I keep a cartoon on my desk in my office that shows a mechanic leaning over a car engine while his boss stands looking over his shoulder, asking, “Did I tell you that you’re doing a good job?” The mechanic replies, “No,” to which the boss responds, “I didn’t think so.”
Affirmation is a tricky thing. With over 35 years of experience in ministry, I’ve learned not to rely on affirmation and to find it solely in the satisfaction that I have been faithful to the principles that guide and inspire my work. Having said that, when affirmation is offered, it is most welcome! Personally, I believe that affirmation is underrated. I believe that to affirm someone is to bless that person! It is a way of letting someone know that he/she and his/her efforts are recognized, appreciated, and validated.
As we transition from one catechetical year to another, I encourage all catechetical leaders to affirm the work that your catechists have done. Bless them! Catechists do not always receive affirmation from those they teach or from the parents of those they teach. To affirm catechists is much more than a “warm fuzzy”—it is a way of letting them know that they are fulfilling their baptismal call and of nourishing their vocations.
In her book, Cultivating Your Catechists (part of the Effective Catechetical Leader series), Jayne Mondoy asserts that affirming catechists is key to retaining them. Jayne suggests some of the following strategies:
- Provide opportunities for catechists to be “promoted” (e.g. named a grade-level coordinator or an official mentor).
- Affirm catechists through a prayer experience at the end of the year, and invite parents to be present to affirm them.
- Ask the pastor to visit classrooms to affirm catechists in front of their students.
- Celebrate catechists’ birthdays and anniversaries.
- Offer hospitality and refreshments (even meals) when catechists gather.
- Organize a celebration to thank catechists.
- Publicly recognize them for their dedication.
- Send notes, cards, e-mails, or texts to catechists thanking them for their service and affirming them for their dedication.
What are some of the ways you affirm catechists or have been affirmed as a catechist?