Tips for Teaching Catholic Apologetics and How to Get Started

Tips for Teaching Catholic Apologetics and How to Get Started

As Catholic educators, doing what's best for student's faith formation is a top priority. You can’t sit around and wait for your students’ faith to waver before you learn the tools to help them navigate through uncertainty. The time to address young people’s questions and concerns about faith, science, and secular myths is now! As important as it is to begin, we know that figuring out how to teach apologetics and where to start can feel pretty overwhelming. In this article, you’ll learn some tips for how to jumpstart your curriculum and strategies for teaching apologetics to your students. Plus, you’ll get access to ten of Credible Catholic's Most Asked Questions Videos on the two apologetics topics that students struggle with the most: science and suffering.

If you’re a part of our community, then you know why Catholic apologetics is needed today. (Read our article Why Catholic Apologetics Religion Educators are Needed if you’re still unsure.) If you’ve read our other article, Two Ways to Become a Catholic Apologist for Your Students, you also know why it is critical for all faith educators (including teachers, catechists, and parents) to be apologists and the benefits for students who are educated by people trained in this field.

When incorporating apologetics into your curriculum, it is important that you don’t jump right in at full speed. In order for students to be receptive to and full understand your teachings, you must lay a foundation. In this article, you will discover:

  1. How to introduce apologetics to students
  2. Tips for teaching apologetics as part of faith formation
  3. Helpful tricks to not overthink and get started

Tips for Teaching Catholic Apologetics and How to Get Started

Introducing Catholic Apologetics to Students

Let’s face it, Catholic educators: the nitty gritty of apologetics can be pretty complex! But you don’t want to scare off your students right from the start. It is important that you keep it simple when introducing the concepts in your classroom.  

First: Explain What Apologetics Is and Why They Need It
Every educator has been faced with the dreaded sight of a student rolling her eyes and sighing “Why do I even need to know this?” We want students to understand the importance of what they’re about to hear! That’s why it is critical to start with a simple explanation of why students need to learn apologetics.
  • Explain to students that they will inevitably have many questions when it comes to their faith. This is when you reassure them that these questions are normal, and the church can help answer them with the help of apologetics.

  • It is also important to reinforce to students that being able to explain and defend their faith intellectually is the duty of every Catholic. Reassure them that apologetics will give them the tools they need to have these conversations confidently and respectfully.

  • Explain to students that apologetics is not about us defending God because “He needs it.” Instead, apologetics is about fortifying the foundation of our own faith through deep intellectual conversations about why we believe the things we do.

  • Saint Augustine once said, “You cannot love what you do not know.” Explain to students that exploring their questions about faith and discussing difficult topics will help strengthen their own beliefs, and it is therefore an important part of their faith formation.

Second: Warm Students Up
It is natural for students and parents to be a bit hesitant. Begin by sharing our A Brief History of Catholic Apologetics resource with parents and students. Then, get students and parents excited and receptive to apologetics by warming them up to the idea of discussing tough topics. 
  • Start by providing an example of a tough topic, for instance, “Why does God allow suffering?”
  • Explain to them that instead of shying away from discussing the “hard stuff,” apologetics helps us figure out the answer to difficult questions such as using research of evidence, and reason.
  • Remind them that the tough topics or questions are not something to ignore. Instead of running away from uncertainty, we can and should use faith and reason to find answers to our burning questions.
  • Remind them what they will get from diving into the hard topics: a fortified faith, confidence to discuss their faith with others, and a deeper understanding of what they believe and why.


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Seven Tips for Teaching Apologetics

Once you have introduced the concept of apologetics to students and parents, and warmed up your class to talking about challenging ideas, you can get started incorporating Catholic apologetics into your curriculum. Here are a few strategies for ensuring your apologetics lessons are as successful as possible.

