Several years ago, I read an article that truly hit the nail on the head regarding the ministry of directors of religious education. The article was titled, “Unsung (and Underpaid) Heroes of the Parish,” and included this paragraph:
The U.S. bishops believe that the “single most critical factor in an effective parish catechetical program is the leadership of a professionally trained parish catechetical leader,” according to the National Directory for Catechesis. A director of religious education is expected to have a deep spirituality and respect for the tradition of the church, superb administrative and organizational skills, and a small mortgage and few living expenses. In addition, she must possess the ability to choose curriculum, cajole parishioners into volunteering as teachers, deflect criticism from parents with grace—oh, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. . .If you don’t already know your DRE, find her and thank her for all her hard work. Better yet, tell her regularly—and lobby the pastor to pay her more.
(Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter, Sept. 16, 2011)
Having been a DRE for many years, I felt a longing after reading this article to personally meet Heidi Schlumpf and thank her for penning the description of nearly all catechetical leaders. I didn’t meet Schlumpf, but I certainly felt an immediate connection.
As DREs, we are called upon to wear many hats and to do so without high praises and yes, without much pay—at least in most cases. How, then, do we avoid ministry burnout? Better yet, how do we continue to flame that ministry into a ministry that resembles the passionate flames of Jesus’ ministry?
I believe the key to avoiding ministry burnout is indeed taking, or rather making, the time for personal reflection and meditation. We have all heard that we cannot give what we ourselves do not have. I must admit I shrugged that comment off after hearing it one too many times. Yet it is so true. We need to take the time to quietly be with our God. One way to do this is using the 3-Minute Retreat, a marvelous way to refuel. Liturgy and the wisdom found in Scripture are certainly sources of strength and spiritual nourishment.
Another way to avoid ministry burnout and one that most catechetical leaders forget to do is to play. Taking time out to re-create oneself is usually that last thing we think of, because we are so busy doing the many tasks at hand.
I challenge every DRE reading this to schedule a “play day” at least once a month. Put it on your calendar as you would a parent meeting, and stick to it. We can lessen ministry burnout if we take time to be with God and also take the time to play.
How do you avoid burnout and spark a ministry that’s on fire?