I was recently talking with a friend who was in the midst of developing a curriculum for high school age students. He mentioned that his starting point was the high school framework the bishops created in 2008. Having worked on the high school framework while on the staff at the USCCB, I know them quite well and like them very much. My words to him may have come as a surprise: “Don’t start with the framework. They are a means to accomplish a goal. First, determine your goal, and then decide how you will use the framework to accomplish your goal.”
I believe that many of our problems in catechesis occur because we fail to identify our goals well, and not because of the lack of money, human resources, time, or quality materials. If we can be clear on our goals, then we can determine how to best use the resources we have available in accomplishing those goals.
Here are two examples of meaningful goals:
(1) In the front matter of the High School Framework the US Bishops state that the goal of the document is to bring adolescents into discipleship with Jesus Christ.
(2) The General Directory for Catechesis says the goal of all catechesis is to help people to develop an intimate relationship with Christ and the Church.
If you start with either of these goals you can then start to plan by working backwards, asking these questions (and in this order): What life experiences, faith experiences, and knowledge will young people need at each grade/level in order to become disciples/fall in love with Christ and the Church? What is the role of the Church in insuring that young people have these experiences and gain this knowledge? What resources do I have that can help to make these experiences/knowledge happen well? (Hint: this is where the framework comes into the picture.) How will I evaluate the successfulness of my efforts? When you have answered all of these questions, then you can start to put the individual steps of your plan together.
A few suggestions:
(1) Think systemically and developmentally—recognize that you can’t accomplish everything at once. Accomplish one thing well before moving on to something else.
(2) Be intentional—know what you want to accomplish for everything you do.
(3) Evaluate constantly—don’t wait for the end of a process or program to fix problems. If you aren’t accomplishing what you intended, change what you are doing.