“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Jesus does not command us to go out and make theologians of all the nations. Rather, Jesus tells us to make disciples. So what is a disciple, and how are they made?
To put it as simply as possible, a disciple is one who follows. As Christians, we are followers of Jesus Christ. While the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament records the teachings of Jesus, Jesus did not write a book of things to do in order to be saved. He commanded the those who wished to be His disciples to do just one thing, “deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
One of the charges that Bishop O’Connell gave me when he made me pastor, was to look at the religious education program, which I have done over the past two years. I think we can do better.
We will be initiating a new Religious Education program in the fall. We will be using the Faith and Life series from Ignatius Press, which has been rated one of the best curriculums in the country. Since research indicates that nearly 80% of children prefer to use the computer for education, the Faith and Life series will be presented through “My Catholic Faith Delivered,” an online program, and we will be using a “flipped classroom” approach.
In a traditional classroom, during class a lecture is given on the subject material, and homework is given to practice and emphasize that material. In a “flipped classroom,” the lecture/content is given through online videos, readings and activities, and then in the classroom discussions and activities which practice and deepen the material are done. We have already been using “My Catholic Faith Delivered” for the Faith and Life series for about 10 students, and they and their parents have only good things to say about it.
This means that when you register your children for Religious Education we will create a database with your email address and send it to “My Catholic Faith Delivered” so that they can create an account for you (don’t worry, they send the bill to the parish). We will give you information on how to sign-in, and once there your children will be able to start taking their class online. They will be assigned to a classroom, with a teacher/catechist, whom we are going to also call “Discipleship Mentors,” and each week they will meet for activities and discussions with the other members of their class. Obviously they will need to have completed the online class first.
This means that children will start attending Religious Education EVERY week come the Fall. We will be putting together a survey to help us determine when will be a good time for classes — which will now be 75 minutes instead of 2 hours — to meet. We will need two meeting times to accommodate all our students. We can continue to offer a time on Sundays, say from 11:15 AM until 12:30 PM, but we are also looking at an evening or two during the week.
Another issue which I would appreciate some feedback on is how to group the students. Currently we have two groups of K-8th grades; our “Angels” and “Saints.” Another possibility would be a modified “elementary” (say K-4th grades) and “middle” (5th-8th grades), which would allow the same grade classrooms to work together on some activities, such as the Advent Concert and Lenten Living Stations.
Next week I will describe another component of our new Religious Education Program, the “Disciple’s Journal.” I realize that all this is a big change, but we are doing this to more effectively pass on the Good News of Jesus Christ to the next generation, so that they can be His disciples.