How do you teach kids about the beauty of the Catholic Church? Here’s a simple (but effective) lesson plan.
This presentation is the companion piece to Becky Arganbright’s article, A Lesson in Teaching Kids the Unique Treasures of the Catholic Church.
Direct Aim: To help kids understand the beauty of the Catholic Church and what unique treasures they will be leaving behind if they choose to leave the Church.
Indirect Aim: To learn about all the different treasures the Church holds, to see the beauty of priesthood and vocations, to have a greater appreciation and understanding of how the Catholic Church is unique and special, and that Jesus Christ is its founder.
Gather the following items. Anything will work, but if you have a treasure chest to put them in, that is even better! Make sure that the kids don’t see them beforehand.
- Statue of the Blessed Virgin (or a picture, or a rosary)
- Saint cards
- Picture of a priest (or priest vestments)
- Chalice and Eucharist (use pita bread or a paper model for the large host)
- An outward symbol for Reconciliation—this can be a picture of someone in the confessional, the Act of Contrition, or a prayer book specifically for confession
- A picture of the pope
You can add as many or as few treasures as you want, but I try to stick to the basics for the actual presentation or it can get a little long and overwhelming. Keep in mind the age of the child and the level of understanding so you can adjust your treasures accordingly. You also can have more treasures for the children to look at on their own after the presentation, as an extension of the work.
Many of the items pictured above were obtained from a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium, but you can find or create your own “treasures” at home using pictures or other symbolic objects.
Moments of presentation:
Start by telling the children a little about the Catholic Church, how it is unique and beautiful, and has so many treasures that Jesus wants to share with us. I also add that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus himself, and the Catholic Church was the first of all Christian religions.
Introduce your treasure box: “I have many treasures to show you. These are the treasures of the Catholic Church.”
(The children should be sitting for this and not crowding to see.)
Pull out the first treasure, which is the Eucharist and chalice and give it to one child: “Jesus comes to us in the form of bread and wine as true food and drink! This is the center of our faith, the best treasure of all, Jesus himself.”
Take the next treasure, which is the symbol of reconciliation, and give it to the next child: “Another treasure is reconciliation or confession. This is a sacrament that Jesus gives us to be wiped clean of all our sins.”
Pull out your next treasure, which is a symbol of the priesthood, and give it to the next child: “One very special treasure of the Catholic Church is the priesthood. God calls certain men to be shepherds just like him. Priests give us the Mass so we can receive Jesus in our hearts, and priests also help our sins be forgiven through the sacrament of reconciliation. Priests are very special.”
Give the next treasure (the Pope) to the next child: “This is our Pope; he is the visible head of the Catholic Church. The pope is like the big shepherd for all the little shepherds (the priests). He guides the Catholic Church to keep us close to Jesus. The Pope is a great treasure of the Catholic Church.”
Give your next treasure (the Blessed Virgin statue or card) to the next child: “This is our Blessed Mother. She is the Mother of all her children in this world, because Jesus gave her to us when he was on the cross. is a very special treasure for us because she leads us to Jesus, her Son.”
Give the next treasure (the saint cards, you can give it all to one child or spread them out between the children): “These are the saints. They are a very special treasure for us because they are our friends in heaven and they can help us become saints too. We pray to the saints for help when we’re in trouble or just when we need a friend. The saints are very special treasures!”
Now invite the children to look at their piles of treasures. “There are many special treasures that Jesus has given us!” Explain that there are even more treasures, but we can’t fit them all in this presentation.
After a moment, of pondering the treasures, now say to the kids: “Suppose you grow up one day and you drift away from Jesus. Or maybe there is something about the Catholic Church you don’t agree with. So you decide you don’t want to be Catholic anymore. So, sadly, if you leave the Catholic faith, you have to leave the treasures behind.”
(To stress that a choice is being made that they are choosing to leave the Catholic Church, I have the child put the treasure back in the box, rather than taking it from them, or else they will possibly come to the conclusion that they lost their treasures because you took them away. This is what the younger and more literal kids tend to do.)
“The Pope is our visible shepherd on Earth, but if you leave the Catholic faith, he won’t be your pope anymore.” (Have the child put the picture of the Pope back.)
“And even though Mary is the spiritual Mother of everyone, those Catholic and not Catholic, when you leave the Church you leave behind the closeness of your relationship with Mary.” (Child puts back the treasure.)
“Our saints are always our friends; however, just like with Mary, we’re not as close to them outside of the Church.” (Child puts back the prayer cards)
“Jesus has given us the special gifts of priests who can help us in so many ways. But if we leave the Catholic church, Catholic priests can no longer administer the sacraments of the Church to us.” (Child puts back the symbol for priesthood.)
“And because we don’t have priests, we can’t have Reconciliation.” (Child puts back the symbol for Reconciliation.)
“Most of all, we lose the greatest treasure of all, which is Jesus in the Eucharist.” (Child puts this back in the box.)
At this point, the kids usually look a little sad. Ponder the emptiness. Where did the treasures go? Ponder this moment with the kids, guiding them to the conclusion that the treasures were not “taken away” but they had to be left behind when they chose to leave the Catholic faith.
Now you can say something like: “But the happy news is that you Catholic! And so you get to keep these wonderful treasures!”
Give each treasure back to each child, briefly explaining (but with rejoicing) each treasure again. Emphasize that unlike “pirate treasure,” this treasure is not to be hoarded, hidden, or buried, but shared. The way we do that is by living out these gifts in our everyday lives.
End the presentation with the invitation to quietly explore the treasure chest a little more, to see what other additional treasures they might find and what they are used for.