Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Children’s catechism club provides
a fun and different kind of clubhouse

By Peggy King Anderson
April 4th, 2008
The Catholic Northwest Progress (www.seattlearch.org/progress)

KIRKLAND, Wash. (The Catholic Northwest Progress) - Sunday morning at 9:30 is clubhouse time at St. John Vianney Church in Kirkland. Music resounds from Room 6 as 65 kids excitedly enter the gymnasium-sized room ready for an hour of Scripture study, challenges and fun.

It’s time for Catholic Kids Catechism Club (CKCC), a new way of learning about faith. All ages from kindergarten through fifth grade gather in one room. No desks. No books.

“We wanted to bring life to our faith formation program,” said Laura Stanger, the parish’s Children and Family Life Coordinator.

Stanger and program volunteer Chris Lystad noticed the joy and learning that came during their successful vacation Bible school. So they took the best elements of that one-week program and implemented it year-round.

A key component of the program is competition. Each grade level is a clubhouse competing for points at each meeting with crazy challenges such as bug-eating (John the Baptist challenge) and spam carving (church symbols).

“The competition motivates our kids to learn vocabulary and prayers that the Archdiocese of Seattle asks of them,” Stanger said. “They learn while having fun.”

Fun is a key element of CKCC.

“We even have our own official Consultant of Fun,” Stanger said of Lystad, who helped Stanger develop the program. “Chris has a gift for creating a game out of just about anything.”

Making it real

On the third Sunday morning in Lent Room 6 echoes with laughter as kids make their way to their clubhouses, grouped by age from kindergarten (the Early Birds) up to fifth grade (the Triple Sevens). Each clubhouse gathers at one of six large canvas mats spread around the room. The mats have been brightly decorated by the kids with images representing clubhouse goals for the year.

Today’s CKCC lesson deals with temptation. The kids are attentive as Stanger energetically reads and interprets the Sunday Gospel reading, the woman at the well. “Temptation is anything that keeps you from loving the way Jesus calls us to love,” Stanger explains.
To make this real and personal, kids write words or a symbol on a rock representing their temptation. The rocks are placed at the base of the five-foot tall wooden cross in front of the room.

Each student then selects a paper dove representing a gift of the Spirit such as self-control, patience or fortitude.

“Pick one that will help you with your particular temptation,” Stanger instructs.

Each child then tapes a paper dove with their name on it to a balloon.

“Are you ready to ask for help to overcome your temptations?” Stanger asks. Sixty-five kids shout “Yes.” At Stanger’s direction they throw their balloons into the center of the room. Next, they wade into the pile of balloons and select one.

Accepting the challenge

“This is the person you’ll help, lifting them up in prayer all during Lent,” Stanger says.

The kids accept a challenge as part of every clubhouse meeting to make the lesson real. “Keep your balloon in the air for two minutes,” Stanger instructs. “You’re lifting your prayer partner up—don’t drop them.”

Amidst much laughter the kids try hard to keep their balloons from touching the floor. Points are won and lost in the competition. The next challenge is for each child to pray for their new friend during Lent and to put notes of encouragement into brightly decorated mailbags clipped to a clothesline by the clubhouse door. Every clubhouse member has a mailbag and each week they find a treat, a note or information about upcoming challenges inside.
At CKCC, the love and the challenges reach beyond their clubhouse. This week the kids hear from Clarke Speed, who has worked in Sierra Leone in West Africa for 20 years. He is helping a small village there build a church and he challenges CKCC to help.

The Catholic Kids Catechism Club took the challenge and began with letters to the kids of that little African church the following week.

More challenges will come, and as the Catholic Kids Catechism Club leaves Room 6 their joy is evident on their faces and the faces of Stanger and Lystad. In fact, the program has been so successful that the two instructors are considering publishing the CKCC program after running it for a three-year liturgical cycle.

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