Sometimes the best new ideas are old classics. Like the Summer Weekday Mass Club my sister Ginny remembers from her childhood parish in suburban Chicago. “We signed up for a number of days we could go to Mass during the week for the summer,” she says. “We signed in at the back of the church after Mass. There was orange juice and the equivalent of breakfast bars at the back of the church afterwards. It was a very happy experience for all the children—going to Mass during the summer, and seeing friends.” At summer’s end, Ginny says, there was a party for the kids who participated.
Granted, times have changed, but encouraging children to attend Mass while school is out is a timeless idea. Here are some various ways to try:
Far and Wide Mass Club
Are your students traveling this summer? Visiting family? Taking camping trips? Before school lets out, talk about their plans. Encourage them to attend Mass in the places they visit. Show them how to find Catholic churches and Mass times in other cities by visiting sites like www.parishesonline.com, www.masstimes.org, or www.thecatholicdirectory.com. In the fall, gather your travelers to share photos and stories. See who traveled farthest, or who attended Mass in the most unique locales.
You don’t have to travel great distances to see amazing sights. A day trip might reveal a historic church, modern basilica, humble chapel, or even a university church. Have your older students do some research to create a “staycation” website or blog for your parish that features local sights of interest to Catholics. They might even include nearby parishes that offer vacation Bible schools, speaker series, or other summer activities.
Mass journals and children’s missals
Provide materials for students to make summer Mass journals. Invite them to record what they notice and how they feel at Mass. If you give students year-end gifts, consider a children’s missal appropriate for their age.
Wish you were here
Some families find attending Sunday Mass during the summer to be challenging. Encourage them with handmade postcards. You’ll need 3 1/2 x 5″ card stock, markers or colored pencils, pens, and postage stamps for mailing. Before class, use a ballpoint pen to divide one side of each postcard so there’s room for a note and a separate address. During class, make a visit to your church. Have students take note of whatever interests or inspires them. Back in your classroom, have them draw what they saw on the front of their postcards. On the reverse side, have them write a note to their families, inviting them to Sunday Mass. You can have students address the postcards, or do it yourself. Add postage, and mail the cards to families after classes end.
Remember that classroom of active, fidgety students you’ve had all year? Think about ways that energy could be put to use in your summer Mass programs. Older students can help younger ones with games and activities, or they can serve refreshments after Mass. Along the way, they’ll experience the satisfaction of serving others, and the joy of the Mass. That’s a summer school lesson they won’t forget!
Connie Clark is a catechist at Saint Kilian Catholic Church in Mission Viejo, California. Her latest book is 50 Prayer Services for Middle Schoolers: For Every Season of the Church Year and More. (Twenty-Third Publications). Her website is connieclark.org.
This article was originally published in RTJ’s creative catechist April/May, 2013.
Photo: FatCamera, istock