Microshifts for Catechists: Working on Positive Presence

enthusiastic catechist with student

One of my favorite new books from Loyola Press is Gary Jansen’s Microshifts: Transforming Your Life One Step at a Time. This book makes so much sense to me, because few of us wake up one day and decide to be evil and accomplish it in one huge fell swoop. We tend to “wade” into unseemly thoughts and actions on a gradual basis, often without paying attention to where we are going until we find ourselves stuck in the muck. In the same way, then, we need to make microshifts to emerge gradually from such unhealthy behaviors and move into healthier ones. I recommend you read the book for your own spiritual edification.

At the same time, here at Catechist’s Journey, we are using the theme of microshifts to engage with catechists this week. Few of us become catechetical superheroes overnight! Rather, over many weeks, months, and years, we make a myriad of microshifts that eventually result in us being highly effective in our ministry.

With that in mind, the microshift that I would like to focus on is what we refer to as “positive presence.” This refers to all of the ways we present ourselves to those we teach and includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Eye contact. Do we meet eyes with those we teach or look around them/over them or keep our eyes on our notes?
  • Movement. Do we move around when we teach to express energy or remain stationary and risk expressing passivity?
  • Facial expression. Do we express excitement, joy, enthusiasm, etc. in our facial expressions or remain stone-faced for the most part?
  • Body language/posture. Do we use body language and posture to express drama, excitement, poise, confidence, and joy, or do we express boredom, fatigue, or uneasiness?
  • Voice: pace, tone, volume. Do we use our voice to express energy, profundity, joy, reverence, and confidence, or do we come across as monotonous, low energy, fearful, or nervous? Do we speak loudly enough or too loud? Fast enough or too fast?
  • Dress. Do we dress in a way that shows the importance of what we are doing and expresses confidence, or does it appear that what we are doing as a catechist is a low priority for us and that we are not comfortable in the position?

In my book, The Catechist’s Toolbox, I suggest that improving in these areas can be thought of as “polishing your technique.” Remember that how we teach has as much to do with our effectiveness as what we teach. And, if what we teach is indeed the “greatest story ever told,” then our entire presence should communicate that!

I encourage you to select one or more of the above, reflect on it, ask for feedback on it, and make some microshifts in the coming catechetical year so that your very presence proclaims the Good News that your lips are proclaiming.

About Joe Paprocki 2345 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.

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