over hereMany new DRE’s that I have known either have a degree in theology but have not had much practical experience as they enter into parish ministry or they have been asked by their pastor to take on this position but have not had much catechetical training or theology.  I would like to begin a series to new DRE’s/CRE’s about what to consider as you begin your endeavor of directing and coordinating the ministry of Catechesis in your parish.

#1: Take your Time

Too often I’ve seen DRE/CRE’s begin to make too many changes too quickly.  Each one of us has gifts and talents that can really help impact the parish programs of Religious Education of children, teens and adults.  And many new ideas and changes that one wants to make are good.  However, my cautionary note is to be careful when making changes.  I want to give you 3 things I have had to learn at a new parish:

1) Listen to those who have been around longer than you and carefully discern the wisdom they have even if you don’t agree with some of their ideas.  This can cause great frustration and division if one does not prudently and slowly make changes.

2) Find out what makes those around you tick.  This really helps you understand why catechists, fellow staff, and/or parishioners feel strongly about how things are currently done.

3) To keep morale up be positive about what others around you are doing.  Granted you may not love everything they are doing but let them know that you believe that together God is going to use you and them to do something wonderful.

 

What tip do you have for new DRE/CRE’s?unlock


Are You Intriguing?

Recently I watched a youtube recording of Matthew Kelly’s talk from the L.A. Congress 2012.  His talk was around an hour and in part of it he spoke about how Protestant faiths do a much better job of intriguing people or as I would say – drawing people in to “want more” (more of God) than Catholics do.  Matthew Kelly went on to ask “as Catholics do we intrigue anyone by our faith”?  In order to draw others into the Faith they have to see us live, love and work differently than what they see in the people around them.  Does our Catholic Faith and our life of holiness contribute significantly to making us “look different” in the way we live each day?  Do others experience the love of Christ in our daily actions?  And do we work in a different way than others – not that we have to work longer but do we work harder (not just half-hearted), do we work without complaining?  The more we do this the more we as Catholics will be intriguing to a world hungry for God.

2 questions

1) What are characteristics of an authentic witness of Christian life (these characteristics are what the world finds “intriguing”)?

2) As catechists, how do you empower your students to be “intriguing” or how to you help your students witness their faith?


Do you like to develop skills and habits that foster good experiences for students in your classroom?  I stumbled on a website that quoted from Joe Paprocki, Author of The Catechist’s Toolbox, who came up with 7 habits for highly effective catechists.  These 7 great habits should be developed and maintained by every catechist.

1. Ongoing Formation – they never stop learning about and growing in their faith.

2. Planning and Preparation – they prepare their lessons thoroughly and prayerfully.

3. Creating a Learning Environment – they create a learning space that is conducive to faith formation.

4. Using Engaging Activities – they know how to make their learners active, not passive.

5. Maintaining Discipline – they know how to keep order.

6. Leading Prayer – they not only include prayer in their lessons but create a climate of prayer that pervades their lessons.

7. Positive Presence – they utilize skills that command attention and encourage participation.

Visit Joe’s catechists blog: www.catechistsjourney.com

Maria Rivera also wrote an article on effective habits of catechists:

Any Habits you’d like to share?


The Past Year

The year has come to an end for most in Religious Education.  As a DRE or a catechist, did you make any mistakes this year?  It’s worth taking time to reflect upon those mistakes and not only admitting that you made a mistake or two but to learn from it.  John C. Maxwell in his book Leadership Gold said two things that I’d like to share:

1) “Everyone makes mistakes – large and small.  To get maximum attention, make a big mistake. To cause maximum damage, fail to admit it! That will keep you from growing as a leader (and may I add, as a catechist/DRE) (pg. 106).

2) Then he continues, “When it comes to success, it’s not the number of mistakes you make; it’s the number of times you make the same mistake” (pg. 106).

Looking Forward

As we take some time to wrap things up from our year don’t forget to take stock and learn from the mistakes made and taking the necessary action from the mistakes made.  I definitely have a few things that come to my mind regarding mistakes I made this year.  One of them I will share is regarding my desire to motivate catechist to do a great job.  I think there were times that I lacked a sense of gratitude toward their commitment to the program.  I wish I would have said thank you more often.  My fear is what Maxwell said about “the number of times you make the same mistake”.  I hope I don’t make the same mistakes again, but I know that it is not out of the realm of possibility.  Come Holy Spirit, assist me and guide me.

