your FALL faith formation classes.




Discovery Mission VBS: Critical for the Future of our Church, Energetic and Fun



“I’ll be Father Mark. You be Sister Clarinda and you two pretend to get married. Benjamin put the bow tie on.”

“Don’t worry, you’re changing a clean diaper. Get in the go-cart once you change the doll so our team can win the race to church!”

“Chips and salsa? My favorite!”

“I know all about Adoration. Follow me.”

“Joey is pretending to be Saint Isidore. He was a farmer.”

“‘Hope sets the World Afire’ is my favorite song!”

These are words children shared during one of our trial Discovery Mission VBS events, as they listened to God’s special mission. Most children will continue to listen for His calling for many years before they’re certain of their vocation. But, for many, Discovery Mission VBS will open their hearts and begin the new journey of listening. Students will know  more about the powerful priestly vocation, the holiness of married life and the selflessness of the religious life.

Churches will celebrate and learn about Catholic vocations with stand-up cutouts or similar decorations during assemblies. Children will follow missionaries on a gorgeous world map. They’ll dance and sing about vocations during a time when more and more families miss out on opportunities to personally know priests and the religious. This is an important mission!



During prayer time, children will be introduced to saints who listened to their call to the priesthood, religious life, and marriage. Praying, singing and adoring the Blessed Sacrament will be cherished. In the Game Station, youth will play racing throwing, climbing games that teach them more about vocations. Parishes will create string art, drawings and picture frames in the Art Station. They will enjoy salty and sweet snacks that even connect to vocations during snack time.

Why is this VBS much more than fun and memorable? It’s critical to the future of our church! Generations before us were taught by Sisters who showed love to them and to our Catholic faith. Today’s grandparents broke bread and played cards with Fathers. As children they knew what monks were and what it meant for laity to minister to the youth. Many witnessed happy marriages that were revered and respected. 

We still witness some of those same blessings and enjoy relationships with solid Catholics. But, our  world is different. Encompassed by plug-in distractions and tremendous shortages of priests, religious AND Holy marriages, our children have fewer opportunities to witness the divinity of Catholic vocations.


And so it is, with glad hearts, Vianney Vocations and God is Good VBS are bringing excitement and joy to Catholic parishes throughout America, as children look forward to Catholic VOCATION Bible School: Discovery Mission VBS! Dioceses and parishes, in every state, are ordering our one of a kind Catholic curricula for children ages, kindergarten to sixth grade.

Middle and high school students are preparing, with religious educators, to lead this unique, easy to use Vocation Bible School. Children will pray, create, snack, dance and play throughout the weeks of Summer 2017 and we look forward to hearing from even more parishes throughout May and June.

There is victory in vocation education: visit www.vocationbibleschool.com.  Or, call us to chat about this unique method of Catechesis: 952-290-0483.a56638f7d97c82b18c5ec2d19085e6e5.jpeg



Faith Formation Kick-Off Ideas

Many of you are beginning Faith Formation classes. Directors, in September, you emailed hundreds of schedules and letters. You met with sacramental prep parents, your priest, teens, faith formation parents, new families, Catechists, volunteers, and assistants. You meticulously planned a faith formation kick-off and you are ready to go!

Catechists and volunteers, you’ve watched your director work tirelessly and you, too, are excited to meet parish children and families.

At God is Good VBS, we are excited about classroom ideas to get your classes off to a shiny beginning. Today we will introduce Behavior Management Incentives. Our next post will focus on ways to add energy to your classroom, and finally we’ll address Prayer Time. Some of these approaches, you may have already tried. Other thoughts may be new to you. So, without further ado:

Behavior Management Incentives Work

Regardless of the following method you choose, prepare expectations for children to follow, as “clear images of God.” We are all made in His image, but in order to be CLEAR images of God, children need to meet the following classroom expectations:

Love God

Love One Another


Raise your Hand to be Called upon to Speak

Hands to yourself

Cotton Ball Jars, Chance Slips and Bingo Charts are three fun ways to encourage children to follow the previous expectations and for them to strive to be clear images of God (behave during faith formation classes). When children cooperate during class, that leaves room for learning!


