One of the director of religious education’s most important tasks is to find catechists who are willing to echo the faith for others in the parish. No matter what grade or age level, the process is similar. I’d like to tell you what worked for me to gather a group of dedicated catechists. I’m going to use the word catechist here; you may use small group leader, children’s minister, or teacher in your parish. Also, I think these ideas work for most parish ministries.
Who are you looking for?
People of faith. Look at your parishioners. Not only parents of children or youth enrolled in your programs. Look at everyone. You are looking for people who are authentic witnesses, care about others, are joyful and patient, and enthusiastic. People who like other people and can relate to the age group they would serve.
Consider the usher who always comments on how nice it is to see children at Mass or the parent who always asks if you need help. When you meet new parishioners, talk to them about past ministry experiences. In fact, talk to many people in the parish and get to know them. When parishioners come to know, like, and trust you, you will have an available group to go to for all sorts of help.
What do they need to know?
I have found that most people know more than they realize about our faith or are willing to learn. A recent convert might not be the best catechist for sacrament preparation classes but certainly could serve as an assistant to someone who will mentor them.
Catechists need to have a good understanding of whom they are instructing. It’s helpful to know what are the characteristics of different age groups and the activities that work best for them.
They also need a basic understanding of the faith and be willing to learn. Catechists should have a personal prayer life and be connected to the parish community, participating in the sacraments regularly.
Each diocese and parish will have its own screenings and classes that are necessary to work with various age groups and populations. It is always important to follow those guidelines and keep track of necessary paperwork.
I need catechists, yesterday!
Here is what I found to be most effective in finding catechists:
- Pray – ask God to send you the people you need
- Count – make a list of how many catechists and assistants you need at each level; include sacrament preparation, bilingual help
- Special Projects or Retreats – people may not be able to commit to your schedule, but can help occasionally
- List – have a list of tasks that you need help with on a regular basis; snacks, gathering/distributing craft supplies, inputting attendance, parking lot help – the more specific you are, the better your chance of finding a person to help
- After Mass Coffee – pick one weekend to speak at all the Masses, be brief, giving the highlights of your program and needs. Then invite people to come to the parish hall and talk to you and a few current catechists. Have the materials you use on hand for people to see.
- Talk one on one – the best people who have served with me in ministry have been those either I or someone already in the ministry personally invited. I had a simple and direct strategy. A strategy may even be too strong a word! I would talk to parishioners, telling them what we needed and how they could help. I always made sure to tell them 3 things: I did not expect an answer immediately, I asked them to pray about it before saying yes; the commitment was for a year; and if the answer were no, it would in no way affect our current relationship.
- Appreciate – whatever role or task the person agrees to, thank them.
- Pray some more! God has sent me wonderful people to serve with through the years.
To find people to serve in ministry, we must extend ourselves personally. As a ministry leader, you are called to serve those who serve with you.
I’m going to continue this thread for DREs, youth ministers, and ministry leaders, going a bit more deeply into how to help catechists learn more about the faith and the group they serve and deepen their own faith. Let me know if you have any specific questions, and I’ll include them in my posts.