Exciting Updates in Children’s Ministry
Being a parent is tough: carpools, difficult conversations, crazy schedules, worrying about your children, not feeling well-rested... we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day for a reason!
We want to better support our parents as they raise their children in our Catholic faith. In St. Ann Children’s Ministry, we know partnering with parents is our best chance to help our children cultivate and deepen a lifelong relationship with Jesus. Spending 26 hours in a class each year - though we have great catechists and wonderful textbooks - is not working. 50% of our children receiving First Eucharist don’t come to weekly Mass. Only 35% of our children return for more formation after receiving the sacraments.
Parents are already doing an amazing job cultivating their child’s faith life at home - teaching healing and reconciliation through “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you,” bathing their child in love that mirrors God’s infinite love for us, and being witnesses to them of the power of serving others. What we hear from parents time and again is that they need more help!
The first way we will help parents is to listen to their story and help determine the ideal next step for each child.
We begin laying the foundation for our children (and their parents) by exploring their relationship with Jesus. We are excited to announce that we’re teaming up with Alpha USA, and offering “Sprouts,” a child-friendly introduction to Jesus and the Christian Life. Parents get an adult conversation (a reason to celebrate all on its own) while children hang out with other kids, ask questions, and have fun while learning the basics about Jesus. We’re encouraging every child to experience Sprouts while their parents experience Alpha because it’s a great way to develop a relationship with Jesus as a family and begin to grow in intimacy with Him.
Once children have that foundational relationship with Jesus, we can build on it with the beautiful teachings of our Catholic faith. A recent survey showed 65% of our parents were interested in ways their family could spend more time together while deepening their relationship with Jesus, understanding their faith, and spending less time in transit. We are eager to help our parents who “have the first responsibility for the education of their children” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2223). We’re not expecting parents to do everything alone - that’s not what a parish is for! We’re here for community, formation, strength, and guidance. In our new program called Grace, we’re taking 2 hours a month to form the kids, help them form community, and also to equip parents to continue this formation at home. With more time at home and a little more confidence, parents can spend time with their families each month discussing the faith. And with all children grades 1-5 and their parents learning about the same topic every month, families have a more unifying opportunity to talk about their faith at home.
We’re also adjusting how we do sacrament preparation. The truth is children aren’t always ready to start preparing for the sacraments when they turn 7 or enter 2nd grade. Often a child matures greatly after Christmas and suddenly becomes interested in what their parent receives every Sunday at Mass. Beginning in July 2019, sacrament preparation will start frequently throughout the year so children can begin to prepare when they are ready, not because they reach a certain age or school grade level. This way families won’t need to rush their not-quite-yet-ready child or hold back a child that starts asking about the Eucharist in January. Our children will be able to prepare for the sacraments with their parent’s help soon after they show an interest.
WE HOPE YOU JOIN US! WE CAN’T WAIT TO GET STARTED. HERE’S OUR TIMELINE:
No changes in weekly formation this year - this will be the last year of the weekly classroom drop off model. Parents are invited to 3 preparatory sessions (September, November, April) in anticipation for Grace in the upcoming year.
Revised sacrament preparation begins in July 2019. This process will be 8 months long (4 months for Reconciliation, 4 months for First Eucharist). Parents and their children will come to a session about once a month and read the Blessed books at home together. Blessed reads just like a story book and there are free videos online that kids love. For more information on Blessed and to check out the videos, click here.
Alpha and Sprouts
All families are welcome to join us for Alpha (for parents) and Sprouts (for children ages 6-11). For more information about Alpha, click here. Sprouts will begin in Fall 2019 for children. Free childcare is available for children under age 6. For children grades 6-12, please see the Youth Ministry website.
We’ll have conversations with incoming families to help find out the ideal next step for their child.
We’ll transition fully to Grace -- 2-hour monthly formation with children and their parents. Parents will be with the same group each month learning about and discussing that month’s topic. Children will be in a separate room with their own age group playing, praying, and learning about the same topic their parents are discussing. Parents will use the suggestions from Grace to discuss the month’s topic at home with their children.
