I can recall the end of my first year as a Parish Catechetical Leader. There were loose ends to tie up, catechist recognition celebrations to plan and implement, and a rather chaotic office to put in order. The last thing I wanted was to rehash the entire year through an evaluation. It seemed good enough to just wrap it up, take a summer breather, and then resume planning for the year ahead. If you are a catechetical leader, you might feel the same way. Even so, “good enough” isn’t going to lead to anything new or creative when it comes to faith formation in the parish or school. Nor is it going to help you develop and grow as a leader.
As you read this article, reflect on the following questions:
What satisfaction can you take in your faith formation leadership over the past year?
What are you looking forward to in the year to come?
There are a number of ways to evaluate the year but let’s focus on three: programs; people; profession. Download the 3 Ways for Parish Catechetical Leaders and Catholic School Leaders to Evaluate the Year Tip Sheet to use as a reference or share with others.
By reviewing the year from a distance, we attain a clearer vision of future faith formation program needs.
There are limitations to this process, however. Those surveyed may just circle a number, offer a perfunctory comment, or use the form to offer a word of thanks or complaint. No in-depth evaluation is forthcoming and so we move ahead without any new ideas or motivation to change.
Catholic faith formation program evaluations can and should involve a variety of ways to glean information, such as personal interviews, conversations with key players (catechists, parents, and the students), and observations by parish staff and pastoral leaders. And don’t forget the support staff. Administrative assistants and maintenance workers have their own observations about programmatic details. For example:
Calendars are also useful in reassessing the year. Review your entire year for valuable clues about programmatic successes or failures. For example, a review of a personal calendar might reveal that the poor showing at an intergenerational gathering or a parent meeting was surrounded by too many other personal or parish commitments. This, in turn, offers insight into the overload that curtailed preparations for an event and ensured its success. By reviewing the year from a distance, we attain a clearer vision of future program needs.
Overseeing the work of others, particularly volunteers, is a time-consuming and sometimes overwhelming responsibility. At the end of the year, it is fitting to celebrate their work with an end-of-the-year party and then send them off with a thank-you gift. While the idea of “evaluating” others can sound a bit demeaning, it is a process that is beneficial to them as well as to you as a leader.
Personal interviews are the most helpful way to determine how a catechist has fared during the year and hear what she or he plans for the following year. It is helpful to develop a simple questionnaire or set of reflections for the catechist to complete prior to the interview. This gives them adequate time to review the year for themselves. Include questions about the program itself, such as the usefulness and effectiveness of catechetical resources, adequacy of their meeting space, size of their group, and time allotted for the program. Invite them to share honestly their expectations and experience with you and other catechetical leaders. It is important to know the kind of support they received and how they want it maintained or improved in the future.
Lastly, include a process for self-evaluation that gives catechists an opportunity to reflect upon their gifts and how/where they want to grow. This will help you to discern how well-placed the catechist is for his/her position and plan for the kind of development that will meet the entire group’s needs and interests.
Catechetical leaders should be given an opportunity for self assessment with a pastor or other supervisor. If not, leaders can move from year to year without much sense of where they have been or where they are going.
Catechetical leaders should be given an opportunity for self assessment with a pastor or other supervisor.
Finally, these performance reviews with a pastor or other supervisor offer an opportunity to evaluate how to do fewer things well. It is important to not only assess what has been done over the past year but also how it was done.
By looking back to what and how we have carried out our responsibilities we are better able to look ahead with renewed vision and enthusiasm for what lies ahead. Download the 3 Ways for Parish Catechetical Leaders and Catholic School Leaders to Evaluate the Year Tip Sheet now to get started. Check in next week to learn how to use the information you gather from your assessment to build a more vibrant school and parish program!
Finally, take time to savor the months ahead and to attune yourself to the presence of God in summer’s warmth and beauty. Download a Prayer of Summer Joy and share with your students and families.