Encounters with Jesus: 50 ways to help facilitate that with children, youth, and adults

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In the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), three weeks are devoted to the scrutinies — dedicated to self-examination, rooting out sin, and turning to God in repentance. They include reflections on three Gospel accounts where individuals encounter Christ: the stories of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42), the man born blind (John 9:1-40), and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44).

Our thirst is quenched. The Samaritan woman at the well is thirsting for something. When she meets Jesus, he shows her that he is the living water that will quench her thirst. She is thirsting for love, acceptance, and even correction. Only after her heart is changed does he catechize her — showing her how her life must be amended.

We see the world differently. When Jesus heals the blind man, the man’s vision is forever changed. When we discover Jesus, our eyes, in the spiritual sense, are opened too. New faith gives new eyes to see. We begin to see the needs around us. Evidence of encounter and conversion are seen in how we treat others.

We become new. When Lazarus is raised from the dead, his life begins anew. Heaven is the goal, and we cannot get there if we have not had a profound change in the way we love God, others, and even ourselves.

How can catechists be catalysts to help others encounter Jesus?

First, middle, and last: PRAY! Pray for opportunities to share the faith and for the wisdom needed when speaking. Pray that the Holy Spirit may be in control of every encounter.

Here are 50 examples to help persons of any age connect better with Jesus. My thanks to the many catechists — and friends of catechists — who shared their ideas and stories with us.

Reaching very young children

1. A family member can enthusiastically whisper to a child right before the Consecration at Mass, “Jesus is coming! Look! He’s there!” There’s no need to explain transubstantiation to them; just convey Jesus’ arrival on the altar as the priest prepares to elevate the host.

2. Five-year-old Sarah’s grandmother sent her a crisp twenty-dollar bill for her birthday. Excitedly she told her parents, “Look, money for me to give Jesus on Sunday!” Conversion for a child often is not a journey, but a jump into the arms of the Savior. This child’s parents set an example of opening their own hearts (and wallets) to the needs of those in the Church, demonstrating a response to what St. Mother Teresa called “Jesus’ thirst.”

3. Let children draw a picture of Jesus and explain it. What characteristic of Jesus do they find important? (For example, his smile; he’s playing baseball with me; He’s on the cross …)

4. “Use a good Catholic children’s picture Bible with questions to engage the child.” — Caitlyn Burgio

Reaching children (K-sixth grade)

5. “I would introduce my friend to Jesus by making a Facebook page for him.” — Nicholas, age 6

6. I would tell my friend that Jesus died on the cross. I would introduce my friend to Jesus by teaching him about Jesus.” — Evan, age 6

7. Lead a prayer procession for opening prayer in your class.

8. “Proclaim your topic with joy and enthusiasm so kids see how special it is.”— William O’Leary, catechist

9. When children are encouraged to visit Jesus in Adoration, the impact of a face-to-face encounter with Christ cannot be underestimated. Children have open hearts, and Jesus can communicate with them on a level different from adults.

10. “Share the book The Imitation of Christ for Children (Paulist Press). It’s all about helping children 8-13 years old develop a personal relationship with Jesus. It’s a kid-friendly adaptation of the four-step journey of Thomas A. Kempis’ classic work.” — Elizabeth Ficocelli, author and speaker

11. Point out Jesus. “I teach third graders at Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac, Maryland. Their favorite word is tabernacle. I ask them how they know Jesus is there, and they say, ‘because of the candle.’” — Maureen Smith, catechist

12. Ask children to play Gospel charades. Have each group role-play a different Gospel story without using words. The other children guess which story it is. This helps children encounter Christ in Scripture and provides a great opportunity for a child to be Jesus for a short time.

13. Encourage children to offer each day to Jesus. They can use the traditional Morning Offering or simply pray: Jesus, I offer this day to you. Be with me in all that I do. Amen.

14. “St. Teresa of Kolkata said, ‘I see Jesus in every human being.’ Invite children to talk about what these words mean. Ask how we can do this in our lives.” — Patricia Mathson, author

Reaching middle school and teens (Seventh through twelfth grade)

15. “I would bring a friend to work with the poor, then explain what Christ says about caring for the poor. When my friend saw the truth on that teaching, I would lead him into discussions on the truth in other Church teachings.” — Ben, age 19

16. “I was afraid to go to confession. It’s a little scary. Then I remembered I would be talking to God, and he already knows my sins.” — Anya Rosien, age 18

17. “Meet each teen where they are in their faith journey and listen to them. We need to practice relational ministry with each teen. When we form a personal relationship with our teens, the Lord allows for teachable moments within their sharing.” — Michele Pechie, youth minister

18. Help teens meet Christ in prayer. Lead them through a guided meditation.

19. Meet Jesus in Scripture: Read and talk about what Jesus did and said. Teach Lectio Divina. This involves reading Scripture several times and focusing on different things at each reading.

20. Find Jesus in others, especially the distressing guise of the poor. Plan projects where the students work directly with those in need. Try soup kitchens, nursing homes, and so on.

21. Meet Jesus at work in daily life: Invite teens to think of “coincidences” that could only be attributed to divine intervention.