Cotton Ball Jars: An empty jar, a bag of cotton balls and your classroom expectations are great reminders about good behavior. After discussing your expectations for the school year, explain to the children that, often, when you witness them loving one another, being prayerful, keeping their hands to themselves, contributing good answers and taking turns speaking, you will place a cotton ball in a clear jar. You are expecting them to strive to be clear images of God so their faiths can be formed; and you have chosen cotton balls as a reminder because they are quiet and soft.

Once your classroom jar is full of cotton balls, which should take at least a quarter or semester of the school year, celebrate with a Sundae party and a game. I like these rewards better than candy or separate prizes because the children worked to be well behaved together so they should be rewarded as a group. Also, parents prefer a sundae or slice of pizza over candy.

Chance Slips: This idea involves you creating and printing several “Chance Slips,” cutting them apart, and saving a clean ice-cream bucket. Chance Slips were introduced to me over two decades ago by my first cooperating teacher, when I student taught in her Catholic school classroom; and I use them in my classrooms and with my own children. My Chance Slips are about an inch wide and three inches long and they boast cute images and a compliment for the children receiving them.

When Mrs. D. caught her first grade students being clear images of God she handed out simple Chance Slips. They read, “Good Listening!” Or, “I saw you doing something kind.” Or, “You are an Image of God!” 


Mrs. D. carried these magical slips in her pocket. And once an excited child received a Chance Slip, they printed their name on the slip (after reading the special message) and slipped it into a bucket before they left class that day. Each month, or every two weeks, Mrs. D. drew five or six names from the bucket. Those lucky children’s parents promptly received news about good behavior and all of the Chance Slips their child had earned, while the named children enjoyed a small treat, Saint Card or other small surprise. By handing in the winners’ Chance Slips, she reduced the number of slips in the bucket. This gave the other children a better opportunity to win, and encouraged the winners to try for more slips, again.

Near the end of the school year, Mrs. D. strategically drew a name that had not been read (she rigged it). But, it wasn’t because there were children who didn’t receive Chance Slips. I guarantee that the children in Mrs. D’s classroom earned plenty of those treasured slips. It just happened that one child’s slip continuously got missed in the draws.  

Be sure that by the end of the school year, every child gets their name gets drawn at least once. If there is a child who is not receiving chance slips, that’s a signal that you speak with their parents to encourage better behavior.














Bingo Charts: Finally, to use Bingo Charts, print off a blank bingo chart for every child before they come into your classroom. They are easily found on the internet for free. Then, collect MANY small motivational stickers or stamps and prepare them for the first day.

Children will print their names on their Bingo Sheets as you explain your expectations. Throughout the school year, students will strive to be clear images of God to earn a row of stamps and stickers, and then fill out the entire board. Once a child’s board is full, they will hand it into you so you can report good behavior to their parents, earn a small treat or perhaps spend special time alone for 10-15 minutes in a reading corner (many teachers set up a bean bag or soft chair for reading time).

Focusing on Bingo charts during class distracts the children, so keep mental track of students deserving of a few stamps. Then, stamp charts ,with two or three stamps or stickers, at the end of class. Of course, little ones will love shouting, “Bingo,” as they see their final stamp or sticker placed on their Bingo charts.

I have tried these three incentives with my own students and children many times and they work! At a workshop, I once led, I carefully suggested that Catechists try one of these methods. A focused man raised his hand (he was following my “Clear Images of God Expectations”) and asked me if these games were successful. When I enthusiastically chimed in that they definitely were, he responded by telling me not to “suggest” trying them, but to instruct Catechists to use them. And so, I am instructing you . . .  use one of these methods! They work.

Before the end of the month, I’ll discuss methods to energize your classroom, that are fun and helpful. Enjoy fruitful, first weeks of faith formation and if you’ve already started classes, it’s not too late to implement these creative behavior management ideas.






Mother’s Day: Parenting, Planning and Working Reflections

Most of you are mothers.  When you are not Catechizing your own children, amidst the laundry, cleaning, errand running, cooking and tending to children, you help form the faith of other parents’ beautiful children.

