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​​​​4.1.6.1 Philosophy

Early Childhood Faith Formation is the process by which young children, usually baptized as infants, come to know God. It is based on developing the children's awareness of God using life experiences relevant to the developmental level of the young children ages three, four, and five. Children at this age learn to relate to the care and love of God through self-identity, nature, and the love of others.

Faith formation is an awakening process. This awakening has its beginning in early childhood and continues throughout the life of the child, and ultimately the adult. "The Church's catechetical mission aims to help the faithful of all ages grow in both human and Christian maturity" (Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States, ​​64). The Early Childhood Faith Formation program focuses on teaching catechists how to help young children grow in their awareness of God: God the Creator, God the Loving Parent, God the Friend, and The Wonderful World of God.

Early childhood is a time of allowing children to experience God in concrete ways through what they can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell. The human experiences of children form the basic content of their religious development.

The Early Childhood Faith Formation philosophy supports the parents/guardians as the primary religious educators of their children. "Parents need to nurture in their children a love of God that can serve as an anchor throughout life" (Building a Family: A ​Handbook for Parenting with God​, p. 15). Therefore, it is critical that parents/guardians understand and live the philosophy as stated above. The role of parents/guardians in the religious growth of their children extends far beyond formal teaching. It is in living the Christian message of love, day by day, before the eyes, ears, and impressionable minds of little ones. All parents/guardians should be given opportunities to understand how they too can assist in their children's developmental awareness of God.

4.1.6.2 Goals

The Early Childhood Faith Formation program leads children to a loving, personal relationship with God. This involves the children, parents/guardians, catechists, parish and school administration, and parish community.

Child-Oriented Objectives


Early Childhood Faith Formation​ strives to assist ​​​​children to:

  • Develop a sense of wonder at the world around them

  • Become sensitive to the spiritual

  • Come to know that God is loving and caring

  • Develop an awareness of the presence of God in themselves, others, and all things

  • Appreciate themselves as gifts of God

  • Have a sense of belonging to the Christian community

  • Experience joy and ease in spontaneous prayer

  • Become aware of the attitudes and elements of celebration and worship

  • Develop their meditative and contemplative capacities through sensitive use of silence

  • Develop an awareness of the community of church as an important and continual support mechanism in their faith formation

Parent/Guardian-Oriented Objectives

Early Childhood Faith Formation encourages participation from parents/guardians:

  • Parent/guardian involvement is essential for optimum spiritual development of children.

  • Parents/guardians are the primary religious educators and have the ultimate responsibility for imparting religious and spiritual values.

  • The level of successful Early Childhood Faith Formation is based on the involvement of the parents/guardians in that process.

Parents/guardians are encouraged to discuss themes presented to the children during formation. Themes that are used to teach these concepts include self-esteem, feelings and emotions, family, friends and community, senses, music and movement, storytelling, living and non-living things (animals, plants, the earth, wind, air, and light), new life, and various celebrations.

  • Parents/guardians are invited to attend Early Childhood Faith Formation training sessions​​ along with the director of religious education/program coordinator​ for specific areas of religious education​​​​​​, catechists, and volunteers.

  • Parents/guardians are encouraged to promote spontaneous prayer with the children at home. Spontaneous prayer provides a comprehensive learning experience that blends language development, creative and critical thinking, communication, and active expression, and also provides a window into the children's understanding of God.

  • Celebrations are basic to the program. Table and non-eucharistic celebrations help prepare the children for future involvement at Mass and prayer services. Additionally, celebrations may be experienced at home through meaningful family meals shared with an attitude of thanksgiving.

  • Some parent/guardian involvement options include participating in the Early Childhood Faith Formation program as a catechist, adult aid, or support person during the preschool session; assisting in craft preparation; making phone calls, sending emails, or performing a similar activity; reinforcing the session theme through home activities with the children; and attending the children​​​'s various celebrations in the program during the catechetical year.

Parish and Community Objectives

Early Childhood Faith Form​ation encourages participation from the parish, school, and community to:

  • Understand the importance and process of faith formation of preschool children

  • Support the faith formation programs for young children and the catechists who teach them

  • Assist in establishing an Early Childhood Faith Formation program if one is not in place in the parish or school

  • Recruit a coordinator of Early Childhood Faith Formation as part of the umbrella of religious formation in the parish or school (it is optimal that an early childhood director be employed by the parish or school)

  • Help the early childhood consultant of the Office of Religious Education to provide assistance in establishing a school faith formation program

  • Utilize the Office of Religious Education's early childhood ministry resources, including the early childhood consultant, website, printed literature, workshops, etc.

Catechist Preparation for Early Childhood Faith Formation

If a parish has an Early Childhood Faith Formation program, it is expected that the program will be led by a catechist who has a ​Basic Certification and a Specialization in Early Childhood Faith Formation offered by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Early Childhood Advisory Board.

Please see Early Childhood Faith Formation Resources.