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
- 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 notice 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.
Secondly, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless your FALL faith formation classes.