Perhaps some of you are grandmothers and you are past the chaotic parenting days.  Listening to your words of wisdom is prudent for those of us who are still in the middle of this grand, parenting hurricane.  You have raised your child or children.  Hundreds of piles of laundry don’t intimidate you.  Mastering how to cook meat so it doesn’t make your family ill, but doesn’t become a hockey puck happened years ago for you.  Embracing changes in your family routine without counting down the hours until you enjoy that coveted glass of wine is easier than it used to be.

Grandmothers, I have not reached your level of wise parenting.  Working mothers, perhaps you are good at this dual role of parenting and working.  Maybe, you are clumsily growing in both roles, as I am.  I humbly share these reflections because it is valuable to think and pray about how our one and only audience, as we parent and work, is Christ.  Equally as important: we are performing these roles together!

Seventeen years ago, when I had my first child, I dreamt about quitting my Catholic school teaching job and being a stay-at-home mommy indefinitely.  My house was going to be perfect for my dear husband to come home to.  I would wear lipstick when he walked through the door and smell like baby powder and his favorite lotion.  His shirts would be freshly pressed and the baby clothes would smell heavenly.

My daughter arrived and although I looked into her big blue eyes and felt an unconditional, indescribable love, I was lucky to get a shower in every other day.  I quit wearing makeup.  When my husband walked through the door, I couldn’t wait to hand him our Emily, so that I could wipe the baby throw-up out of my hair.  Our home smelled like dirty diapers and I missed my classroom, just a little.  I loved being a mom, but the messes were not part of my plan.

Three years later, I taught preschool part-time while TWO Johnson children attended daycare and another classroom, in the same building.  Our firstborn continued to drink from a bottle at the age of four, as a few disgruntled teachers frowned at my weak parenting skills.   I nursed child number two in the coat closet at the preschool/daycare facility.  Although I loved teaching again, it wasn’t part of my plan.

How quickly they grow . . .

As a third child, a set of IDENTICAL TWIN BOYS and our youngest daughter arrived at our scenes of craziness, I continued to substitute teach, tutor, teach faith formation, Catholic home school, and participate in parish vacation bible schools.  Our family enjoyed it all, but it was busy.  Finally, I began God is Good VBS a handful of years ago.  I was and I am passionate about this form of Catechesis, but, at first, It wasn’t part of my plan.

God help the mothers of Identical twin boys

Perhaps you just led First Communion Sunday at your parish, or Confirmation, or you are thinking about summer Catechesis and it’s becoming difficult to balance it all.  Maybe your parish is introducing a new priest to the flock or you are concerned about a parish child or family.  You may be taking care of a sick parent or your husband needs you because he is going through a difficult time.

First Communion Sunday

If you’re like me then, during busy times, you pray in thanks for the blessings, but you raise your voice a bit too loudly at your own children.  You kick your shoes off a little too hard at the front door.  You confess the same sins you confessed two weeks ago.  You lament about parts of your day not being part of your plan.

Catechists and Catholic mothers, we are, together, performing, in this role we call motherhood and womanhood.  And, again, Christ is our audience.  He is watching us and although we are our hardest critics, guess what?  God is not a critic.  He is waiting for us to come falling into His comforting care.

And, what about the plan?  We know that our Mother in Heaven, Mary, asked about God’s plan when Angel Gabriel told her that she was with child . . .

 (Luke 34-37) Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”  

Then, Mary accepted His plan . . .

(Luke 38) Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Mary is the one person who knows that God’s plan is the best plan, because She knew Him better than anyone else.  She carried Jesus in her womb for nine months and She was His Mother on earth and in heaven.  Coming close to Mary is the way to get close to Jesus and to listen to His plan.

As Catechists, His plan, for us, is to teach children to know, love and serve Him.  Whether we have finished raising our children and Catechesis is our main focus, or we are balancing faith formation with our own children and others’ children, we are blessed to be part of His plan.

So, on Mother’s Day, and through out this month of May, I will pray for the women in this group of Catechists.  May God bless you with His plan and may you accept it graciously, while embracing your Holy messes and Divine chaoses.  Happy Mother’s Day.