Frank discussions, advice, and opinions from a Catholic Director of Religious Education.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I am not a "Youth Pastor" please stop calling me that.

While that particular title chafes against my Catholic sensibilities, it isn't really surprising that people don't know what to make of my job. Director of Religious Education and Family Life doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. It also doesn't really tell anyone what I do, so no wonder my wife's extended family, mainly protestants, simply say that I am a "Youth Pastor".

The quickest and easiest way to describe my job would be to say that I do whatever my pastor says. Period. This makes me part master catechist, volunteer organizer, party planner, motivational speaker, youth minister and curriculum writer. Also, I have a cape. Just kidding, but I do have a lightsaber. (True Story)

Director of Light Side Education?

Most of my time is taken up with either religious education classes or the youth group so I will explain a little of what I do with both.

Religious Education:

We have religious education classes for grades K-10 (we also have a pre-k class on Sundays). I choose the curriculum for every class, recruit and train catachists and determine the sacramental preparation requirements for 2nd, 9th and 10th grades. (My department also handles baptismal classes, but my assistant normally does that.)

Our program includes traditional classes, but we also have whole-community catechesis three times a year. (It used to be seven, but we decided to stop that.) Whole-community catechesis is essentially a night where every parishioner comes, has a meal, and learns the same thing. Small children stay with their parents and work through carefully planned activities, older children go with catechists and learn about the night's subject at a more advanced level and adults without small children go to a lecture/discussion session.  I write the curriculum for these nights myself.

Besides these obligations, we have taken on some extras this past year in response to some areas in need of improvement. We hold evaluations for all 2nd grade students. Essentially these are tests to make sure they know what they should to make their first Reconciliation and Holy Communion. We don't call them tests because parents don't go on the offensive when they hear "evaluation". 

We are also starting journals for all middle school classes this year. The activity books I've seen are mostly busy work and I really want the kids to engage the subject matter so, after every class, they will take five minutes to answer the question: "Why should I care?" My assistant and I, with our pastor joining in randomly, will read these every week and write comments back to each child. This way, we also get to know the kids a little better.

Youth Group

We have a middle school and a high school youth group. We do at least one event every month for each, but we normally do more than that. I try to get a good mix of service, fun and educational events, but the main point is to help the kids make Catholic friends who will be a safety net for them.

I will post more about the specific events we do in youth group throughout the year, but some big events from the past include Black Light Volleyball (Super Fun), Lock-Ins, Mission Trips, NCYC and 24-Hour Fasts (in sack cloth).

There are a lot of other little things we do (Graduation Celebrations, Family Movie Nights, Senior Trips [Real Seniors, 55+], and much more), but I hope that tells you a bit about what I do and maybe helps you appreciate your own DRE a bit more.


  1. Regarding the journals for the middle schoolers...

    Middle school is when we Lutherans do Confirmation prep with our kids and one of the requirements has been "sermon notes". It varies according to the parish and the pastor but the general format requires them to tell us the liturgical season, one hymn they liked (and why they liked it), 3 points on the sermon (homily), and what questions they had. It worked out to one every 2-4 weeks and they actually had a dual purpose -- it made our kids pay attention and it also showed my husband and I what our youth were getting out of worship.

  2. I really like that idea. We have confirmation in 10th grade (after two years of prep). Maybe Father would go in for something like "sermon notes" for them. Thanks for the idea!