1. Apologetics education needs to be geared toward students

  • It is good to start the lesson with questions for the students. For example, “do you believe science and God are compatible?”
  • Aim to discover the various levels of belief in God; each student will be in a different place in their faith journey and knowing that place will help you understand which apologetical content to showcase
  • The goal is not to showcase your knowledge; it is to help your students understand the knowledge and evidence you are sharing with them
  • You need to take into account what kind of learners you have and their learning styles, including auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learners.
    • Make sure to vary your lesson materials and format to meet the needs of all

2. Make apologetics education age-appropriate

  • While the core concepts remain the same, it is important to adjust the way you teach according to the age of your students
  • Consider asking students to contribute their most pressing questions on faith (to create engagement and buy-in)
  • Think about how you present the material and how in-depth you will go on various concepts
  • It is okay to have fun when discussing hard topics. Students of all ages learn more when they’re enjoying themselves, so think about how your different aged students have fun!

3. Create opportunities for students to use apologetics

  • Incorporate activity-based components, which will allow students to successfully use and apply their skills. Practicing in a safe environment will give them the security they need to try, fail, and try again. Some examples include…
    • Role-playing
    • In-house debates
    • Answering writing prompts
    • Creating Mock YouTube videos where students present a challenging topic

4. Encourage discourse

  • You want students to use the skills they are learning to discuss difficult concepts with you and each other
  • Use prompts to spark conversations
  • Ask students what they think about what they have learned and why they think a particular way
  • Make it okay to ask questions or admit they are struggling; model this for them yourself

5. Apologetics education doesn’t always require an entire lesson or class period

  • Think about ways to incorporate snippets of apologetics into other pieces of your curriculum

6. Model apologetics for your students

  • Remember your students are watching, and they will learn by seeing you practice apologetics in your lessons
  • It is okay to show students how you came to an intellectual conversion on concepts you are teaching; it does not show lack of knowledge on a subject, instead it witnesses a Christian’s journey!
  • Your example matters, so serve as a positive example to them by using apologetics tools in your teaching indirectly and directly

7. Recognize limitations of apologetics education

  • It is vital for you to remember that unbelief does not mean you failed in your teaching
  • Apologetics education does not mean your students won’t walk away from the faith; though less likely to do so, if students walk away it just means that there is still work for them to do to arrive at the truth. 

Getting Started Teaching Apologetics

With so much information (including our previous two articles), it’s hard not to get stuck in the planning phase of your apologetics curriculum. But it’s time to stop overthinking and get started teaching! You are prepared, knowledgeable, capable, and passionate—you can do this!

Looking for some resources to help jump start your ideas?

Getting Started Teaching ApologeticsAccess NowWe have compiled a mini video library with some videos on the two apologetics topics that students struggle with the most: science and suffering. When you sign up for our FREE Most Asked Questions Video Series Sneak Peek, you will get immediate access to ten of our videos covering contemporary apologetics.

Want access to nearly 100 Most Asked Questions Videos? Starting in February 2021, you can purchase a Credible Catholic membership for only $6.99/month. With this membership you get a bundle of incredible benefits and resources, including…

  • Most Asked Questions (MAQ) Video Series
    • With a simple click you’ll have a library of videos designed to help guide your instruction and answer any lingering questions on contemporary apologetics your students might have
  • Best Practice Videos
    • See other apologists demonstrating how to teach Credible Catholic’s course content in the classroom, explaining their teaching methodology, and providing direct instruction on how to incorporate course content into your lesson plans
  • Teacher Forum
    • Join discussion groups on contemporary apologetical topics
    • Discussion groups are moderated by experts in fields regarding apologetics, so you’re learning even beyond the course

In Summary

You know just how important Catholic apologetics is to your students’ faith formation. You are excited about the possibilities it affords you in your classroom. You are ready to begin incorporating it into your curriculum. But knowing where to start is a whole other story! In this article, we discussed how to kick off your apologetics curriculum, strategies for implementing it in your classroom, and how to access some incredibly helpful resources to use with your students.

It is time to stop overthinking, get started teaching, and then continue to seek opportunities to improve your knowledge and skills in the field of Catholic apologetics! Remember, Credible Catholic as your go-to resource for contemporary apologetics and students questions on faith and science.