Another year of teaching religious ed. is starting for me next week and one thing our DRE wants to emphasize, with the new diocesan norms mandating tests, of all things, is that we need more parental involvement.

I'm Catholic, but I'd like to know what Protestants do to get the parents of their students more involved in their children's religious education. Mostly, how do you overcome barriers when your student's parents don't attend services or come to many church events.

  • 3
    I think this is a great question - and one with answers that could apply to [almost] any denomination. However, it seems more of a "how-to" with regards to proseletization, which I think would be more 'pastoral' in nature
    – warren
    Sep 26, 2012 at 4:41
  • @warren I think that's one of the points of the site (not a well used point) the question isn't asking for pastoral advice it's asking for advice in being pastoral. But yeah, it could be a tad listy. I'll make it real, real specific if anyone else thinks along your lines.
    – Peter Turner
    Sep 26, 2012 at 4:45
  • ftr - I did upvote it :)
    – warren
    Sep 26, 2012 at 5:06
  • 1
    Please see the discussion on this question type on meta: Is methodology advice to pastors too subjective to deal with here?
    – Caleb
    Sep 26, 2012 at 12:31
  • 2
    Note to potential answerers: This is a subjective question. That doesn't mean you will get a free pass for answers that aren't backed up with anything. No speculation or raw opinion please, lets see first hand experience and verifiable examples. See our guidelines for handling subjective questions for help on this.
    – Caleb
    Oct 17, 2012 at 5:47

1 Answer 1


My Background

That... entirely depends. I am a former Protestant and have spent several years helping in Catholic youth ministry. My wife is a former DRE and now acts as a consultant DRE/retreat coordinator for a couple of parishes. We often talk about how those parishes run their ministry and how it might be improved.

What I did as a Protestant

One major difference: a lot of the youth-oriented ministry happens in parallel or in the stead of Sunday services. Sunday School is something very foreign to the Catholic Church, even when "children's liturgy of the word" is available. Much, if not most, catechesis happens during that period. This model means that if the parents don't go to church, neither do the kids. In that sense, outreach to parents is outreach to kids.

There will often be other ministries which meet and try to bring kids in. In the church I was raised in, it was not unheard of for parents to have limited or no involvement in these groups (or in the church as a whole). Come to think of it, I remember that one's parental involvement could be summarized: "drop the kids off." The impression I got was that the purpose of the ministry was for the kids and the youth minister would do his best to talk with kids outside of that if the kids wanted to.

I remember another ministry that was purely focused on giving kids a safe, drug free place to hang out. There would be a testimony at one point in the evening, but it didn't really exist for the purpose of catechesis.

Why whole-family is particularly important to Catholics

I think that it also might be important to note why there is an emphasis on family catechesis in the Catholic Church. Unlike many Protestant denominations where the accepted doctrine is, "know your Bible," the Catholic Church has a defined set of dogmas which cannot really be disagreed with (well, you can disagree, but you're wrong). This places a special emphasis on getting parents to be aware of what the Church teaches.

Additionally, there are many people who were Catholic at some point, but then faded. However, they still want their kids to receive the sacraments (this phenomenon does not frequently occur in Protestant settings, because, for the most part, there is no major sacrament between baptism and marriage). Whole family catechesis, as a requirement, affords the catechetical ministries of the Church the opportunity to preach to these people and try to get them to at least think about what it means to be Catholic and why they want their kids to receive the sacraments to begin with.

As a final note, the whole-family models are most often associated with sacramental preparation. Many Catholic churches will offer ministries which are similar to the youth ministry I grew up in. While these ministries will actively seek adult volunteers (parents are great at helping set up and tear down, let me tell you), more often the focus is on helping the teenagers grow in their faith, even it the teen is not Catholic (I knew one girl who was baptized because of one of these programs) or does not have Catholic family (all too often).

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