Sunday, November 16, 2014

Importance of Evaluating

A priest writing in a Bulletin for priests recalls his days as an elementary 5th and 6th grader. He had to walk 40 minutes to get to get to church and on Sundays they had Mass in the morning and Sunday School was in the afternoon. Because of the distance he would often miss Sunday School.

Often prizes of clothes from relief goods would be given to the students who had a a good attendance record. He never was one of them. Those who lived close to the Church would be the recipients.The prizes were not enough to overcome the distance he had to walk.  

Two years ago 20 to 30 children from a city parish were given a free trip to Everland, the largest  theme park in South Korea.  All expenses were paid by the parish. The priest wondered about the results of the trip and the  feelings of those that were not selected to go. 

One of the parishes gives electronic gifts to those who attend Mass faithfully, and he gives another example of a priest who gives presents to those who answer his questions correctly during the sermon.  There are a differences in the kind  gifts that are given, but the giving of prizes is a common occurrence.

The interest of children in religious  teaching is disappearing.  Mass  attendance is low and  those who are responsible for the parishes are looking for ways to stop the tide. Some of the priests work with the liturgy, music, sermons, visual aids  and the like, while others make use of material goods to increase the interest.

There are times where this giving of  prizes as an incentive is acceptable, but educationally and looking at it from a religious vantage point it he does not see it as wise. When one receives a prize one considers that it is deserved, there is little thanks and little humility. When one takes care of a younger sibling and is given a prize, we  lose the chance to inculcate the importance of brotherly love. Religious education is to instil responsibility and maturity. 

Our society draws people by material goods and competition. Those who win at  competition and pile up material goods are the ones who are setting the societal standards. Those who have lost out in competition and have little are those who go to the  the periphery of society.     

When the church uses the same methods of society, we are failing to educate wisely. Jesus complained about the way society shunned and alienated people, and the same can be done in our religious teaching programs.

After an event we as church do not meet formally to evaluate what was done. When many thousands of dollars are used for trips and in prize money, time should be set aside to assess the pros and cons of the event. What did the students learn? Was it valuable?  What was not of value?

Most of the time there are informal evaluations made by those in charge but this is not sufficient, he says.  What is necessary is to examine in detail what was done,  and to analyze it with the future in mind. This would prevent many future mistakes and allow growth to happen. 

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