What about you?  Any thing you have learned from this year?


This year I was able to attend the annual NCCL Conference which was in Atlanta.  The best way for me to summarize it up is what the Book of Hebrews says in the third chapter: “Encourage one another daily while it is still today (Heb. 3:13).

It was a great week of interacting with so many who are working in the ministry of catechesis throughout our country.  I met people from California to New York and everywhere in-between.  I walked away being encouraged in my ministry and excited to hear what others are doing on the diocesan and parish level.

May all of us in the ministry of catechesis be encouraged as we enter into Summer and remember whom we serve – Christ who is our inspiration and our life in our ministry!


I recently read two insightful articles on best practices regarding holding staff/ministry meetings.  One article was called, “The Joy of Meetings” and the other was “Getting More Out of Meetings”.  Both articles offer very practical suggestions regarding meetings in general but especially within a ministry context.  Check them out.

Do you have any tips regarding to productive and fruitful meetings?


How many times have you heard it said in ministry: “You can’t give what you don’t have”?  Everyone in ministry knows this intellectually.  Everyone also knows or has known someone in which this would be an accurate assertion of their struggles in ministry.  The final responsibility which the National Directory for Catechesis asserts of all catechetical leaders (CLs) is that they are to give “attention to their own personal, spiritual, and professional development” (pg. 225).

Personal

Wikipedia defines personal development as “ activities that improve self-knowledge and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and employability, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.”  In ministry one of the goals is to be an instrument for Christ so that others may come to know and love Him.  Catechetical leaders need to take time throughout the year to be aware of the areas that will help them keep everything in perspective and have a good work/life balance.  I’ve seen CL’s neglect their own personal development and get so focused on what is in front of them that their family and friendships suffer.  Without the proper self-knowledge and awareness of the need to continually develop and grow personally we will not have the perspective necessary when ministering to, for and with the People of God we serve.

Spiritual

The Spiritual life is a journey of “casting your net out into the deep” (cf. Lk. 5:4) in order to become more like Christ, more holy, more faith-filled, more on fire for God and more united in mind and heart with God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Resources in the spiritual life abound from books to devotions to the offering of talks and retreats in each diocese.  A catechetical leader’s call is first to this vocation of holiness.  The more a catechetical leader develops their own spiritual life the more their ministry efforts bear fruit and multiply.  This aspect of development cannot to overemphasized regarding its proper place.

Professional

Many of us get what we probably call “junk mail” advertising how to lead productive and concise meetings, how to work well with difficult people and how to resolve conflicts, etc., all touting professional development.  We can learn a lot from some of these one day seminars.  Most dioceses offer professional development opportunities not only that help you improve on your catechetical skills in the classroom but also those skills that leaders need in order to organize their program, equip volunteers and lead others at the parish and diocesan level.  Granted our definition of success is not in terms of power or wealth but in terms of using our gifts to be a fitting instrument of the Gospel to those we serve.  Even if you can’t go to a national conference seek to take time to grow and work on those professional areas that would benefit your ministry.

Each of these areas of development are important in the role of every catechetical leader.  Through our own development we are better able to help others develop and become the best versions of themselves and help lead them to Christ.

What do you find is important in your personal, spiritual, and professional development?


Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

Have you ever been in a work environment where you felt like you were spinning your wheels because the various groups or ministry heads in the parish refused to work together on a consistent basis?  At times in parish life it can be frustrating because of the lack collaboration.  The National Directory For Catechesis speaks of the responsibility of the catechetical leader is to seek “collaboration with the pastor, other parish ministers, and appropriate committees, boards, and councils” (NDC pg. 225).

Working Together

In my parish, an “inter-ministry” team was formed which drew all the main ministry heads together to discuss how we can together serve our parishioners and fulfill the parish priorities that had been established.  The aim of this group was to go beyond the all to common approach of each ministry being a “silo” amidst the other “silos” (e.g., Youth Ministry being completely separate from Religious Education and those two being separate from Adult Faith Formation, etc.).  This has helped cut down on different ministries trying to do similar things and discovering that by working together we can better meet the needs of our parish community.  So, how come we don’t meet our desired result or help to get more people involved?  Often it’s because various groups or ministries are not working together.

