Theology Institute Classes

SLC Theology Institute Classes Available Online!


The Spiritual Life Center has created a Theology Institute website, complete with videos and resources for anyone who would like to have access to the content from any of the Theology Institute classes. Participants can gain a certificate from the Diocese by completing all of the classes and the accompanying assignments. The classes are as follows:

Reading Scripture from the Heart of the Church

Sources of Catholic Ethics

Liturgy: Praying with the Church at Prayer

Church History: From Apostles to Councils

To go to the page, please click here.

Keep Your Students Actively Engaged/From Jared Dees

Keep Your Students Actively Engaged/From Jared Dees

"The Religion Teacher" 

Do you ever wonder if you have what it takes? 

Do you know or remember those teachers who are incredibly engaging?   Class begins and the kids are excited to learn.  Student struggles and the teacher knows exactly what to do.  There’s a difficult subject to cover and they come up with an incredibly inspiring activity to teach about it.  So, does it just come naturally to them or do they have some secret formula for student engagement?  What are those expert teachers doing so well? 

I’ll tell you exactly what their secret is . . . 

First, here’s how I learned it.  I’m not a dynamic personality. I was never able to put on a show and smiling faces to get my students engaged.  The truth is, I was worried. I was scared that the kids were see me for the fraud I knew I was. So, I planned lecture notes and activities to reinforce what I was teaching. I used all kinds of creative ways to encourage discussion (none of which worked very well). I was exhausted.  My roommates could tell you that during those first two years of teaching I spent a couple hours every single night planning for the next day. I felt like I was completely on my own with no help in preparing to make a difference in the lives of the kids I was teaching.  So, what lesson did I learn? What is the secret to effective education (and catechesis and evanagelization)? 

Keep the kids active! 

Great teachers focus less on what they are doing and more on what their students are doing. They keep the students engaged by giving them engaging things to do.  Here’s how to increase your students’ engagement the right way.  My name is Jared Dees. I’m the creator of The Religion Teacher.   In the last seven years I have created and shared hundreds of lesson plans, activities, worksheets, and videos with practical ways for religious educators to keep their kids engaged.  The textbooks we get at the beginning of the year just don’t have enough ideas and resources to accomplish everything we want to do. Sometimes you need something just a little bit more or better in order to keep your students active and engaged.  The fun thing about creating a library of resources like this is that every year I can go back to those resources and start to reuse them again. It saves a ton of time and I can feel confident that the kids will be interested and actively learning.  I wish I had these resources when I first started out because I would have avoided a lot of mistakes.  I made a lot of the mistakes over the years at a teacher and then later as a catechist. It’s easy to fall   

Whatever you do, avoid these 3 approaches to religious education. 

Mistake #1: Talking too much. 

Did you know that generally kids have the attention span that pretty much matches their age? In other words, an eight-year-old is only going to be able to listen to you for a  maximum of eight minutes.  Eight minutes. Total.  When I first started out, I would plan out lectures and overhead project notes (then years later PowerPoints) for 45 minute increments.  I was talking WAY too much.  What were the students doing?  Taking notes? Listening? Following along?  I could only hope, but I couldn’t be sure.  You have to be 100% certain about how your students are actively listening when you are talking. 

Mistake #2: We assign busy work. 

There are a lot of really great worksheets and activities out there that can really help students learn.  Then there are the word searches, crossword puzzles, and coloring sheets that you have to admit, are just busy work.  When you go online searching for a worksheet to use in class, do you take some time to think about whether it actually teaches them anything? Will it challenge them to think? Will it put them to work? Will it require your help and give you the opportunity to clarify some important idea about our faith? Will it provide the opportunity for the students to encounter Christ?  Be careful not to go searching for busy work. The kids may be quiet (and who doesn’t want that!) but that doesn’t mean they are learning.  Busy work doesn’t draw someone closer to Christ. We have to challenge them for that.

 Mistake #3: We read the textbook. 

Have you ever tried to read the textbook as a class? C’mon admit it, we’ve all done it.  Ever have a student lose his place in the book? Not know what page you were on? Did you ever read a page together in class ask a few questions and get absolutely zero responses?  It happens all the time.  That’s because reading the textbook out loud in class is boring. And it only involves one person actually DOING something.  I know, I get it. The teacher’s manual you are using told you read the book in class. Yep, that’s what the book is for: to read it.  But don’t read it in class.  It isn’t engaging. It doesn’t get the kids interested or doing anything to learn. And it takes up a ton of time.  Give them something to do with the book instead. Give them something to work on to help them understand what they are reading.  

Here is a better way: 

So if you’re not lecturing, leading class discussions, reading the book together in class, or giving out word searches, what can you do? 

 Graphic Organizers/Worksheets: Provide downloadable handouts that challenge students to think and reflect on our faith.

  • Class Videos: Offer class videos with graphic organizers to help students understand the most challenging topics.

  • Courses: Provide do-it-yourself online training on how to engage and evangelize students and parents.


The philosophy behind each of these kinds of resources is to keep the learner active and engaged.

Engaging Worksheets 

The worksheets require students to think and reflect and make connections between Scripture and Tradition and their personal lives.






Educational Class Videos 

You can find many educational videos on-line.  

Online Courses for Religious Educators 

The Religion Teacher Training Videos

 The courses that the religious educators can take to grow and become better are more than just informational videos. They offer effective exercises that will make educators better at what they do. 

The easy-to-implement strategies and formation ideas in the courses and online seminars will help catechists and religion teachers focus on how they can become a better religious educators




Websites/Blogs to visit

Jeff Cavins website has good resources.  Scroll down to find Encountering the Word.  You can sign up to receive an email with Jeff breaking open the Sunday gospel each week.

One of my absolute favorite blogs for teaching: looktohimandberadiant.  She has so much on this sight and she is generous with giving it away/allowing you to download it!

Teaching the Year of Mercy?  Check out this website 

The Religion Teacher website.  Created by Jared Dees; His website is full of resources that are helpful. 


Joe Paprocki has an excellent site full of great information. Click here. 

The Catechist is a print publication with an online site as well.  It has sound ideas for teaching the faith. Click here. 

The Catholic Toolbox has a wealth of ideas for the classroom. Click here. 

The site has many practical resources you may find helpful.