by Paula Velez
This past year of pandemic upheaval has also been an opportunity for me to pause and reflect on what is most needed for our children’s ministry. The Lord brought to my attention the ministry of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) and I’ve become convinced that this approach would be a very good fit for the families of both our English and Spanish speaking congregations. When everything started shutting down last spring and there was a huge push to make all things virtual, I started to ask myself if going virtual was what our children needed. I questioned the wisdom of making everything virtual, especially for our youngest members who developmentally are best able to engage relationally and concretely. Even as I looked at the needs of my older children, I realized we are ALL being inundated with information and technology and have to work much harder at slowing down, creating space, and simply being present in the moment. So, I began to research ways that we could bridge the virtual-sacramental gap for children and their families. Because of this I started looking for other options and found myself looking again at Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. I had looked at CGS in the past when others had brought it to my attention (Jeanine Werner, Beth Conkle), but each time it just didn’t seem to be possible.
I have been involved in children’s ministry as a leader, teacher and parent for over 30 years. In more recent years as I have tried to find resources and materials to fit the needs of our children, I have noticed a few things about Sunday School curricula and materials:
So, what makes Catechesis of the Good Shepherd different than other options?
To begin with, I plan to attend a training hosted by an ACNA church in August and a few others are prayerfully considering the possibility as well. My hope is to begin building our own CGS program starting in September 2021, so stay tuned! CGS is not a curriculum or program but a method of sharing the gospel message with the whole person, mind and heart. The method began in Rome in the 1950s and was built on the teaching principles of Maria Montessori, herself a devout Roman Catholic believer, and has since spread around the world, from Europe to Australia, Africa to South America, and all over North America as well. It is found in churches of all denominations, but most often in churches following liturgical traditions including: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Orthodox.
The CGS approach is built on powerful insights regarding passing on our faith, such as:
During this long season of waiting for full in-person worship, I have continued to dig deeper into Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and am convinced that this would bring a new depth of discipleship to our children’s ministry and is a perfect fit for us as we move forward. Some of the reasons I believe this model is worth the effort it will take to make it a reality:
What do we need to get started?
To begin a program here, at least one person would be required to receive training which begins with Level I (ages 3-6). Training consists of 90 hours of teaching and preparation delivered in three sessions, spread out over the course of about one year. My understanding is that we would be able to begin gathering resources and start offering a taste of CGS to families, once formal training has begun.
What else will we need?
A catechesis program like this works best with a dedicated team of volunteers at all levels of development. Initially, we will also need artisans who would be willing to prayerfully create the liturgical materials to be used in the children’s worship space. So, if you are interested in finding out more or joining the team, please let me know!
Would you like to know more?
This video describes the experience offered to the child, The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfg9RfBk-fY) and this video describes the faith building impact on the adult catechist Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (https://www.stmichaelstillwater.org/apps/video/watch.jsp?v=161260), finally this podcast provides further reflection and insight into the content and methods of the program: Good Shepherd and the Child Podcast (https://www.cgsusa.org/learn/resources/podcast/).