Adolescent Catechesis at a Crossroads

At its heart, adolescent catechesis is about forming disciples of Jesus Christ. This requires a comprehensive formation that includes the development of one’s head (intellectual), heart (affective), and hands (behavioral). A well formed disciple is one who shares his or her faith with others because it cannot be contained. This desire for evangelization, of actively sharing and witnessing to one’s faith, is a critical outcome of discipleship. Good News must be shared, and in sharing it with others, faith is multiplied.

This journey toward discipleship is a lifelong one, but perhaps there is no more critical moment of that lifelong formation than during adolescence, when young men and women begin to name and claim their identities and the values and beliefs upon which they plan to base their lives.  Christian Smith in his NSYR research found however that “most U.S. teens have a difficult to impossible time explaining what they believe, what it means, and what the implications of their beliefs are for their lives.” (Soul Searching, p.262).

Despite the disappointing results found by Smith and colleagues in their research, the Partnership is well aware that there are effective models and methodologies in existence that are doing a remarkable job of forming the faith of young people today. These programs can be found in both parishes and schools, and use a variety of delivery systems that engage young people and involve their parents in faith formation, empowering each to share their faith with others. A review of the research on educational techniques that are effective with adolescents shows some striking similarities, proving that teenagers learn best when…

  • they are engaged to act
  • content collides with experience
  • multiple methods are employed
  • applications are made to real life
  • presentation is developmentally appropriate
  • content is challenging and relevant
  • they discuss, share, and work together

(Research utilized: APA 1997; Lambert and McCombs 1998; McCombs and Whisler 1997; Resnick 1987; 1991, 1999b)