The last 3 posts in this series have been on the responsibility of the catechetical leader (CL) to provide formation for catechists.  I would like to now turn to the next responsibility mentioned by the National Directory For Catechesis – policies and procedures.  The NDC states the importance of the “Implementation of diocesan and parish catechetical policies and guidelines, including the areas of catechist certification and supervision and administrative policies related to negligence, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and the safety and protection of minors.”  Wow, that is a mouthful!

I’d Didn’t Sign Up For This

No, most catechetical leaders don’t find much inspiration from the policies and procedures that are created from their diocese or parish.  However, policies and procedures are necessary in order that the overall program is carried out and certain things are in place to protect both children and adults.

What They Are

It’s important to define the difference between a policy and a procedure.  Dictionary.com defines a policy as “a definite course of action adopted for the sake of expediency, facility, etc.”  It is, therefore, a predetermined course of action that is being asked of catechetical leaders (from the diocese), parents or parishioners (diocesan and/or parish level).  A procedure, on the other hand, is “how” the policy will be carried out.

I found some great points about policies and procedures that I think are helpful from AMEinfo.com:

The major differences between policies & procedures are identified below:

Policies:
• Are general in nature
• Identify company rules
• Explain why they exist
• Tells when the rule applies
• Describes who it covers
• Shows how the rule is enforcement
• Describes the consequences
• Are normally described using simple sentences & paragraphs

Procedures:
• Identify specific actions
• Explain when to take actions
• Describes alternatives
• Shows emergency procedures
• Includes warning & cautions
• Gives examples
• Shows how to complete forms
• Are normally written using an outline format

Policies & procedures are required when there is a need for consistency in your day-to-day operational activities. Policies and procedures also provide clarity to the reader when dealing with accountability issues or activities that are of critical importance to the company, such as, health & safety, legal liabilities, regulatory requirements or issues that have serious consequences. (AMEinfo.com: Why are policies and procedures important).

Here is an example of how the Archdiocese of Chicago articulates their policy and then lists the procedures:

1601.1. Policy: The Parish shall have a parish handbook of guidelines and
policies of religious education. The handbook shall be in accord with Archdiocesan policies. The Parish shall make the handbook available to parents, catechists, and all interested parishioners.
Procedures
a) The handbook includes such information as:
-the parish statement of catechetical purpose;
-schedules of religious education offerings;
-procedures for registration, cancellation of classes, emergencies;
-policies regarding fees, attendance at classes and disciplinary
procedures;
-information on parish policies regarding preparation for
sacraments;
-policies regarding the health, safety and welfare of children;
-a statement of the parish’s non-discrimination policy;
-information on programs for persons with special needs; and
-pertinent Archdiocesan policies.

It goes on, but the above is a good example of the “what” and “how” of a policy and a procedure.

Here is a parish example:

Policy: The following is the St. Ann Sunday School Well-Child Policy. We will work to adhere to this policy for the safety and well being of all the children.
Please keep your child at home if any one of the following has occurred within the last 24 hours:
Fever/Vomiting
Discharge in or around the eyes
Green or yellow running nose
Excessive coughing
Diarrhea
Questionable rash
Any communicable disease

The Procedure: A quick health check will be conducted when you bring your child to the classroom.  A child will not be admitted if any of the symptoms above are present. (from St. Ann’s Parish in Coppell, TX)

The Business Side of Things

Making sure that policies and procedures are created and implemented is an important component in the overall responsibilities of a catechetical leader.  This is what I call the business side of the Church.  Without proper policies and procedures problems and even scandal occur.  This is often the least enjoyable part of the duties of a CL, but nonetheless, essential.  Proper policies and procedures ensure professionalism, safety and order which are all important in catechetical ministry.  With these in place the Holy Spirit is able to more clearly work among God’s people.

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