Faith Formation is changing to meet the needs of a busy world and even busier family life. Many parishes, including mine, have begun a new model of Religious Education; Summer Intensive Religious Education.
There are many benefits of this type of model that may make it a viable option for parishes struggling with decreasing Faith Formation enrollment and increasing demands on the time of Catholic Families.
What is Summer Intensive Religious Education?
It is a program that mainly takes place over one week during the summer from about 9am-3pm each day. Children cover their textbooks during this time, but also participate in crafts, games, music time and group gatherings, giving this type of religious education a VBS feel. Most programs follow-up by providing several family learning sessions throughout the year, while eliminating the need for school-year weekly classes.
There are many advantages to this type of program.
- Children tend to remember material presented daily, rather than spreading the learning experience out throughout the school year.
- Some families benefit from having a program for their children in the summer eliminating the need for child care for that week.
- Avoids many of the school-year conflicts with functions and events that often interfere with the religious education schedule. We have had attendance of virtually 100 % at our parish.
- Children seem to express more excitement about attending the program and do not seem as fatigued as they often do after school.
- Opportunity for community/parish fellowship and relationship building.
Disadvantages are present too in the summer model.
- Parents may find that using up one week of the summer is difficult.
- Teachers may not be able to commit to one full week, which can provide staffing challenges.
- Decreases some opportunity for long term relationship building over the course of a school year.
- If a child misses one day a significant amount of work may be missed.
- Scheduling a VBS program as well as Faith Formation may be difficult, so some families may opt to attend one or the other rather than both.
- It is difficult to find resources for a specific summer intensive program, so year-long programs will often need to be adapted.
Each parish could weigh out the advantages and disadvantages of this type of program. As parish needs increase, faith educators need to provide new ideas to address the changing challenges of Catholic family life and education. This type of program may offer some new solutions to the old problems of time, attendance and even interest in religious education. God Bless.