New Systemic Approaches

May 20, 2024

Planning for Parish Catechesis in 2024-2025
Part Three, Article 1/2

Part Three in the “Planning for Parish Catechesis” series proposes six systemic approaches that can stimulate your thinking about planning new initiatives in 2024-25. You can use these approaches to enhance and/or expand current catechetical approaches and programming and to create programming to address new needs and challenges.

  1. Use multi-platform programming to reach more people by designing one program in different formats, schedules, and media.
  2. Create a menu of faith forming experiences to address the diversity of people’s learning needs and religious-spiritual needs and overcome the limitations of the one-size-fits-all approach to catechesis.
  3. Utilize a catechumenal formation process for sacramental preparation and for personalizing catechesis for families and age groups.
  4. Create seamless family faith formation from birth to high school graduation to strengthen the primary faith forming community and support parents in providing religious socialization at home.
  5. Strengthen the intergenerational fabric of the faith community to create relationships and faith forming experiences among all generations, providing an important context for all ages to grow in faith and discipleship. (See the article, “Pathways to an Intentionally Intergenerational Parish” for strategies to strengthen the intergenerational fabric of your parish community. Go to:
  6. Build “front porch” experiences to provide spaces for engaging with people, building relationships, and providing programming in the wider community. (See the article, “Build a Front Porch” for ideas to build a front porch in your parish. Go to


Idea #1. Multi-Platform Programming

One systemic approach every parish can embrace is to design and deliver programming in multiple formats and on multiple platforms, making catechesis more accessible to people. This is a shift from a one-size-fits all and one-time-only approach to programming which characterizes so much of parish catechetical programming. We can diversify our programming approaches without adding more individual programs by adopting a multi-platform approach to programming. Today, we can offer families and people of all ages catechetical programming that incorporates...

  1. A variety of content, programs, activities, and resources that address the diverse life tasks and situations, needs and interests, and spiritual and faith journeys of people of all ages. There is an abundance of high quality resources for catechesis with families and all ages – in print, audio, visual, video, and digital media – that makes this all possible.
  2. A variety of effective learning methods that address the whole person and how he or she learns best.
  3. A variety of programming models that offer catechesis in physical, online, and hybrid models, and in synchronous (scheduled) and asynchronous (on your own time) modes, making programming available anytime and anywhere.
  4. A variety of formats for learning that offer people programs in different settings as well as one program in multiple formats, thereby expanding the scope of catechetical offerings and providing people with more options to participate.
    • On Your Own formats provide maximum flexibility for the learner—when to learn, how to learn, where to learn, and what to learn. With the abundance of catechetical resources and online courses and activities independent learning offers a 24/7 approach to faith growth and learning – especially for busy parent and adults.
    • Mentoring provides a one-to-one relationship that can be utilized as an individual program, such as a spiritual director/guide with an individual, or as a component in a larger program, such as having grandparent mentors/guides for parents before and after Baptism.
    • At Home formats provide individuals and whole families with experiences, programs, activities, and resources designed for use at home or in daily life.
    • Small Group formats provide flexibility in content, schedule, and location (online, home, coffee shops, at church, and more). Groups can meet at times and places that best fit their lives. Small group programming can include discipleship or faith sharing groups, Bible study groups, practice-focused groups (prayer, service), support groups, study-action groups, and more.
    • Large Group formats provide a way to engage a wider audience and can take many different forms: one-session and multi-session programs, speaker series, workshops, conferences, retreats, intergenerational programs, and events, and more.

One Program in Multiple Formats and Platforms

With multiple ways to program in physical, online, and hybrid spaces, one program or experience can be designed in all three spaces, increasing the availability to a wider audience of people while not increasing the number of unique programs a parish creates. People can choose the option best suits their time, schedules, and learning preferences.

Design the program once and offer it on multiple platforms, synchronously and asynchronously. Here’s an example:

  1. Large group gathering: Present the program at a fixed time (synchronous) at church. Facilitate the program—making a presentation or having a guest presenter or showing a video and guide small groups discussions.
  2. Stream the presentation live to people using YouTube Live or Zoom. Record the presentation at the same time.
  3. Small group gathering in physical or online settings: Create a small group outline for the video presentation and provide it on a web page. Offer people the option to meet in small groups in homes or coffee shops or other conducive setting, watch the video, read and reflect on the content, and discuss the content. Offer people the option to meet on Zoom to watch the video and discuss the content.
  4. On-your own: Create a webpage with the video, a guide to viewing the video, and an article for further reading. Add an interactive component by creating an online space for interaction and sharing insights (such as a Facebook group).

