Just when I think I have a fantastic team of catechists in place someone moves out of town, schedules change, or some other issues arise, and I find myself searching for new catechists, often at the last minute. Recruiting and training catechists is an annual endeavor for every catechetical program. Here are some simple strategies I have used to recruit and train catechists.
1. Find people in your parish with teaching experience.
Teachers can make excellent catechists, because they will already be comfortable creating lesson plans and managing a classroom. Does your parish database record the occupation of parishioners? If so, you can search for parishioners who are current or retired teachers. Send an e-mail asking them to discern if God is calling them to use their specific gifts and skills to serve the Church. If your parish does not record occupations, send a parish-wide e-mail with “Calling all teachers!” in the subject line.
2. Identify the parents of children who are engaged and knowledgeable in class, and personally invite them to think about being a catechist.
Parents can make excellent catechists, because they are witnesses to a lived faith. Send them an e-mail praising the work that they have done as their child’s primary catechist. Invite both parents to team-teach, which allows for some flexibility in their schedules if one of them cannot be available consistently. Some of my husband-wife teams end up teaching their own classes once they are comfortable; some have discovered that preparing lessons together at home has strengthened their marriage.
3. Invite some of your more seasoned catechists to mentor new catechists.
Have the mentors make themselves available at your training sessions, and ask them to share their “tricks of the trade.” Mentors can then meet one-on-one with new catechists and discuss effective ways to engage children and overcome challenges in the classroom. Ideally, new catechists would serve as assistants to their mentors for a year before they teach their own class, but the reality is that we rarely have enough volunteers to make this possible. However, having a mentor provides a resource for new catechists throughout the year.
4. Before your first training session, ask new catechists what they feel confident about and what they are worried about going into this ministry.
Every new catechist comes with different gifts, abilities, and anxieties; therefore, they will each need different degrees of training. Some new catechists may be confident working with children, but nervous about mastering the faith content of the lessons. Some catechists may have never been in charge of a large group of children before and will be worried about managing their behavior. This feedback will help you plan and tweak your training to meet their needs, making your sessions more effective. After each training session, ask catechists to share how they will implement what was learned during the training and where they might need more guidance. This will help you prepare any follow-up formation the catechists need.
What strategies do you use to recruit and train new catechists?
Along with planning tools and resources, the Christ Our Life program provides step-by-step teaching directions, lesson scripting, additional activities, resources, and much more. The rich knowledge of the Sisters of Notre Dame and the step-by-step instructions empower catechists and teachers as they pass on the truths of the Catholic faith and the love we find in Jesus to the children.