The Evangelization of children is different than the evangelization of adults. Children have an innocence and a natural disposition for the things of the divine. Adults on the other hand often have been affected by life which causes them to be more apprehensive to the Gospel message. More questioning happens regarding the things of God. In addition, children can be evangelized but not for the sake of making a mature commitment of faith, because they are not at the developmental age to make the same kind of commitment as an adult is to following Jesus Christ. That does not mean evangelizing children is less important, however it is different. Fr. Johannes Hoffinger shares 8 points that make the catechesis of children a genuine source and means of evangelization (See his book: Evangelization and Catechesis
1. The first thing needed is proper appreciation of catechesis on the part of parents.
2. Children cannot yet fully understand the greatness and depth of God’s saving plan in the same way that adults are supposed to understand them, but that does not justify a lack of proper presentation of the essential facts of the Christian religion. Rather, the catechesis of children must be distinguished by its concentration on the main elements of Christ’s message presented in such a way that they can comprehend the constant emphasis on God’s loving intention to call us to a great and happy life with him.
3. In order to make the religion program of authentic evangelization, it is not enough to present or live some impersonal Christian virtues. True evangelization leads to Christ himself and with him to God as our Lord and father. This personal relationship with Christ as our divine brother, Lord and Savior must be the focal point of all our catechetical efforts. We succeed with the evangelization of youngsters to the extent that Christ retains and ever more important role in their lives. For psychological reasons, this personal approach is even more important with young people than with adults.
4. Any catechesis that truly evangelizes must place great stress on guidance to personal prayer, in as much as prayer, more than anything else, expresses and actualizes our loving adherence to God. This is of particular importance in the catechesis of children. Mechanical prayers, however, are useless – they hinder more than they help. But to think that children are still incapable of true personal prayer is a great error.
5. Although catechesis has far more as its aim than appropriate preparation for First Communion and Confession, these two sacraments must have a prominent place. Through the sacraments, children must learn that their reception requires a sincere commitment. When children receive them for the first time, they may still be incapable of making an amateur commitment, but that does not dispense them from the necessity of an initial commitment according to their capability.
6. Evangelizing catechesis in all its forms is marked by an insistence upon the Christian Life as a response to God’s loving invitation. The catechesis of children especially within the school, can run the risk of putting too much emphasis on the intellectual aspects of religious education. Many children resent religion and stop practicing it if they are subjected to an overly scholarly catechesis that has no direct contact with Christian Life. The result of such catechesis is the direct opposite of true evangelization.
7. Evangelization must lead to a mature and authentic faith. If catechesis of high evangelizing quality cannot, therefore, be expected from educators who themselves are not deeply rooted in faith or who lacked in the necessary formation. If we are determined to provide our children with true evangelizing catechesis, the careful selection and solid formation of the catechist is indispensable.
8. Pastoral experience provides abundant evidence that catechesis in school and Parish had meager results without the collaboration of the family. The intellectual dimension of religious education can easily be developed through catechesis in school or Parish, provided that the family shows interest and concern for the foundation of faith and it’s gradual growth. But without this contribution from the family, School and Parish labor in vain. A better, more intense of collaboration between parents and catechist is one of the most urgent demands in the field of religious education.
This was written 40 years ago, however I find it as true today as when it was written. What do you think about the evangelization of children and how we need to focus on it today?