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Shelly Henley Kelly explains the surprising benefits of becoming a catechist.

As students return to school, parish Youth Ministry programs will also resume and they need you. Have you ever considered becoming a volunteer Catechist for your parish?  

Some years ago, at a time when my life was in a state of upheaval with a new baby, new career path, and a new house, I bravely signed up as a Catechist for my new parish’s middle school EDGE program in an attempt to become involved, to get to know members of this new community, and stay connected with my oldest daughter’s faith development. 

Although I’d taught elementary CCE at my previous parish, I’d never attempted catechesis at the middle school level and worried that students would challenge my own limited faith knowledge and experience. How could I teach middle school students in faith?

Turns out, they taught me. And the experience changed my life.


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Let Go and Let God Work through You

Being present for EDGE was a challenge at times. The kids are loud. They want to talk with each other. They constantly look at their phones. They don’t always want to follow your instructions.

But they listen. They want to hear God’s word in a way that makes them think. They want to learn what it means to be “grown up.” They are old enough to question God’s mysteries, but not yet cynical about “organized religion.” This is the most important age to mortar that foundation laid during their elementary CCE years. They are hearing the anti-religious messages in the world around them and these years are when we teach them to think for themselves, that it’s okay to be in the world and not necessarily of the world.  

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)


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I learned that when you surround them with the message and set them free, you only need to observe (and occasionally guide back on topic) and they will fly and soar. One Wednesday night I arrived at EDGE from work frustrated and impatient. Even the music didn’t relax or soothe my worried spirit. Then the lesson called for my small group (all boys) to create and perform a skit based on a verse from Ephesians. Stressing, I quickly scanned Ephesians, looking for something, anything that could be acted out, reading aloud passages here and there and then I gave up.

As soon as I stopped trying to control the project, those sixth-grade boys immediately latched onto Ephesians 6:10-18, organized their skit, and totally rocked it. Ephesians 6:10 became OUR Scripture the rest of the year.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.


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Praise and Worship music

Prior to EDGE my Christian music experience was limited to the tried and true Sunday morning songs, “And He will lift you up on Eagle’s wings …”  “All are Welcome … in this place.” But EDGE started or ended each session with popular Christian Praise and Worship music such as Michael W. Smith “Mighty to Save” or Chris Tomlin “How Great is our God,” and a whole new world was revealed. No song moved me more than “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher. When my world seemed to be falling apart, I embraced the words of this song, singing and praying from deep within my heart. As adult volunteers, we can allow ourselves to be swept up in the lyrics and sing heartily to be an example to those tweens. In the beginning of the year they’re all so hesitant about singing, but by the end of the year they’re singing with you!


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EDGE introduced me (and my daughters) to Adoration.  I’d always heard about it, but never experienced it before and to be honest, I was a little afraid of it. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what it would be like. Isn’t it kind of weird?  But being “taught” about Adoration as part of EDGE, I could witness my own reaction within my small group and be honest with them during discussions. I wasn’t just another “know it all teacher” (no offense meant) and exposing my own eagerness to learn encouraged them to participate in the lesson. And when the Blessed Sacrament came out, we marveled individually at our own personal connection to Christ.


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Volunteering provided me a sense of belonging, of community, of friendship, of Church. #catholicmom


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Remember the reason I volunteered? To become involved and get to know my new community? EDGE introduced me to a variety of people who were all on their own faith journey. At a time when I knew no one (outside of my family) at my new church, volunteering gave me the opportunity to arrive for Mass, recognize another volunteer, smile, and wave. It provided me a sense of belonging, of community, of friendship, of Church.


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Parents.  These tweens NEED YOU.  Don’t be afraid that you don’t know enough. Your parish Youth Minister knows how to guide you. The EDGE program weekly lesson plan guides you. You will need to look at the lesson in advance of that night’s class, read through the plan, read the Catechism (they’ll teach you how if you don’t know how to use it), read the Scripture, and look up the songs.  

I promise you will never be sorry that you volunteered for Youth Ministry. Never. You will gain such an appreciation and new love for your children and their peers during these confusing years. You will give your child a firm faith foundation to face their challenging questioning years. You will help your child and others establish friendships based on faith.

I learned more from them than I could have ever taught them. 

Copyright 2021 Shelly Henley Kelly
Images copyright 2021 Shelly Henley Kelly. All rights reserved.