I hated to let this get lost in the comments box, so will reply with more detail to Jemajo's questions about our Tea here:
Is there any chance that you have a link/notes/etc., to the agenda you had for these days, both for the girls and the boys? The topics discussed, any literature that you referred to, etc.? I would love to start this already this year. Such a "programme" (for want of a better word) would be a far better approach than that which is served up in the public schools. I also think that it is far more beneficial and appropriate to have sons and their fathers in one setting, while the daughters and mothers are in another. Excellent idea!!
Mother/Daughter Tea Schedule:
- 2:00 - Arrival (photos are taken as guests arrive)
- 2:15 - Praise and worship begins (We use our main church area)
- 2:30 - Welcome and opening prayer by the day’s emcee
- 2:40 - It’s Great to be a Girl (Given by a young woman, this talk covers the many ways in which God makes girls unique from boys, that he knew us each before we were born and created us to be girls.)
- 2:55 - Music (As a short transition between speakers, we use this time to have someone sing a special song. Fingerprints of God by Steven Curtis Chapman works well.)
- 3:05 - All in God’s Plan (This talk is given by a female doctor or other medical professional who is known to be a solid Catholic and will give advice from the perspective of the Church’s teaching. It covers the importance of exercise, good nutrition, and getting enough rest. She’ll also talk about basic body changes a girl can expect at the onset of puberty, and the unique blessings of being a girl.)
- 3:30 - Everyone moves into our gathering area where the tea party is set up. They find their seat and get a glass of punch.
- 3:40 - The History of Tea (A brief talk introducing the elements of a tea party and the foods being served today.)
- 3:48 - Introductions (Guests are given instruction on how to make a proper introduction and practice by introducing themselves to the others at their table.
- 3:50 - Prayer and Tea Party
- 4:15 - When I Was Your Age (Given by a teen girl from the parish who is considered to be an excellent example for others. This talk covers the importance and practical tips for modest dress, choosing friends wisely, improving your faith life, and developing a good relationship with your mom.)
- 4:30 - Listening and Responding to God’s Call (Ideally given by a sister who wears a habit, this talk covers her testimony on how she heard God’s call to her vocation and what her life as a sister is like.)
- 4:45 - Q & A. One of the overall goals of the day is to protect the innocence of the most innocent girl in attendance. To make sure that happens, none of the speakers ever takes direct questions from the audience, but several times during the day, beginning with the Welcome, guests are invited to write questions and place them in the Question Box for the end of the Tea. In addition to answering questions of general interest, there are a few pre-arranged questions that we put in the box every year (What do I do if I get my period while I’m at school? How do I tell my mom that I think I need a bra? Where can I find modest clothing?), and we simply “run out of time” before any inappropriate questions can be answered. Girls are reminded that if their question wasn’t answered, they can always talk to their mom.
- 4:55 Acknowledgements and Closing Prayer
There are a few other ways we protect the innocence of our young guests:
- All parents are required to come to the Parent Night I described here. It’s there that parents are given the opportunity to ask specific questions about what will be covered at the Tea and Barbecue events so they can make an informed decision about whether or not their children are developmentally ready to hear it.
- We have a Trial Run with all the speakers a week or two before the events. Speakers present their talk to the event coordinator(s) and are given feedback to make sure topics are covered in a sensitive way.
- We have a number of teen girls who volunteer to serve for the Tea. All are given clear guidelines for modest dress and reminded that they are role models for all the guests.
The boys' event should have the same four core talks (It's Great to be a Boy, All in God's Plan, When I Was Your Age, and Listening and Responding to God’s Call), and questions are handled the same way. I think they play an active game at some point in the day, and their food is a lot more casual. They served pizza for years, but a more involved new coordinator arranged for a wild game theme last year and this year they had some pretty outstanding barbecue.
In the bigger picture, these events are Tier I of a three-tier plan that spans all ages from pre-puberty through high school. You can see the overall plan in this pamphlet and contact the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis for more details.