How Do We Know if We’re Making a Difference in the Lives of Those We Teach?

young boy at desk with questioning look and question marks behind him - photo by Ozgur Donmaz/Photodisc/Getty Images

I remember once when I was teaching high school religion classes, I heard a knock at my door. It was a former student of mine who had returned to say, “Hi.” I gave my class some work to do and went to chat with the former student in the doorway for a couple of minutes. We caught up on where he was going to college and what careers he might be looking into. Then, he surprised me by recalling a particular class I taught when he was my student and how much of an impact it had on him, and he thanked me for making a difference in his life.

As he walked away, I thought to myself, “How about that? I had a good day five years ago!”

The truth is, we rarely know what kind of an impact we are having on those we teach, which is one of the challenging things about being a catechist or religion teacher. Sure, we can—and should—give occasional assessments to determine if those we teach are comprehending the concepts we are teaching, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that our teaching is impacting their lives.

This means that a huge part of being a catechist is trusting in God to touch the hearts and minds of those we teach. “Once in a blue moon,” we may get a glimpse of the impact we are having on those we teach. For the most part, however, we can only trust that the seeds we have sown have taken root and have flourished into a life of faith.

How do you handle this challenging aspect of being a catechist—not really knowing the impact we have on those we teach?

About Joe Paprocki 2742 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

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