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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Kindling for the Fire
Women at Youth Formators’ Convention discover how K4J feeds youth ministry.

K4J moms
Participants in the K4J track at the Youth Formators Convention in Atlanta.

By Mary Ruth Yao

January 27, 2010. Atlanta, GA. Women from the United States and Canada participated in the K4J (Kids for Jesus) track at the 2010 Youth Formators Conference, held at the Callaway Gardens Resort outside of Atlanta, Georgia, January 20-24.

K4J teaches children from preschool through fourth grade to live a “virtue of the month,” either in a parish K4J club or through the classroom “School of Virtue” program. Recognizing what educators know about different learning styles, K4J uses a multi-sensory approach that includes lively music, imaginative crafts, active games, and creative snacks.

A key component is the Captains program for fifth through eighth graders, which forms apostles by training young adolescents to lead the children in K4J activities.

Kathleen Conklin, creator of K4J, together with her husband Don, K4J’s training director, explained how the K4J School of Virtue brings the practice of virtue into Catholic school classrooms. Captains introduce the monthly virtue by performing a skit and song in a monthly assembly. Teachers then reinforce the virtue through ongoing monthly activities in the classroom in two ways: a short “Send it Home” activity recaps what was presented in the assembly and sends home the “Mission of the
K4J leaders... ready to roll
K4J leaders... ready to roll.
Month” with excitement. There is also a special “Live it at School” behavior motivating activity that takes no extra time in the classroom.

“For example,” says Kathleen, “the ‘No More Monkey Manners’ activity could be students raising their hands when they want to speak, with two fingers crossed to make the ‘R’ sign-language symbol. Every time they make the ‘R’, they will be reminded that they are living the virtue of respect that month.”

Later in the month, captains or parents may visit the classroom to present the month’s “K4J Surprise,” a fun craft, game, or song that further teaches kids about the virtue. Just as important is the virtue training for teachers. They receive a desktop card with suggestions for modeling the virtue for their students. Take-home materials give parents the tools to live the monthly virtue with their children as well as the “Mission of the Month” – the personal virtue practice that helps kids make the virtue goal a habit.

Members of K4J parish clubs get a monthly Mission Pack with activities to help them live the virtue, and attend a monthly club meeting that includes an assembly and “station rotations” for Get Moving Games, Cool Craft, and Saints & Scripture. The Missionaries in Motion station introduces the “Mission of the Month” in which the children practice the virtue at home with the help of their Mission Pack supplies. Third and fourth graders rotate through “Apostles in Action” instead of a craft, which challenges them with a simple mission service project for their parish.

Religious educators at the Youth Formators Conference validated K4J’s dynamic approach to teaching virtue and forming apostles for Christ, commenting that K4J “feeds” youth ministry. Eileen DeJulio, director of religious education at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roswell, Georgia, said that for children to learn their faith, “It’s got to be right, it’s got to be Catholic, and it’s got to be fun!” Dennis Johnson, director of the Office of Formation and Discipleship for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, said that “youth ministry is not just social activities in a stable, safe environment; it’s about leading people to Christ.  Developing leaders is key.”

Shannon Novak, K4J local director from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, pointed out the relatively low cost of K4J compared to other children’s activities: “I just paid $10 for my child to go on a school field trip to a corn maze. Would you not spend $2 or $3 a month for your child’s soul?”

Just over 120 women attended the conference, including 29 consecrated women of Regnum Christi. Other speakers confirmed K4J’s mission to evangelize children so they will live virtue and love their Catholic faith. Gladys Sweeney, Ph.D., academic dean of the Institute for Psychological Sciences, a Catholic graduate school of psychology, stressed that “true happiness comes for living the moral life.” Father Evaristo Sada explained how ECYD transforms adolescents and their society. Randy Raus, president and CEO of Life Teen, a Catholic ministry for teens in parish settings, spoke about the need to evangelize young children, rather than waiting for the teenage years. Jim Fair, United States spokesman for the Legionaries of Christ, affirmed that Regnum Christi exists to serve the Church. Tom McCabe, director of ECYD for boys, reminded women that “God wants to send them out as a mighty force” to evangelize Catholic youth.

Angela Smith, a Captains leader for a parish club and vacation Bible school, from Kensington, Maryland, was inspired by her first Youth Formators Convention. “Now I have a global perspective, and I realize just how well K4J forms young apostles for the Church!”



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