Five Microshifts for the Classroom

music notes

Editor’s Note: This week we’re exploring microshifts we can make as catechists to improve our ministry, inspired by Gary Jansen’s MicroShifts: Transforming Your Life One Step at a Time. Learn more about the book here.

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Begin again today, for up until now, you have done very little.”

I love these words of his. They remind me to keep seeking to do more for God instead of resting on what I think I’ve done. They also remind me to give myself a break when things don’t go as well as I would have liked or expected; tomorrow’s always another day.

I’ve been a catechist for about a decade. There are some things that I do really well—every class I’ve ever had always looks forward to the 10–15 minutes of praying the Daily Examen—and some things I know I can improve—as much as I love to talk, I know that many young people need more engaging lessons.

So, taking the advice of St. Francis, I need to begin again. But instead of making big changes to the way I teach, perhaps I will take a page from Gary Jansen’s book, MicroShifts, and make small changes to the way I approach catechesis. Here are five microshifts I will try in the coming year.

Microshift #1: Encourage young people to go to Mass.

I don’t do this. Maybe I’m afraid that I’ll come across as too preachy. Maybe I just don’t want to sound like the people who told me when I was younger to go to church. The truth is, a simple, “See you at Mass!” can be a nonthreatening (for me, at least) and subtle reminder of what it’s all about: meeting the Lord in the Eucharist.

Microshift #2: Ask how their days were.

I do this, but I’m really using that question as another way of saying hello. Perhaps the young people see through this and that’s why they answer, “Fine.” However, I can make that question part of the lesson by addressing whatever issues they bring up. I can demonstrate that I was actively listening, and we can talk about how our faith addresses the real-life problems young people face every day.

Microshift #3: Leave an open chair.

When I’m meeting someone for spiritual direction, I always place three chairs: one for me, one for my directee, and one for the real spiritual director, the Holy Spirit. An empty chair is safer than an open flame, and I avoid flameless candles because they look fake to me. In my classroom, I can place an empty chair to remind all of us that the Holy Spirit is the true catechist.

Microshift #4: Play music.

I always forget to play music when I lead the young people in meditation. But it’s a simple thing to do. I have a few favorite CDs that I can leave in my classroom so I will always have the music on hand. Maybe I’ll even get a digital music account, but that’s a much larger shift for me.

Microshift #5: Tell a story about a saint.

I wrote a book about the saints, so is this really a microshift? Yes, because what I’ve done in the past is tell a bunch of different anecdotes about a bunch of different saints. This year, I can pick one or two saints and go into more depth about them throughout the year. This might be an interesting way for the young people—and me—to become really good friends with one or two particular saints. I think this process of doing a “deep dive” into a saint will allow us to explore his or her spirituality and how we can apply it in our particular circumstances.

Individually, these might not seem like big changes—they are called microshifts, after all. But I’m sure that, taken together, they may lead me to discover new ways of doing more for God in my own little way.

What microshifts can you make in your approach to ministry?

Read the other posts in the Microshifts for Catechists series here.

About Bob Burnham 33 Articles
Bob Burnham, OFS, is a catechist for both high-school youth and the RCIA at Resurrection Catholic Church in Wayne, Illinois. In addition to being involved in youth ministry, he is a spiritual director, speaker, and writer. Bob is the author of Little Lessons from the Saints and Little Lessons from the Mystics. Bob is also the councilor for youth and young adults in the Mother Cabrini Regional Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order. Read his blog about the spirituality of commuting at

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