Every fall, our parish hosts a catechists’ kickoff workshop. More than 100 catechists, substitutes, classroom helpers, and other catechetical volunteers get together for what is always a spirited day of swapping ideas, sharing knowledge, mentorship, and community prayer. Veteran catechists help new catechists, and we get to hear best-practices for each grade level and see how we can adapt them. On-the-spot conversations lead to new approaches for classroom management, teaching techniques, or creative lesson plans.
In short, it’s energizing.
But then, the reality of Sunday-morning class comes, and that large-group dynamic starts to fade. Our program has more than 600 students spread across multiple floors in three separate buildings. You might not see someone you connected with at the kickoff workshop until our Advent workshop, when we all come together again. We wanted a way to harness the energy from the kickoff workshop throughout the year. The DRE sends out a weekly e-mail to catechists with notices of announcements and activities for the coming week, and we have a monthly newsletter that is sent out to all the catechists in the program.
Catechists wanted an easy way to stay connected with one another throughout the year. We floated the idea of an online discussion group, but it felt like one more e-mail account everyone had to monitor. We pitched the idea of a Facebook group just for catechists, and everyone was more receptive to that, since they’re more likely to be on Facebook for personal reasons. Recognizing that not everyone uses Facebook, we agreed that it would be an optional gathering place. Everyone knows this group is an extra resource, supplementing (but not replacing) official information sent from the office to all catechists.
We created a private group, and administrators approve anyone who requests to join. It’s an additional step, but it provides a sense of confidentiality for everyone. We also have our parish social media policy pinned to the top of the page, so everyone knows what the expectations are.
Our busy DRE deputized me as a moderator so that she didn’t have to spend time creating content or approving members. We work closely together, and we have agreed on websites for approved content. (We link to LoyolaPress.com for a lot of additional content, especially for feast days.) If I find information that I think would be helpful but isn’t one of our pre-approved sites, I check with the DRE before posting, since this is a parish-sponsored resource.
Catechists share ideas for upcoming lessons and occasionally photos from class. We also have people sharing articles of interest or craft ideas. It keeps the conversation going in an easy-to-digest way with no pressure to participate. We recently started posting short video messages from the DRE to catechists, and these have been very well received. She is able to send out reminders and her personal thanks for their ministry.
One of the advantages is that it has become a conversation starter when we see each other before or after class. Because everyone has a profile photo, we can recognize people who we don’t see in person all the time.
An advantage we didn’t anticipate was that it has become an archive of sorts. The group is searchable, so we can type in “Advent” in the search bar, and all the previous posts with Advent resources are right at our fingertips. Granted, it’s not a substitute for genuine face-to-face interaction, and we know that not all our catechists are on Facebook, but it has provided an easy way to stay connected and keep our catechetical momentum high.
How do you stay connected with other catechists throughout the year?
Connect with catechists across the country and around the world in the Catholic Faith Formation Group on Facebook.