When Being a Catechist is Not Easy

Sometimes being a catechist is not easy. OK, it’s NEVER easy being a catechist! When I get overwhelmed by the challenges we face, I like to remind myself that Jesus faced some pretty difficult “classroom situations” himself:

  • Matthew 13:57 (Jesus is rejected in his home town)
  • Luke 4;28 (Jesus is thrown out of the synagogue and dragged to a cliff)
  • Mark 11:27 (the crowds challenge Jesus’ authority)
  • Luke 9:51 (a Samaritan town refuses to receive Jesus)
  • Luke 19:6 (the crowds grumble when Jesus announces he will dine with Zacchaeus)
  • John 6:66 (many of Jesus’ followers find his teaching too difficult and leave him)
  • John 8:59 (crowds pick up stones to throw at Jesus)
  • John 9:41 (the crowds challenge Jesus’ healing of a man born blind
  • John 10:31 (more stones!)  

Of course, St. Paul faced some rather challenging “students” of his own:     

  • Acts 14:19 (they stoned him and dragged him out of the city) 
  • Acts 17:32 (they mocked him)    

Suffice to say, we are in good company when we face challenges preaching the Good News. Let’s take heart in Paul’s words:  As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry. (2Tim 4:5) 

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. Thank you Joe!
    As a religion teacher and a catechists, we need to be reminded of these challanges and how else better but turning to Scripture and remembering what our Lord experienced.
    At times it is difficult. I sometimes get into the following discussion with my students, especially during the season of Lent, and “letting go”: I think that we are surrounded with so much material… computers, cell phones, I-pods, digital cameras, video games, clothes, the latest fashion, the latest trend. And all of these things get in the way…they get in the way of our real desire and our real spiritual nourishment. The hunger we all have of the love of Christ. All these MATERIAL things that surrounds us, sometimes separate us or distant us from God. And I emphasize on the three disciplines, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, it is to let go of a few of those material things. To rid ourselves to let go of them so we may let HIM enter our lives. To make room for, to make space for HIM.

    As difficult as it is, I pray that a seed is planted in each of our students, and that we may continue our mission in life.

    Thank you.

  2. Cinper, thanks so much for reminding us to “let go.” Sometimes we try, in our spiritual lives, to “add on” when all the spiritual wisdom of the Church teaches us that spiritual growth is about surrender…letting go.

  3. —and good correct Catholic theology is that God is ever present to us in whatever life brings our way. He is with us in all our struggles and accomplishments. He guides us; all we need to do is be open to this comforting presence.

  4. I have been having discipline problems in my first grade catechism class. I was at the end of my rope last night wondering if mabey I am just not cut out for teaching young children. Thankyou for the scriptures. I intend on reading them..

  5. Laurie, I hope these Scripture passages bring you inspiration. If you have a chance, share with us how long you’ve been a catechist and how many children you have in class as well as what kinds of situations cause the most trouble. Let’s see if the catechetical community can offer some advice here on my blog.

  6. Joe,
    This is my second year to be a catechist. It is actually my first year solo as I was an assistant teacher for second grade last year, and ironically, was the disiplinarian,so the primary teacher could teach.
    This year I am the only teacher, with an occasional assistant, of 15-16 ,6-7 year olds. I do try to have a craft, theme-related game, etc. each week for the children, but I find I cannot hold the attention of a few very disruptive boys in the class. They do not seem to respect authority and continue to disrupt anything I am trying to do. Last week, they were calling each other names and throwing things. I finally pulled them into the DRE’s office and later spoke to the parents.
    Every once in a while if I have several children absent, things are much calmer. I have tried positive reinforcement with rewards for good behavior, but I may have fed into materialism, that I do not want to promote, as the children are always asking,”What are we going to get today?”
    I am the mother of 2 young children and am a charge nurse in a very busy obsterical unit, so I thought I was up for the challenge, but I obviously am struggling.

  7. Laurie, thanks for sharing your story. I hope that our fellow catechists offer some helpful advice. Here are a few of my comments and suggestions:
    -This is your first year solo…the challenge of being a new catechist is great. Be patient with yourself. Progress comes gradually (never fast enough it seems!)
    -15 to 16 is a big group of 6-7 year-olds. You should consider talking to your DRE about class size for next year. A group of 10 would be ideal. If you have to have a class of 15-16 there should absolutely be an aide with you on a regular basis. This is not too much to ask of your DRE.
    -Consider activities that require the children to work solo. Perhaps games are stirring things up too much and the interaction is leading to misbehavior.
    -Along the same lines, consider beginning class by inviting the children to listen quietly to a song and then to sit in silence for a couple of minutes. They may need these types of calming activities.
    -You did the right thing by involving the DRE and contacting the parents. You need to apply as much leverage to the situation as you can so that the kids know your voice is not alone.
    -Let’s see what other suggestions come through!

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