Forming Committed Disciples of Jesus Christ

We have to be intentional about our lesson planning. There is a five-step method that is geared toward leading students deeper in their relationship with the Lord. by allowing them to personally respond to Jesus Christ and what He has done for us as expressed in the teaching.

This method can be used in any teaching situation and the five steps are:  Preparation,  Proclamation, Explanation, Application to Life, and Celebration.[1]

The first step, the Preparation, is to capture the attention of the children by disengaging them from their busy lives and concerns and help them to be receptive to Jesus and his Word.  Being ready for them when they arrive by knowing their names, and asking about their week is essential.  A simple “sacred space” as a focal point in the room with a Crucifix or a work of sacred art related to the teaching is also necessary.  The sacred space allows the students to know what the focus will be. The opening prayer is key to the “Preparation” step. Reading from an appropriate Bible passage that is foundational to the teaching is particularly effective because grace is given when God’s Word is read.[2]

The second step is the Proclamation, which is the announcement of the truth to be examined, learned and assimilated.  One brief statement, stated boldly and clearly gives the overall thesis statement for the session.  The truth of the Faith is rolled out right in front for everyone to hear.  The purpose of this step is to clearly proclaim the truth to be taught.  It’s like saying, “This is what we are learning today.”  When children, young people, or adults leave your classroom, they know the key point of what they learned – this “gem” of truth that they will remember!  If the catechist does not know the main point, the students won’t know it either.  Therefore, the announcement must not be ambiguous but well-stated and simple with language that is compelling.  This is the central step of the method.  All of the other steps relate to this one.

A proclamation about Baptism for the lower grades might sound like this:  “In Baptism, we become a child of God.”  For the upper grades, a proclamation about Baptism could be “In Baptism, we become re-united with God by receiving sanctifying grace.”

The third step is the Explanation, which fleshes out what was said in the Proclamation.  This stage of the teaching provides the opportunity to examine closely this “good news” in greater depth.  The explanation is to present the students with three or four essential points, the keys that will help the student to receive a clear grasp of the teaching.

This further explanation is to honestly address students’ questions and doubts.  The important thing is to explain the truth well but in simple points they can remember, so that it is clear, reasonable and attractive. These essential points need to connect students with the Person of Jesus. Everything that we teach is about deepening our relationship of love with Him.

The fourth step is the Application and Appropriation into Life.  Even if the proclamation was just right and the teaching was well done, if the young people do not have the chance to specifically apply this truth to their life by making a response of faith, the session has little value.  Appropriating this truth into their life is necessary because conversion is the point of the process.  Conversion involves understanding a truth better in order to change and follow Christ more closely.  Therefore, students must be allowed to make a personal response.   Note:  Msgr. Kelly, the author of the book which elucidates this method of teaching says that we should not teach the lesson if we do not include an application to life for the participants.

Having a classroom discussion, praying with a Scripture passage, hearing a saint story or personal testimony that is related to the teaching, or breaking up in small groups with well-crafted questions are good ways to help students respond to God’s grace, integrating the teaching into their lives.  We need to allow time for such a response to the teaching.  Applying this truth to their lives makes Christ and His teaching “come alive” for students.

The other benefit of the application step is to help the catechist keep a pulse on the spiritual life of this particular group.  It is necessary to know if each person has accepted or is not yet ready to embrace this teaching.  This can also be a gauge to determine if the teachings are being presented in a simple enough way to be understood.

The final step is the closing Celebration.  The point of the closing prayer is to thank God for what He has done for us.  In other words, it gives us an opportunity to express our gratitude for God’s love, expressed so clearly in this particular teaching.  This celebration of thanksgiving and praise invites each person to respond to the grace that God was giving them while they explored His truth.  For example, a lesson on Mary could end with the Memorare, or a decade of the Rosary.

The five-step process of Preparation, Proclamation, Explanation, Application and Celebration provides a method that is intentional about leading students to encounter and commit to Jesus Christ as they experience Him personally.  Please note that the simple lesson plan format including the five-step process that is included with this article can be duplicated for use in weekly planning.

[1] The five step teaching process is based upon The “Ecclesial Method” from the book, The Mystery We Proclaim by Msgr. Francis Kelly (Available from the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization)

[2] Pertinent Scripture passages can be found in the Diocesan Religion Curriculum for each grade level and referenced according to a doctrine, for a specific textbook and chapter by the Sequence Charts