Youth minister and Catholic speaker Chris Stefanick says that his confirmation preparation program “Chosen” aims to catechize and evangelize teens in a transformative way that leads them to Jesus Christ.
“When people hear the faith in a way that’s both true and compelling, it reaches them where they’re at. They respond just as much, just as wholeheartedly, as they did 2,000 years ago,” Chris Stefanick, the program’s co-author, told CNA March 19.
He said the “Chosen” program is “catechetically sound” and presents “an engaging vision of the faith and how to live it.”
“It’s transformative. It’s going to change kids’ lives,” said Stefanick, who said he has already seen these changes in the lives of his children’s friends.
“Chosen,” from Ascension Press, is a 24-lesson program intended primarily for teens grades 8-10 who are preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
The program aims to set an engaging pace that can keep teens’ interest by balancing faith, fun and powerful videos.
The program is the result of five years of planning and consultation.
Stefanick reflected on the nature of teaching the faith. He said that if teaching doesn’t win over hearts and minds, then it is not catechesis.
“Catechesis is teaching specifically for transformation, teaching specifically to bring about an encounter with Jesus Christ. That’s what we keep in mind in every lesson.”
He said the program is “easy to use” and is intended to help “the average parish volunteer” who is not a trained theologian, or youth minister to start small groups and “watch people’s lives be changed.”
The program’s first lesson doesn’t begin with facts about God or the faith, Stefanick explained.
“It starts out with a simple question: ‘what are you looking for?’” Stefanick said, adding that this was “Jesus’ first question to humanity.”
Stefanick said the program aims to help teens “recognize that they’re looking for something deeper than the passing things of the world.”
“They’re looking for happiness,” he said.
The second lesson discusses how God is the source of happiness and talks about who God is.
Other lesson topics include salvation history, divine revelation, and the person of Jesus Christ. One lesson addresses the question “Why be Catholic?” Lessons examine the Trinity, Church, the sacraments, Mary and the Saints, the role of the Beatitudes, and how to build virtue and the kingdom of God.
The lessons review the previous week’s material then begin with an opening prayer. A video presentation is divided into three segments to allow for workbook activities and small group discussion. The lessons include a story of a saint and a challenge of the week that encourages teens to live out their faith. Each lesson closes with prayer.
Each lesson, Stefanick said, is “constantly bringing them to an encounter with Jesus, to think about who he is, who they are, what life is about, and how to fulfill their purpose in God.”
“This is structured to change lives, not just to convey truths,” he added.
The presentations aim to be “inherently engaging” in style. The lessons includes contributions from various Catholic teachers who Stefanick said are “some of the best youth ministers in the country.”
He said it is essential that “Chosen” takes place in “small group discipleship” to help teens form “meaningful and mentoring” relationships while they are learning the faith.
He said the program aims to create meaningful experiences that make conversions permanent, in part because participants are encouraged to keep in contact with each other after the program is finished.
Stefanick stressed that confirmation preparation may be the last chance to reach many young Catholics who are not firm in their faith. Some statistics indicate as many as 80 percent of young Catholics stop going to mass by age 23.
He said confirmation programs sometimes fall into the error of being “as engaging as possible, sacrificing content with the sad presumption that content is not engaging.” Other programs stress the truths of faith to the point where program leaders don’t try to “meet kids where they are by making it as engagingly beautiful and compelling as possible.
“Chosen” study materials include a DVD set for a confirmation preparation group, a leader’s guide for facilitators, and a family pack composed of a student workbook, a parent’s guide and a sponsor’s guide.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has said that the program “speaks to the hearts and minds of our youth.”
“This is a new level of catechesis that uses modern methods to transmit eternal truths,” he said.