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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Catechist’s Toolbox: How to Thrive as a Religious Education Teacher
- Beyond the Catechist’s Toolbox: Catechesis That Not Only Informs but Also Transforms
- A Well-Built Faith: A Catholic’s Guide to Knowing and Sharing What We Believe
- Practice Makes Catholic: Moving from a Learned Faith to a Lived Faith
- The Bible Blueprint: A Catholic’s Guide to Understanding and Embracing God’s Word
- The Catechist’s Backpack: Spiritual Essentials for the Journey
- Living the Sacraments: Finding God at the Intersection of Heaven and Earth
- The Toolbox Series (special pricing)
- Getting Started as a Catechist Webinars