This fall, Incarnation will offer something called Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for our younger children. In this 2-part series, our children's pastor Josie Ortega shares some background and information about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and then walks us through a Catechesis-style lesson on John 10. We are so thankful for Josie's thoughtful leadership of Incarnation's youngest worshipers!
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) is simply a way of doing Sunday school. It was developed decades ago in Italy by two women; one was a biblical scholar, and the other had worked with Maria Montessori when she developed her method for children’s education.
CGS gets its name from the beautiful parable of John 10, where Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” He calls His sheep by name, and his sheep listen to His voice and follow Him. Those two pieces of the Good Shepherd parable--listening to God’s voice, and then responding--are basically what happens in Catechesis.
Listening & Responding
First, we declare God's words, relying on the fact that the Holy Spirit is the true Teacher. We want to declare the Gospel to children, doing our best to edit ourselves and our own commentary, in order to lift out what is most essential.
So the first part of any lesson is declaring God’s words. And second, we provide physical materials that correspond to the children’s particular stage of development. These become tools for prayer and contemplation, to help the kids continue to think about God’s words for them, to internalize them. And then what often happens is that we see a joyful response from children. They have an incredible capacity to receive God’s love joyfully, to receive Jesus as the gift that He is.
This process has two objectives--which we could also apply to adults! The first is to foster the child’s relationship with God, and the second is to prepare them for greater participation in the life of the church.
I want to comment on that first objective: we believe that children have a real relationship with God! It doesn’t just begin at an arbitrary point when they turn a certain age!
We believe that Jesus is a real Person--and that children can be introduced to Him and enjoy a relationship with Him before they have the capacity to nail down an accurate historical timeline or work out their theology. Instead of learning being a prerequisite for a relationship, it’s the relationship that becomes the foundation for more and more learning. (By the way, that’s also true for adults.)
Curious? Read part 2 next for a CGS-style homily given at our June 17 Evening Prayer service.
Want to learn more?
Here’s a video that shows a little more about what Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is like. Here’s a running wishlist that we’ll keep up to date with some items that we could use in the atrium (i.e. classroom), and there are more items on our church registry. Please contact me if you want to learn more or help out in another way!