Meeting the needs of the parish

It is easy to speak of the importance of collaboration, but really seeking to accomplish it is what matters.  Even Jesus, the second person of the Trinity did not do it all on his own and he chose 12 apostles to continue the ministry he had begun and to teach in His name.  In addition 72 disciples were chosen later to go on mission.

At the heart of why various ministry heads, boards, councils and committees need to work together is to be able to more fully bear fruit and fulfill the mission of the Church as well as the particular mission of your parish.  Most parishes have a “parish mission statement” that articulates the heart of your parishes identity and desired goals.  Therefore, it is extremely advantageous to partner and collaborate so the fulfillment of these goals can be achieved.  If you are a catechetical leader then consider reflecting on how you are doing this and ways you may need to improve.  If you are a catechist, consider how you are working or not working with other catechists and the director of your program to build community and work together in your ministry.

Some Tips from a leadership professional

John C. Maxwell is a leadership guru that I enjoy reading.  I’ll conclude by sharing what he said about collaboration in his book, The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player:

Collaboration is the key word when it comes to meeting challenges as a team. Cooperation is merely working together agreeably, but collaborating means working together more aggressively. Every team player must bring something more to the table, and not just put in his minimum required work.

A collaborative team player needs to change in four key areas:
Perception

A team player must see his teammates as collaborators, not as competitors. Their skills and talents must complement one another, rather than be made to compete against each other. Competition within the team will only hurt the team.

Attitude

Be supportive, not suspicious, of your teammates. Always assume another person’s motives are good unless proven otherwise. If you trust people, it naturally occurs that you will treat them better, and a collaborative spirit will grow within your team.

Focus
Concentrate on the team, not yourself.Think of progress as a relay race, where you must pass the baton onto your next teammate. Do not ask “What’s in it for me?” but rather “What does this do for the team?”
Results
Create victories through multiplication. Remarkable results can be achieved when you harness the skills and talents of all your individual team members. Several heads are always better than one.
To be a collaborative team player…

•Think win-win-win.
•Complement others and their unique gifts.
•Take yourself out of the picture. Stop promoting yourself and ask how the team would do if you were not in it, propose ideas that will not involve your participation but will promote other teammates.

As catechetical leaders and catechists we can do great things through Christ who strengthens us if we collaborate with one another.  Come Holy Spirit?

What are ways you have collaborated in your parish that has helped you, the staff and fellow parishioners?


Calling All Volunteers

We are now ready to take some time to discuss another important responsibility of a catechetical leader (CL): The recruitment of catechists and volunteers for your ministry.  One thing all CL’s have in common is that we are always looking to recruit volunteers.

Recruiting others to help in your ministry is vital.  The General Directory for Catechesis says: “The vitality of catechesis in recent years has been amply demonstrated by many positive aspects.  Among them…the great number of priest, religious, and laity who devote themselves with enthusiasm to catechesis, one of the most important ecclesial activities (#29)”.  I love that last part where it states how the ministry of catechesis is one of the most important ministries in the Church.  Not all volunteer positions are equal.  Calling forth catechists who will be a true instrument of passing on knowledge of the Faith and help assist those they serve come to a greater transformation in Christ.  This is not an easy task when at times CL’s are glad to just have people who come forward to be a part of their ministry.  I’ll discuss more about the ideal catechist in a future post in this series.

The First Catechists

Jesus gives a glimpse of recruiting others when He called His Apostles (see Matthew 5:18-22).  Their calling was simple yet personal.  Jesus did not expect perfection from the beginning, but through continual formation assisted the apostles to be the ones who would be fishers of men (cf. Mk. 1:16-18) and laborers in the field (cf. Mt. 9:37-38).

How to Recruit

There are many things a CL could initiate to recruit volunteers.  Here are two things to consider:

1) Communicate

Share with others that you have a need.  Many CL’s use the bulletin, send emails, print flyers and make announcements.  Whatever you do, seek to let others know what God is doing in your ministry and that you need others to assist.  Some ministries have specific times of the year where the recruitment of catechists and volunteers is more frequent (e.g., catechists for religious education programs are often recruited a couple of months before it begins).  The key is communicating your needs and the rewards of being a part of your ministry.

