Organizing Materials

binders

Is your January resolution to get your religious education materials organized? I used to make this resolution every single year. I was pretty good at first, but like so many resolutions, my momentum faded, and by summertime I had a box of things that needed to be filed into folders, and it felt like a huge chore.

Now, I keep materials in plastic sleeves in three-ring binders, organized by topics and lessons. Behind each divider, I have sleeves of lesson plans, handouts, articles, photos, etc. I’ve started writing down quick notes about sessions so I can remember what worked or didn’t work well, and I file those in the sleeve. Over time, I’ve added binders and reorganized as I gathered more and more resources. I have a separate binder exclusively for Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter resources, and one that’s just for prayer resources and Bible stories.

Over the past few years, I’ve gathered and created more and more digital materials, which makes it easy to collaborate with co-catechists and substitutes or share on social media. I download items from websites and put them in a folder labeled “To Review Later” on my desktop. It didn’t take me long to discover that digital clutter is still clutter. Every time I do a backup (which I do regularly, and I hope you do, too), I look through that folder first and either move files to a folder or delete them.

Here are a few more tips I use to keep myself organized.

Be flexible.

Things change. The liturgical calendar and parish calendar don’t always align perfectly. The parish may switch textbooks. Have a system that allows for mixing and matching to give maximum flexibility in how you arrange your materials. I can quickly move sleeves of materials around as necessary, and adding more is easy.

Go paperless.

Don’t save 10 copies of something “just in case,” especially if you have a digital version. Resist the urge to save more paper than is really necessary. Is it something you can scan (or even screenshot) and save to your computer? Recycle what you can.

Tag, tag, tag.

Add tags to all your digital materials to make searches easier. You can search the internet to find instructions on how to tag files if you’re not sure how. You can add as many tags as you like, so you can tag a lesson plan on Baptism, for example, with “lesson plan,” “Baptism,” “sacrament,” or whatever makes sense to you. This is much easier than trying to remember the filename when you’re searching, especially if you have many folders in your religious education folder.

Grab and go.

I have reusable bags for props or lesson materials. I hang the bag on a clothes hanger and put it in the closet. It’s out of the way, and when I need it, everything I need is in one place. For instance, as part of our Baptism lesson, I show the class things used in a Baptism, and we role-play a Baptism in class. My “Baptism bag” contains my Cabbage Patch doll, a black shirt and paper collar for the “priest,” a baptismal candle, a white prayer cloth, a plastic holy water container, and a tiny bottle of oil.

I’d love to hear how others organize their religious education materials. I’m always looking for ways to improve.

About Kathleen Butler 26 Articles
Kathleen Butler is a long-time catechist at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, DC, where she freely admits she falls in love each fall with a new group of first-graders. She also mentors and trains other catechists in lively, interactive sessions.

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