We’ll make any necessary adjustments to the parent-led sacrament preparation process. Any new families will speak in person with a trained volunteer so we can help them find the ideal next step for their child. Some families will begin with Alpha and Sprouts; others will begin Grace right away and later begin preparing for the sacraments as they are ready.
We know these are big adjustments, and we are committed to walking with you through them, with the goal of helping our children truly come to know the One who loves them even more deeply than we do.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does this mean for my child this upcoming year?
Any children finishing first grade or their first year of formation are welcome to begin preparing for Reconciliation and Eucharist when they are ready. (See “How do I know if my child is ready...” below if you have questions about your child’s readiness.) If you have any questions, please email Loreen Shillinglaw.
Any children who just received Jesus for the first time in the Eucharist, congratulations! We would love to have you back this upcoming school year to continue deepening your relationship with Jesus and learning more about Him and His church. You can find formation registration forms here. Please contact Kim Cesario with any questions regarding formation.
Any children beginning grades 1-5 who have not yet come to Children’s Ministry are welcome to begin this school year with weekly formation. You can find formation registration forms here. Please contact Kim Cesario with any questions regarding formation.
For 2019-2020, what if I have a child preparing for sacraments and another child in formation?
Preparation for the sacraments will involve parents and children. Most events are Wednesdays from 5:30-7:30 pm. Some families might find it easier to chose Thursday (4:30-5:45 pm or 6:15-7:30 pm) for their child in formation so Wednesdays they can focus on sacrament preparation. Other families might do both formation and sacrament preparation on Wednesdays (4:30-5:45 pm or 6:15-7:30 pm) - there are 4 times when the dates will overlap, and we will work with these families.
During our sacrament preparation gatherings, we will have childcare available for any siblings (6 months-12 years old) not preparing for the sacraments.
What help do you want or need from parents?
We are always looking for adults who love being with children and inspiring them to love Jesus with all their heart. Adults with children preparing for the sacraments should take this time to be with their child - if they would like to volunteer in the future, we’d be glad to have their help!
We’ll need many dedicated catechists in Grace. If you’re willing to help the children each month for two hours beginning September 2020, please contact Kim Cesario. We’re also looking for adults to help with Sprouts Sunday evenings from 5:30 – 7:30 pm beginning in September 2019, please contact Kim Cesario if you are interested. Sprouts begins at 5:45, but we ask volunteers to be here 15 minutes early to pray and welcome the children.
What about Sunday School?
Sunday School will continue as before, please click here to register!
How much does the new program cost per child?
Formation will continue as $90 for the first child, $140 for two children in formation, and $170 for three children in formation.
The cost for each child preparing for the sacraments will be $50.
We do not want cost to prohibit any families from deepening their relationship with Jesus through formation or the sacraments! Payment plans and scholarships are available. Please contact Mary Leonard with any questions.
How does Sprouts and Alpha work?
Alpha has greatly helped many people encounter Jesus and deepen their relationship with him. This year, we’re having Sprouts at the same time as Alpha on Sundays from 5:45-7:30 pm for children ages 6-11 whose parents are experiencing Alpha. (Free childcare available for children under 6.) Sprouts is a chance for children to hang out with other kids, ask questions, and have fun while learning the basics about Jesus. We’re encouraging every child to experience Sprouts while their parents experience Alpha because it’s a great way to develop a relationship with Jesus as a family and begin to grow in intimacy with Him. We suggest children experience Sprouts before beginning formation, although some families choose to do formation and Sprouts in the same year.
Does everyone have to go through Alpha and Sprouts?
We do encourage all families to experience Alpha and Sprouts, but it is not a requirement for each individual family. If you and your child already have a relationship with Jesus (pray daily, talk with God as a person) you can focus on deepening your family’s relationship with Him through formation and sacrament preparation.
What will Grace be like in Fall 2020?
Instead of 22 weeks of formation in a classroom throughout the school year, families will come to St. Ann for Grace - monthly Children’s Ministry. Grace is for children in grades 1-5. The children will play together, pray together, and deepen their relationship with Jesus. Each month’s activities will be high-quality and focus on one topic.
At the same time, we’ll be working with the parents separately by empowering them and giving them practical tips to bring Jesus into their home. Each month, parents and children learn about the same topic so they can dive into this topic together as a family.
