What Exactly Is Apprenticeship in Faith Formation?

apprentice chef

Years ago, it was common for a young person to learn a trade by being apprenticed by someone who was a “master” in that trade. Twenty years ago, the General Directory for Catechesis (#67) created some excitement by declaring that faith formation was to be an apprenticeship. So just what does it mean to apprentice someone into the Catholic faith? To answer that, let’s look at the essentials of an apprenticeship:

  • The goal of an apprenticeship is for the apprentice to work closely with a skilled mentor to learn essential knowledge and skills needed for the trade.
  • Apprenticeships involve hands-on work accompanied by study (classroom learning).
  • Apprentices are considered full-time employees who are learning on-the-job.
  • Apprenticeships often last several years but are often competency-based (with specific goals identified) rather than just time-based.
  • The apprentice learns directly from a skilled teacher who helps him or her master their trade.
  • The mentor must possess a willingness to share knowledge, skills, and expertise and takes a personal interest in his or her apprentice, developing a relationship of trust.
  • The mentor must be capable of providing guidance, encouragement, correction, and constructive feedback.
  • The mentor shares personal wisdom, tips, strategies, approaches, experiences, stories, insights, mistakes, and successes and introduces the apprentice to other colleagues who can be of assistance.
  • The mentor is not someone with all the answers but is a facilitator of learning and growth.
  • The apprentice is ultimately responsible for his or her own growth.

Given the above, what are the implications for catechesis if it is truly to be an apprenticeship? Please share your thoughts.

In Practice Makes Catholic, Joe Paprocki addresses the all-important “why” of many Catholic practices by articulating five key characteristics that form our Catholic identity.

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. Great idea! And much needed! But, how do you identify the people who can serve as apprentices in a parish full of apathy and “no’s”?

    • Wish I had a quick and easy answer for you, Sara! As always, it’s best to start small and integrate an apprenticeship approach for one segment of a program rather than for the whole thing all at once. Then, once you establish a core of mentors, you can grow from there little by little, step by step. Once people see the success and richness of this approach, they will have a better understanding of what it truly means to apprentice others into the faith. Best wishes in lighting a fire under those who have grown complacent and apathetic!

  2. Our parish has done this with the Special Needs Religion program for years and also in our regular after school religion program. It has always helped so that future new catechists are not overwhelmed.

  3. Joe,
    I enjoyed reading your post. I am a DRE/Youth Minister (still pretty new in this role) and teacher educator. In education my learning philosophy aligned with workshop teaching, which aligns with the concept of an apprenticeship model. I have noticed a lot of connections between the underlying theory of reading/writing workshop and catechesis. In my mind, I frame it as discipleship workshop. A couple of examples of parallels are: the concept that parents and Catechists need to be striving for holiness if they want to guide others in holiness; having objectives to guide the process, such as disciples pray daily, disciples read the Bible; a need to provide teaching points and then practice with support; observations of progress and differentiated support based on those observations.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights Amanda! I wish you the very best in your “still pretty new” role as DRE/Youth Minister!

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