2) Personal Invite

The most effective way to recruit individuals to assist you in your particular ministry is to give a personal invitation.  When the bulletin or newspaper asks for volunteers in general many feel like it is too impersonal or there are others out there who will say yes.  However, when they are given a personal call, email or face to face invitation (often the best) that speaks much more clearly and personally to them.

Many Are Needed

A CL is no “one man show”.  He/she must recruit others to help fulfill their ministry responsibilities.   Recruiting can be very challenging, especially today’s where everyone is so busy.  The rewards of talented, enthusiastic, faith-filled volunteer catechists outweighs the many challenges that come with sharing the Gospel with others.  Continually look to the Holy Spirit to provide those necessary “laborers” for your ministry.

What are things you have done to successfully recruit volunteer catechists?

Check out the other posts in this series:

P.S. The day after I posted this  entry I found a good post called interviewing volunteers by mpower28.com.



We are now ready, after establishing that the role of a catechetical leader is a calling and how they are catechists first, to discuss the responsibility of the catechetical leader as they give the “overall direction of the parish catechetical programs for adults, youth and children (NDC pg. 225).

The responsibilities of catechetical leaders can vary greatly from parish to parish.  The DRE or CRE at one parish is only in charge of elementary school age children and possibly middle schoolers.  AT another parish the DRE/CRE lead both religious education and youth ministry.  Still other parishes have this same catechetical leader also lead RCIA.  Whatever your responsibilities, providing the overall direction is foundational to building the kind of program you believe will assist at accomplishing the mission of the Church in general and parish in particular.

3 important steps in carrying out the overall direction of the program(s) you lead:

1. Vision

It is essential to have a vision for how the program(s) you lead will accomplish desired objectives.  Everyone wants to help others grow closer to Jesus, but how can you and those who assist you accomplish this outcome?   Pope John Paul II spoke of the primary goal or aim of catechesis this way:

“The primary and essential object of catechesis is, to use an expression dear to St. Paul and also to contemporary theology, “the mystery of Christ.” Catechizing is in a way to lead a person to study this mystery in all its dimensions: ‘to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery…comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth …know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…(and be filled) with all the fullness of God'(Eph. 3:9, 18-19).  It is therefore to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person.(#5)”

He then says probably the most quoted line of the entire document: “Accordingly, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity” (#5).

It is very important to list practical ways you hope to do this in your ministry.  Will you do this by helping catechists create better lesson plans and/or help them by providing articles that assist them in their spiritual growth?  Maybe its finding ways to concretely build and bring a greater awareness in your parish of the value of the program(s) you lead.

2. Communication

Recently my pastor said: “We over communicate and are under-informed”.  This being said, it is important to be purposeful when communicating with your catechists/volunteers, parents, and your staff.  The more those involved understand what to expect, what is going on and what is coming up the more they are able to help fulfill the vision and objectives of your ministry.  Communicating with the staff and the general parish about your ministry is important to help give them an understanding of why your particular program/ministry is working to fulfill the mission of the parish.  Examples of ways to communicate include but are not limited to: emails, the bulletin, personal conversations, and regular meetings.  Successfully communicating allows a catechetical to takes steps to fulfilling the overall direction of your program(s).

3. Evaluation

How is your program going?  Is it in need a a total over-haul, some renewal is certain areas (as if we don’t all need that on a yearly basis), or should it be eliminated.  Take the time to evaluate.  Evaluation can occur in two ways: 1) regularly assessing specific aspects of ministry (e.g., Are we returning people’s calls in a timely fashion?).  2) Quarterly or bi-annually (e.g., have catechists fill out evaluation forms in the middle of the year and at the end of the year.  Also, consider emailing a few questions out quarterly to get feedback from catechists, volunteers, or parents about how things are going.  Just be careful of only doing it once a year…I find it challenging to have your volunteers reflect on the whole year and get the valuable answers that you want.  Breaking it up can really help.  Evaluating your program(s) will allow you to continue to grow, impact others and keep you focused on what is most important in your ministry.

May you continue to grow as a catechetical leader in your ministry and as you help carry out the overall direction of your parish program(s).  What components are important in helping a catechetical leader bear fruit as they provide direction in their program(s)?