Our catechists will routinely contact families to see how things are going and ask how we can support them as they continue to deepen their relationship with Jesus.
Will there be childcare during Grace?
We will have childcare during Grace for siblings from 6 months-Kindergarten. Children in grades 1-5 should be enrolled in Grace with their siblings.
What if I don’t feel ready as a parent to talk with my children about the faith?
The truth is, parents don’t need to to be experts in our faith in order to be a good role model for their children. Many parents don’t realize how much good they are already doing at home: encouraging prayer, teaching forgiveness, helping children grow in virtues such as patience and charity. Simply approaching the church so their child can receive the sacraments is a counter-cultural sign that they want to follow Jesus!
Our parent sessions during Grace will be focused on encouraging parents to keep doing all the good things they are already doing, while introducing some new ideas that they can begin at home. Some new ideas might be making a prayer space, beginning or recommitting to family prayer time, and making Sunday Mass a more fruitful experience for your family. Each month parents will learn how to bring that month’s topic into daily conversation and do some activities at home together as a family. We’re not expecting or asking families to spend an hour each week sitting down and reading the Bible. What we want is for conversations about God and His Church to be natural and frequent at home, and we want the parents to be prepared to engage in these conversations.
What resources do I have (or need) as a parent to do the monthly formation?
Parents will not need to acquire any formation or resources outside of Grace to be prepared to talk with their child about the month’s topic. During Grace, we’ll go over helpful suggestions and best practices to help your family engage with the topic. We’ll provide suggested activities to do at home that require everyday materials such as paper and scissors.
How do I know if my child is ready for sacramental preparation? What is the minimum age for sacramental preparation?
The church gives 7 years old as the typical age of reason - the age at which a child is deemed morally responsible. This age is a helpful guideline; parents can help determine if a child is ready to prepare for the sacraments using the following as a guide.
Children are likely ready to begin preparation for the sacraments when:
They have a relationship with Jesus and basic understanding that He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead so we can have a relationship with him.
They have some understanding of the difference between right and wrong, morally good and bad.
They are learning to know the difference between sins and accidents or mistakes.
They are capable of apologizing.
They are beginning to know God as a loving Father who forgives us.
They can (for the most part) pay attention at weekly Sunday Mass.
They have some appreciation that God works through miracles.
They show curiosity about the Eucharist.
They can follow directions on how to (physically) partake in the Eucharist (without playing or disturbing others during the sacrament at Mass).
How much time should I expect to spend at home on sacramental preparation?
Parents will receive a suggested timeline for reading Blessed at home with their children. It will take about 5-20 minutes each week to finish the book together. We suggest you begin in prayer, read together, and take time to enjoy talking about the pictures and discussing any questions that arise from your reading. Each chapter ends with a helpful survey to see if your child understands what he or she has been reading.
Does my child in sacrament preparation need to be in formation as well?
No, children preparing for the sacraments in 2019-2020 can take this year to focus on preparing for Reconciliation and Communion. They are of course welcome to prepare for the sacraments and be in weekly faith formation if the family desires!
For children doing both sacrament preparation and faith formation this year, they can choose the Wednesday 4:30 or 6:15 pm session and they’ll miss a few faith formation sessions because of sacrament preparation events. (Children will not be penalized in any way for missing faith formation because they are attending a sacrament preparation event.) Or the child can attend Thursday faith formation (4:30 or 6:15 pm) to avoid any scheduling conflicts.
Families that have some children in faith formation and others in sacrament preparation might find it easier to register for Thursday faith formation so there’s no conflict with the sacrament preparation schedule. Other families might prefer Wednesday faith formation, and we will gladly work with your family for the few times the schedules overlap. (We would suggest the Wednesday 6:15 pm session because then the whole family will be done at 7:30 pm.) Childcare is available for siblings ages 6 months-12 years during sacrament preparation.
For the future, we are hopeful that parents and children will be involved in both Grace and sacrament preparation at the same time, since faith formation is something we continue for our whole lives and we hope they’ll want to see their Grace friends! Since we'll only meet monthly for Grace, we’re optimistic that adding 4 sacrament preparation events will be doable for our families.