Many times I talk with catechists and they share their desire yet hesitancy to use the media in the classroom. They don’t know where to begin. But it’s so important to bring media into the religion classroom today. Here are some tips to get you started.
Catechesis comes from the Greek meaning “to echo.” Doing catechesis calls us to be interactive not stagnant in our teaching. It isn’t so much about having students memorize doctrine and prayers. It’s much richer than that because catechesis is about teaching the students how to bring the Word of God and faith into everyday life. Our lives are to “echo” what we teach.
I myself use media when talking to young people about media mindfulness, linking faith with the media they experience. When showing clips and then talking about them, the students usually get into interacting with me and the clip and they are excited to learn.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says that, faith education is, “a renewed education in the faith that includes…knowledge of its truths and of the history of salvation but that it is born above all from a true encounter with God in Jesus Christ…faith is not a mere intellectual assent of the human person to specific truths about God, it is an act with which I entrust myself freely to a God who is Father and who loves me, it is adherence to the “You” who gives me hope and trust” (Transforming Power of Faith, 14).
To preach the Good News, Jesus used parables, images, and words familiar to those around him. Using language and images his hearers were accustomed to opened their minds and hearts to the reality of the Kingdom of God right in front of them. We, too, need to use what is familiar to our audience to awaken in them a response to their baptismal call. Today, that’s the media.
When one uses media in the classroom, it opens the minds, eyes and hearts of the youth to hear and see our faith in a new way and teaches them how to integrate faith into what they experience every day.
Please take 60 seconds to watch this Coke ad. It’s one I often use and can illustrate how powerful it is to have faith conversations beginning from a media clip.
Using this ad is a great way to enter into a conversation about how easily people are driven by hate. Yet, when the Coke spills there is a transformation. We all want to be loved and accepted yet people choose to be hurtful if that love isn’t received. We are called to love as Christ loves. The second half of the commercial shows the response of receiving positive messages and seeing others being kind and compassionate. There is a harmony experienced that overflows beyond just one person. This is what our faith is all about. We are called to point out the truth that the Kingdom of God is within us and right in front of us.
Where to find help
My first piece of advice is to keep a media journal. As you enjoy media yourself, be alert for movie or TV clips, songs or commercials you can use in your classroom. Write them down in your media journal so you don’t forget what they are and where you saw/heard them.
There are also several different organizations that offer lesson plans, movie clips and even reviews to assist you. Here are a few you may find useful.
Bemediaminful.org – The website of the Pauline Center for Media Studies. This site encourages media literacy/media mindfulness within the context of culture, education, and faith formation. You will find movie reviews and articles that will help you learn ways to engage students through media. Also helpful are online classes that will explain media mindfulness and other topics in more detail.
Nsteens.org - Teaches tweens and teens about making safer choices online.
Wingclips.com – offers movie clips from a variety of films that you can either stream or download and use in the classroom. You can search by movie title of the movie, scripture, or theme.
Commonsensemedia.org - Age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music.
As a catechist you have a passion to share faith with others. Just as Jesus, it is important to share and explain faith using the language and tools that connects with the audience. The National Directory of Catechesis says this about using new technologies, “Catechesis has to investigate new possibilities offered by the existence of the new technologies and imagine whole new models and systems if the Gospel message is to penetrate the culture, make sense to the next generation of Catholics, and bring about a response of faith" (16).