22. “Find Jesus in the Eucharist. Teach teens to realize what is happening on the altar. Make sure they know that Jesus is truly in the Eucharist.” — Sr. Mary Kathleen Glavich, SND

23. Allow time for silence. Teens are bombarded by television, music, and social media. Many have forgotten how to be silent and hear God’s voice in their hearts. Encourage time spent in complete silence.

24. Encourage teens to see Christ in those less popular or those who have greater needs within their own friend groups, school groups, and youth groups. Our youth ministry leader often pairs up a teen who is struggling with one who is a natural leader or gets along easily with others in the group. When we minister to another’s needs, we encounter Christ in that person and even in ourselves.

25. Invite teens to youth conferences and youth retreats. The energy, music, and witnesses of other teens adds to the positive experience of meeting Jesus.

26). “Have each youth design a personal crest that includes who they are, what they love, and what their goals are. Use that as a discussion starter for where God fits into their plans.” — Scott Pechie, Confirmation teacher

27. Encourage young people to invite others to Mass and youth group. Make a friend; be a friend; bring a friend to Christ.

28. Ask permission to text a Scripture quote that is special to you every day for 30 days to someone. Tell them no reply is needed unless they have a question about a certain Scripture.

29. Type up a one-page testimony of how Jesus has been your best friend and has given you joy and peace. Photocopy them and place in envelopes. Put the testimonies in a place where you can access them anywhere to share with others. Distribute as the Holy Spirit prompts.

30. Do something nice for someone when they don’t expect it.

31. “Wear religious T-shirts or buttons with the hope of opening a dialogue with others.” — Dominic Salamida, director of Christian formation

Reaching adults

32. Be open to questions, even debates, but follow up with good Catholic resources. “I got my friend to read Scott Hahn’s books after several debates, and he loved it! I started bringing him to adoration with me.” — Jackie Resseguie

33. Set a good example of being Christ to others.

34. “If someone asks a question, answer it with charity, then dig deeper into why the question was asked.” — Mr. Lusky, religion teacher

35. Share your story. One of the most powerful ways to introduce someone to Jesus is to share what he has done for you in your own life. Write your testimony in a way that could be retold within a minute if necessary. One woman did this in a powerful way; she introduced herself to me by saying, “It’s nice to meet you. For 14 years I fought God’s plan for my marriage and didn’t fully commit to it. Ten years ago I came to understand the sacrament of marriage, and I have been ‘all in’ since then.”

36. Encourage faith enrichment programs. Parishes can participate in several opportunities such as RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), Symbolon, Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP), Christlife, Cursillo, Bible studies, ACTS, and ministries supporting social justice.

37. Be obvious about your faith. Some parishes carry a cross through neighborhood streets during Lent. They invite neighbors to put a sticky note with a prayer intention on the cross. For some, the visual of the cross being carried and the invitation to prayer is the closest they have been to a faith community in years.

38. Take a friend to confession, Mass — or both! What better way to encounter Our Lord than experiencing his mercy and love in the sacraments!

39. “Meditating on Scripture is probably one of the most important ways of encountering Christ.”  — Janaan Manternach, catechist

40. Leave your car radio on the Catholic station when you take your car into the shop, or when a valet will be parking it.

41. Keep copies of faith-inspired CDs in your car and distribute them whenever the Holy Spirit inspires you.

42. Greet everyone with a smile, and replace “Have a nice day” with “Have a blessed day!”

43. “It’s all about relationship and letting the Holy Spirit lead you. That’s how we reach new souls for Christ.” — Rene Onorato, youth group leader

Reaching Families

44. “Empower families to be homes of prayer. The sacramental years are not the only time for family prayer and study. Can we give them as many ideas for family rituals and discussions each year as we do during the sacramental years?” — Sr. Janet Schaeffler, OP, writer

45. “Perhaps one of our greatest challenges and joys today as catechists who minister with children, youth, and adults is to empower them to feel at ease with talking about their faith life, and their religious experiences. ‘How do we experience God in our everyday lives? What does our faith mean to us in the everyday world?’ Use questions to facilitate this discussion. For example, ‘Have you served Jesus today?’” — Sr. Janet Schaeffler, OP, writer

46. Enthrone the Sacred Heart of Jesus in homes. This is a special devotion for families to name Jesus as “King” of their homes and lives. It involves a

47. Carry out family service projects, such as clothing drives or serving at a homeless shelter. Invite a lonely person over for dinner or care for a sick family member.

48. Encourage an atmosphere of stewardship in your home. Start a “40 bags for 40 days of Lent” project.

49. Teach those learning the faith about the three scrutinies and how to apply them to examine their own hearts.

50. Give someone a copy of All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters by Pat Gohn (Ave Maria Press, 2017), or some other book that shares the joys of being Catholic.

Trust always

Trust in God’s plan for the salvation of every individual you meet. You may not see the fruit of your actions, but you may have planted a seed that the Holy Spirit will nurture and grow into true faith.


Mary Lou Rosien is a Catholic author and speaker with a masters certificate in catechesis. Her experience as a catechist includes being an RCIA coordinator, Confirmation instructor, pre-Cana instructor, and assisting in youth ministry. Find her website at CatholicFamilyBootcamp.com.

This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, September 2017


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