Amy G., a religious education coordinator in N.J., wrote the following bulletin article, offering responses to my list of reasons why people hesitate to become a catechist. Nice job, Amy! Thanks for letting me share it here!
Maybe being a catechist is something you feel God is calling you to, but you’ve got some reservations. Joe Paprocki, a former Director of Religious Education and current 8th grade catechist came up with some reasons why he thinks that people hesitate to volunteer to be a catechist which he published on his website, “Catechist’s Journey” (www.catechistsjourney.org). These are reprinted here with Joe’s permission. I’ve given my own reassurances after each hesitation. I hope this helps you. If you want to ask some more questions about volunteering as a catechist, please call me or Michelle at the Religious Education Office. Hope to hear from you soon!
~Amy G., Religious Education Coordinator
“I’m hesitant to become a catechist because…”
“…I don’t know if I can handle a group of kids. I don’t know if kids will like me.”
Everyone is nervous going into a classroom on their first day of teaching (Some of us were nervous for our first several weeks of teaching). The good news is that the children already know how to behave in a classroom from being at school. They know what acceptable behavior is and what it is not. The bad news is that they will sometimes act up. Children thrive when there are clear expectations for their behavior and clear consequences for when they step out of line. If you are friendly, fair, and firm with your students, classroom discipline comes easier. And people of all ages like others who are friendly, fair, and firm.
“…I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer kids’ questions.”
Our textbooks are very easy to use and the answers to most questions you will be asked will come from the text. However, sometimes, kids come up with really excellent questions that are not all that easy to answer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and tell you next time we meet.” Then, after class, you can just walk down to the Religious Ed Office and ask us for the answer.
“…I’m not sure that I have anything to share. I’m not that holy; I’m just a regular person.”
Teaching religion is not just about passing on facts for memorization. In addition to helping the children learn about God, the catechist must help the young people in his or her class to get to know Jesus Christ through His Church; to foster in them a relationship with Jesus. If you’re thinking about serving God as a catechist, you probably have a relationship with Our Lord already. And your good relationship with God probably happened as part of a process, not all of a sudden. You can share some of how you got to where you are with God now. And the struggle it sometimes is to stay that way.
And as far as not being holy enough goes, let’s look at the example of the canonized saints. They considered themselves regular people, too. They love God with all their mind, with all their heart, and with all their strength. Does that sound like someone else you know?
“…I’m not sure that I know just what the Church teaches. I’m afraid I’ll say something wrong.”
Our textbooks are in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That means that everything in our textbooks is in line with what the Church teaches. The key here is never to guess at what the Church teaches. If you don’t know, just say, “I’m not sure, let me get back to you” and ask the Religious Ed Office or consult the Catechism we’ll give you.
“…I don’t have any formal training to teach and I’ve never taught before.”
Have you ever shown someone else how to make one of your favorite recipes or use a computer program? Have you ever given someone else directions to a destination? If you can answer yes to questions like those, then guess what: you taught someone! Sure, not formally, but you taught them all the same.
Our texts come with a variety of activities you can use in each lesson and they give you a hand with how to plan lessons.
I heard a priest once say, “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” At our parish, we qualify those who are called to the ministry of catechesis by sending you to local workshops on how to teach religion and on the catechism. We often run these classes right here at our parish. You’re not out there on your own; Michelle and I are here to help you in any way we can.
“…I don’t know if I have the time.”
Being a catechist is definitely a time commitment. And it’s not just the hour and 15 minutes you’re here in the classroom. For your time with your students to go well, you need to prepare before you walk into the classroom for at least an hour. Many of my best catechists take much longer than that. And when you factor in the workshops that I strongly encourage everyone to attend, it probably averages out to about 3 hours a week outside of the classroom time.
Maybe a weekly class just can’t fit into your schedule right now, but you could do the monthly Confirmation Preparation Program. Or maybe right now you’d like to serve as a teacher’s aide or a substitute teacher to get a feel for what this is like.