One program is now offered in five different ways: gathered at church, streamed, small group physical setting, small group online, and on-your own. Design once; offer multiple platforms.


#2. Menus of Faith Formation Experiences

Parishes can now offer a menu of experiences with a wider variety of content, experiences, and activities to help people grow and mature in faith and discipleship. People can select programs, activities, and experiences from the menu to create their own learning plan for the year or for a season of the year. A menu approach has 1) a variety of content, programs, activities, and resources; 2) a variety of formats—on your own, mentored, small groups, and large groups; 3) a variety of times to participate and scheduling options (synchronous and asynchronous); and 4) hybrid, online, and gathered modes of programming.

Parishes can establish participation guidelines so that each year or season children (and their families) and young people can select a certain number of intergenerational experiences, family at-home activities, and age-specific programs at church. This approach puts the learner at the center of faith formation and gives them choice over what and when and where they will learn. This approach might look like this for a season (Fall, Winter, Spring) time-frame:

  • Select two in-person catechetical experiences (mini course, one-day program, retreat, etc.) chosen from a list of offerings.
  • Engage in one service activity or project – alone or with a small group – chosen from a list of projects, followed by an online session to debrief the service experience.
  • Participate with other generations in a parish-wide activity or take a leadership role in a parish-wide activity.
  • Participate in two liturgical experiences with other young people or with the whole community: prayer service, special Mass, Stations of the Cross, and more.
  • Develop a daily prayer practice using one of the resources provided by the parish.

For adults, a menu of faith forming experiences can be tailored to their faith and practice. A menu approach provides a way to structure learning with experiences, programs, and activities designed to promote growth in faith for adults who want to grow deeper in the faith, for those who are inquiring or aren’t sure the Christian faith is for them, and for those who don’t need God or religion in their lives.

A menu of adult catechesis can be built around the five tasks of catechesis: knowledge of the faith, celebration of the mystery (liturgies and seasons of the liturgical year), forming for life in Christ (moral life), prayer, and active engagement in community life.

Adults can select from a menu of life stage appropriate catechesis around the unique life tasks, needs, interests, and spiritual and faith journeys of young adults (20s-30s), midlife adults (40s-50s), mature adults (60s-70s), and older adults (80+).

The menu approach puts adults at the center of catechesis and gives them choice over what and when and where they will learn. It moves away from one-size-fits-all catechesis for adults. It provides the opportunity for variety, choice, and personalization.

An Example of a Menu in Adult Catechesis

This example of Scripture study on a new Lectionary cycle of readings can be applied to all catechetical content for adults. The menu includes a variety of ways to learn that are accommodated to the journeys of adults with “Taste and See Experiences,” “Refresher Experiences,” “Growing Experiences,” and “Going Deeper Experiences.” All of these experiences would be offered on a webpage for easy access and learning.


Scripture Study Focused on the New Lectionary Cycle

Introduction to the Gospel

  • Online two-part video-based introduction using videos from The Bible Project (
  • Podcasts and audio programming on the Gospel

Exploration of the Gospel (4 sessions)

Four week speaker series: Overview of Gospel, Teachings of Jesus, Ministry of Jesus, and Passion-Resurrection

  • Gathered format at church (morning and evening sessions)
  • Streamed live online • Recorded for viewing on YouTube
  • Offered as a four-session small group format with videos and study guide

Growing and Going Deeper through Bible Study

Six session Bible Study on the Gospel

  • At church with morning and evening sessions for small groups
  • Small groups in homes or other settings
  • Online small groups using Zoom
  • On-your-own learning

Going Deeper through an Online Gospel Course

Eight session online course for on-your-own learning or for small group learning

Curated On-Your-Own Resources

  • Bible websites
  • Online Bible apps
  • Books and video programs

For examples see: and


[Part Three continues next week with ideas for a catechumenal formation process for sacramental preparation and personalizing faith formation for families and age groups, and for family faith formation from birth to high school graduation to strengthen the primary faith forming community and support parents in providing religious socialization at home.]


John Roberto
NCCL Executive Director
[email protected]


Read PART ONE: It's Time to Evaluate | Read PART TWO: Thinking Systemically Read PART THREE Article 2 | View Leader Resources


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