Works of Mercy as a Couple: Teaching Faith Formation
In past posts I’ve talked about different ways to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy together with your significant other. All of those were things that should definitely help your relationship grow in holiness and help you to bond as a couple.
But what most of my previous suggestions lack is a truly social aspect—a way in which the activity can also help you to form lasting bonds with other members of the Body of Christ.
Volunteering to teach faith formation classes together is different. Joining a team of catechists or group of core team members is very much a social experience.
What Makes it a Social Experience?
First, the obvious. You are volunteering to talk to a group of kids about God. So if nothing else, you are having a social interaction with these kids.
Are you going to build friendships with these youth? Not really, but there will be a different kind of bond, God willing: Some more-or-less ignorant kids will now know you as the person who taught them important things that will help them get to heaven.
This act of “instructing the ignorant” (as the Spiritual Works of Mercy would call it) is the heart of what you’re doing and should be your main purpose and drive. You and your significant should have some kind of passion for teaching kids if you decide to do this ministry together.
But there’s also another social aspect to this ministry that I want to mention. This is the aspect that really distinguishes it from other ministry: The interaction with fellow volunteers.
If you’re serving the homeless or doing some kind of prayer ministry, there’s little opportunity to get to know your fellow volunteers. But when you’re part of a youth ministry team, you’re really part of a team. You must talk, must socialize, and simply must work together to be an effective team at all.
And moreover, these other team members will necessarily be fellow Catholics, probably with similar zeal and seriousness about their faith.
The Benefits of Doing this Together
If you and your significant other approach this ministry together as a couple, you automatically find other Catholic people to be part of a community with, people who can support you two with advice, prayers, and encouragement as you grow in your relationship.
And that’s in addition to the benefits that hopefully come from doing any ministry or service together—growing in holiness and bonding from the experience of accomplishing something difficult together.
I also can’t forget to mention the other side benefit of doing this ministry together with your significant other: It can prepare you and/or test the waters for perhaps someday instructing your own kids in the faith together (similar to the benefits of a Babysitting Date Night).
What This Ministry Might Look Like
It can look a bit different at different parishes and depending on the age group you’re teaching, but the basics are probably pretty similar in most circumstances.
Most grade school faith formation classes convene on weekday afternoons after school, so those are probably only doable if you have a non-traditional work schedule. If you do, volunteering to teach will likely be in a classroom-type setting and largely from an established curriculum.
Middle school and high school faith formation is a bit different. Typically these classes meet on evenings or weekends, and they’re often in a much more informal “youth group” type setting. The majority of kids will probably either be there because their parents made them, or to fulfill requirements for Confirmation, or both. And because of this, you’ll probably find it challenging to maintaining a balance of entertainment appeal with actual teaching.
In practice, you’ll probably be giving talks on specific topics, leading small group discussions, and doing occasional silly skits or ice breaker games.
Maybe you think some of these things are really not your forte. I definitely understand that, but it doesn’t necessarily mean this ministry isn’t for you. When I led youth retreats in college, I always fumbled through the games feeling like an idiot and waiting for my team members to bail me out—but they did bail me out. And then when it came time to lead a small group discussion for a bunch of teenage girls, I suddenly felt much more at home.
The Most Important Aspect
The most significant part of all of this is that you’ll be loving these youth, showing them the joy that comes from living as a disciple of Christ. And if you do it together as a couple, you’ll be modeling what a Christ-centered dating relationship looks like, just at the time in their lives when thoughts about dating relationships are beginning to take over everything else.
So consider embarking on this ministry together. Know that it will be challenging but that there are a lot of benefits to you as a couple.
And know that, actually because of your life circumstances as a couple striving together for holiness, there’s perhaps no one better equipped than you two to meet youth where they’re at.
Adrienne Thorne is a Catholic wife, mother, screenwriter, and blogger, as well as author of the Catholic YA romance novel SYDNEY AND CALVIN HAVE A BABY. She blogs about TV and Movies from Catholic perspective at Thorne in the Flesh: A Faithful Catholic's Guide to Netflix, Hulu, and More.