Array ( )

Basic Training to Defend the Faith


Holy Spirit
Annandale, VA 22003-4165
Diocese of Arlington
United States

More Info

For more information, email Fr. James Searby Parochial Vicar.

Categories: Faith Formation, Youth

Turning post-Confirmation teens religious education into "training" for a kind of "Special Forces Evangelizing Team" TRIPLED class attendance.

"We needed a religious education system that was not just another class but enticed a commitment every Sunday evening to becoming crusaders for their faith."
Father James Searby, Holy Spirit Parish, Annandale, VA

The need it meets

A post-Confirmation religious education class that is actually attractive to the kids.

Where it came from

Fr Searby saw that the post-confirmation teens needed to be more actively engaged in their religious education, or else they would lose interest.

How it works

The program divides the students into 4 “Units”:

  • Each "Evangelization Unit" of 10-13 students operates like a family with students encouraging and supporting each other.
  • Each Unit co-evaluates their members' skill sets and comfort levels and assigns tasks based on that evaluation.
  • Within each unit there are ‚Äúspecialists‚Äù who act as the ‚Äúgo-to persons‚Äù in their areas of expertise.

Each weekly class has a seven-part structure:

  1. All units come together as a group and pray with a brief 3-minute reflection on having a “plan of life” for daily spiritual growth. (5 minutes - reflection given by one of the priests).
  2. Review previous class and questions from the group on current events. (5 minutes)
  3. Lecture on the week’s topic (20 minutes - lecture given by one of the parish priests).
  4. Questions and answers about the topic, reading material or discussion. (5 minutes)
  5. A presentation on an aspect of the Catholic cultural heritage (i.e., sacred art, sacred music, liturgy, feast days and traditions, the liturgical year, etc.) (15 minutes - given by one of the priests or one of the units/members who prepared with priest's assistance).
  6. Unit breakout to work on projects; when deadlines approach this will constitute a larger portion of the class and the lecture will be cut short. (20 minutes)
  7. Prayer and wrap up. Students visit the Blessed Sacrament before they leave; confessions are heard after every class.

The results

Students live their faith because they know it better. They develop a friendship with Jesus and can evangelize their peers. Students are excited about their faith and what a spiritual life with Christ can do for them.

  • We have seen an increase in attendance from 40 to130 students in the last year.
  • Fifteen to twenty kids per week now participate in confession.
  • There has been a significant increase in the number for holy hour.
  • Our students convinced a local high school to include a section on religion in the yearbook. They are less afraid to be open about their faith.

The real efforts are the ones the kids have made on their own, inspired by the Spirit. One student said, "Father, I've been praying to Our Lady every day and you were right, there is nothing she can't do."

Key elements

Variety of activities, students taking leaderships roles and working together, and every student getting active in their Unit's efforts at evangelization. Therefore, each Unit includes, but is not limited to, the following roles and responsibilities:

  1. Project leader: His/her role will be to bring all the work together for presentations and to help motivate and lead their Unit.
  2. 2-3 debate specialists: Their task is to understand and educate others in the material regarding how to argue and defend it. They will help provide talking points, supportive scriptural references, images, analogies, etc.
  3. Art Specialist: becomes a specialist in how particular truths of the faith are expressed in the sacred art of the Church through time (e.g., how the Trinity is depicted in art through the ages).
  4. Music & Liturgy Specialist: becomes familiar with the musical and liturgical heritage of the Church (e.g., how the Blessed Mother is highlighted in liturgy and the musical tradition).
  5. Cultural Specialist: Finds current cultural trends relevant to the material. Helps members apply the faith today through “reading the signs of the times.”
  6. History Specialist: shows the historical development of a teaching of the Church, especially in relation to Scripture and Tradition with an eye toward evangelizing Protestants.
  7. Family Liaison: brings together projects and helps unit members bring the information to their families. (A special emphasis is given to evangelizing and educating parents). Post materials on the parish website so families, students and friends can access them.

How to implement it

For a pdf outline on how to run this program please email Father James Searby at

Rev. Terry Specht is pastor of Holy Spirit.

Do you have a Best Practice?

We want to hear about it!

Got an idea? General comment or feedback?

Drop us a line. We are interested in what you have to say.

Send a Comment