In 2017 I introduced a concept that has transformed the way I teach in religious education: Lectio Divina Lesson Planning. The idea is pretty simple: apply the prayer process of Lectio Divina to everything we teaching catechesis.
The process really caught on and many others benefited from the approach, so I expanded the ideas into a book on lesson planning that leads kids into an encounter with Christ: Christ in the Classroom: Lesson Planning for the Heart and Mind.
The book continues to receive an incredible response. I continue to use the Lectio Divina Lesson Planning process and refer to the book in every lesson plan I teach today.
This year, however, I wanted to think of ways to simplify the process even more for people.
I wanted to think of ways that parents could use it with their kids or catechists could use it to teach multiple different topics in every class.
We’re facing a difficult challenge in the world today.
Kids and parents do not find religion relatable anymore. As a result, people look outside of religion to find a relationship with God.
As religious educators, it is our duty to come up with effective ways to lead students into a relationship with God through religion. To do this we have to create meaningful experiences of encounter with Christ.
We have to balance both education and emotion in order to cultivate opportunities to encounter Christ in the classroom.
What can we do?
Try The RE3 Framework: Read, Reflect, and Respond.
Read, Reflect, and Respond
Here is a three-step process to follow for every lesson we teach no matter how much or little time we have:
These three steps lead our students into an encounter with Christ.
- Read to learn about Christ. (Learn)
- Reflect to love Christ. (Meditate)
- Respond to live with Christ. (Pray, Contemplate, Act)
Use Read, Reflect, and Respond in every class to make religion more relatable.
These three steps will combine education and emotion into an encounter with Christ.
Let me expand on each step a little more.
Step 1: Read to Learn
When I say “read” I don’t actually mean read the textbook in class. Textbook read-aloud is a poor use of class time.
“Reading” is a helpful metaphor for a number of different ways students can receive new information.
Present new ideas in class:
- Read very short excerpts from the textbook, Catechism, Bible, books, saint stories, worksheets, etc.
- Lecture, but stick to just three main points.
- Watch a short catechetical video.
- Listen to an audio recording.
Then students will need to practice remembering what they read:
- Recall with question and answer
- Compare and contrast
- Make connections
For example, in a lesson on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, you could:
- Read the parable in Luke 15.
- Watch a video explanation about the parable.
- Have students perform the parable as a skit.
- Have students summarize the parable in creative ways.
But we cannot stop there.
As religious educators, we have to go beyond the education.
In the next step we make religion about the relationship with God.
Step 2: Reflect to Love
The kinds of questions we ask are important.
In religious education, we focus on questions about meaning in two ways:
1. What does this teaching mean?
2. What does this teaching mean to me?
In Lectio Divina we move from reading Scripture to meditating on the message God has for us through that reading. We personalize what we read. We prayerfully look for ways to experience God’s love through his Word.
In that same lesson on the Parable of the Prodigal Son above, students would reflect on how they have been like the prodigal son (or the loyal son) in the story.
Reflecting is remembering.
Students would need to remember times in which they have been like the sons in the story. Without this crucial step, we train our kids to memorize without meaning.
Personal reflection is absolutely essential to what we do.
We have to lead students to focus on their relationship with God every single day we see them.
Step 3: Respond to Live
In step one our students learned something new about God.
In step two our students reflected on God’s love for them.
Now students must live what they have learned in their everyday lives. We must give them ways to respond to God’s love in meaningful ways.
We respond to God’s love with prayer and action.
I used to start each class introducing a new Catholic prayer practice or devotion. It seemed like a good idea, but it was a missed opportunity.
What I’m suggesting instead is to integrate those prayer practices into a meaningful part of every lesson.
This makes prayer a response to God’s love, not just a task to complete.
In a lesson on the Prodigal Son, students would respond to the merciful love of the Father by praying the Act of Contrition or echoing the words of the Prodigal Son himself.
By praying the Act of Contrition prayer in class right after they reflect on the experience of contrition in the parable of the Prodigal Son, students are given a reason to pray the prayer again later. They will be equipped with a prayer to pray when the seek God’s mercy.
Or we might challenge them to pray for someone in need of our mercy. We might encourage the kids to forgive a prodigal son in their lives and even express that forgiveness outside of class. (Pray the Our Father emphasizing, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”)
(Here is a full lesson plan on the Parable of the Prodigal Son following the Lectio Divina Lesson Planning process.)
All this is to say, we should make sure every lesson we teach does three things:
Follow these three steps and you will lead your kids into a relationship with God through religion.
Read, Reflect, and Respond Sample Lesson Plans
Here are few more examples of these three steps at work:
A Mini-Lesson on Baptism
- Read: Watch this video about Baptism and have students explain what baptism washes away and why we are immersed into water.
- Reflect: Have students write a sin on a scrap sheet of paper with a pencil. Carry around a bowl of water and have the kids crumble up the paper and throw it into the water to be washed away.
- Respond: Lead students to renew their baptismal vows.
A Mini-Lesson on the Ten Commandments
- Read: Read the Ten Commandments as a class clarifying any difficult to understand words. Give them this worksheet to practice remembering each commandment.
- Reflect: Have students pick one commandment they live well and one they need to work on.
- Respond: Pray this Ten Commandments prayer asking for God’s help.
A Mini-Lesson on the Common Good (a Catholic Social Teaching)
- Read: Watch this video explanation of the Common Good. Ask the students: “True or False? The common good is to work toward the greater good for the greatest number of people.” (False)
- Reflect: Have students list three ways they can live out the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Mt 7:12). Then have them list three stories when they lived the Golden Rule.
- Respond: Lead the students in praying for those suffering from poverty, hunger, and discrimination.
Additional Read, Reflect, and Respond Resources
The RE3 Framework essentially summarizes the goal of each of the resources available to premium members of The Religion Teacher.
There are now more than 700 worksheets and videos available to members with more being added each month. These resources focus on Scripture, Saints, Sacraments, Social Justice, and the Seasons of the liturgical year.
Every one of these resources is meant to help your students Read, Reflect, and/or Respond to an encounter with Christ in class.