Help! I’m a New Catechist! Where Do I Begin?

catechist planning class

When I began my career as a religion teacher, I often had nightmares about teaching classes that were complete disasters. I would wake up in a panic, asking, “Am I ready for this? I don’t really know what I’m doing!”

If you are a new catechist and you’re experiencing feelings of trepidation, please know that it is perfectly normal and that you are not alone. Heck, look at all the people in the Bible who tried to get out of new responsibilities being “assigned” to them by God: Abraham (I’m too old!), Moses (But I don’t speak very well!), Jeremiah (I’m too young!), Isaiah (I’m a man of unclean lips!), Jonah (Find somebody else!). God does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called!

So where do you begin? With basics. Teaching faith formation is not rocket science; however, it is an art, and if you are going to succeed, you will need to focus on some basics. Here are seven basics that I encourage you to focus on as you inch closer to beginning as a catechist.

  1. Make a commitment to your own faith formation. You may very well be asking yourself, “Am I smarter than a fifth grader?” when it comes to knowledge of your faith. This is a good time to revisit the basics of your Catholic faith.
  2. Plan and prepare. Planning and preparation make up 70% of a successful lesson! Set aside at least a couple of hours each week to plan and prepare your lesson.
  3. Include a variety of activities. Don’t just settle for read-discuss-read-discuss. Include some engaging activities that will keep attention and enthusiasm from waning.
  4. Prepare your learning environment. Get to know the space you’ll be teaching in and, most importantly, plan for how you will create a climate of prayer by setting up a prayer table that will be the center of attention and that proclaims, “This space is sacred.”
  5. Be prepared to handle discipline. As excited as you are to proclaim God’s Word, many of those you will be teaching will have slightly less enthusiasm. This is especially true of children, so be prepared to handle discipline situations without disrupting the flow of your lesson.
  6. Make prayer an integral part of the experience. You are not the teacher of a subject but the facilitator of an encounter. This means that prayer must be more than a perfunctory beginning and ending to your session. It should be an integral part of each session so that participants can prayerfully reflect on God’s Word and speak to Jesus in their hearts.
  7. Polish your technique. As a catechist, you are now a public speaker! This means that you have to pay attention to your voice (pace, tone, volume), posture, facial expression, body language, eye contact, movement, and so on, so that your presence and delivery exude confidence, joy, and enthusiasm.

If you concentrate on the above seven basics, you will be off to a great start as a catechist. To help, be sure to check out the following resources.

About Joe Paprocki 2374 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.

2 Comments on Help! I’m a New Catechist! Where Do I Begin?

  1. Joe,
    Your work here is really wonderful. SO helpful to the many DRE’s out in the field that simply don’t have the time to put this kind of of thing together.
    Thank You.
    Will you be in the Minneapolis St. Paul area at all this year?

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