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March 24, 2022 REL PD - Catechist, REL PD - Leaders

Catechist Stream: 3 Tips to Kick-Start Your New Year (Episode 2)

Sadlier’s new weekly live stream, Catechist Stream, is devoted to catechists and addresses current catechetical issues, events, and strategies in an exciting interactive format. Catechist Stream is hosted by Sadlier’s Senior Director of Digital Catechesis, Steve Botsford, and Sadlier’s Executive Director of Catechesis, Deacon Matt Halbach, PhD. In this article, you’ll find key takeaways from their second episode, 3 Tips to Kick-Start Your New Year. These tips can be used at any time of the year when you’re looking for a reset or fresh strategies to support catechesis.ResCenter_CS_Ep02@2x

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Integrating the 3 P’s into Catechesis

In the second episode of their weekly live stream for catechists, Steve and Deacon Matt offered tips on how to integrate the 3 P’s into catechesis: Prayer, Planning, and Parents. These tips build on the casual catechesis themes discussed in the first episode of Catechist Stream, when Steve and Deacon Matt discussed the topic of rethinking catechesis.

Personal Prayer

The first P of the 3 P’s is prayer, specifically personal prayer. Being a catechist is not simply a job or a volunteer position; it is a vocation and an identity. During his papacy, Pope Francis has frequently emphasized the identity of the catechist. We live catechism. We catechize with intentionality as we share the Good News. One of the ways that catechists live their vocation and express this identity is by fostering an active prayer life. Here are a few ways to do it.

One of the ways that catechists live their vocation and express this identity is by fostering an active prayer life.

Set a Prayer Schedule

Developing a daily prayer schedule helps us dedicate time each day to listen and talk to God. A practical tip for setting up a daily prayer schedule is to use a phone or alarm to set an early morning reminder so that our first thoughts of the day can be offered to God. As a daily practice, this routine builds habits and a spiritual tradition. It orients the day around God. It's very freeing to start your day with a morning offering. Whenever we're trying to do something for the glory of God, the Spirit is always at work. Setting up a space for prayer in your home or office will support the prayer schedule you establish.

Find What Works for You

We all pray in different ways. Find a prayer form, whether it is meditation, rote prayer, petition, or another prayer form that works for you, but be flexible knowing that we are also called to pray in many ways and always as Saint Paul commands us to do.

Connect to Catechesis

Prayerfully connect your lived experiences to your catechesis whenever you can. This may be taking the time to intentionally reflect on your day or your week in light of your catechetical lessons. Connection-making between catechesis and personal prayer is a powerful practice.

Planning

The second P of the 3 P’s is planning, specifically lesson planning. This “P” should always follow the first “P.” Always begin planning with prayer! Ask Jesus to be present. Invite the Holy Spirit to be with you. Ask God to give you the wisdom to understand what the big picture of your lesson is and not get lost in the little details. Our catechetical lessons should not be all about covering information, but instead about making connections. Opening ourselves to prayer before we plan allows God to help us focus on the most important aspects of each lesson. Once you’ve done that, try these strategies to improve your lesson planning.

Opening ourselves to prayer before we plan allows God to help us focus on the most important aspects of each lesson.

Block Time

A strategy for a catechist who might feel overwhelmed with all of the content that should be addressed in an hour-long catechetical session can think about a lesson as three blocks of time. Whether for a parish setting that likely meets for an hour lesson a week or a school that may have multiple days to teach a lesson, instructional time can be divided roughly into three parts:

The opening of the lesson should probably take up about 25% of class time or approximately 15 minutes in an hour lesson. The opening would include a welcome, announcements, getting settled, and taking time to open the lesson with prayer.

The middle of the lesson should probably take about 50% of instructional time and include all the doctrinal lesson content and activities. Divide the number of topics within a lesson into the time available and you can keep track of the clock to ensure you dedicate enough class time to each to deliver a well-rounded lesson. In an hour-long lesson timeframe, the middle accounts for 30 minutes. The ending of the lesson might take 25% of class time or the final 15 minutes in an hour session. This part of the lesson would include a review, a closing prayer, and any closing announcements.  

Make the Most of Activities

When it comes to time management, activities matter. Pre-planning activities to use during the middle of the lesson can go a long way in helping students make connections. Be sure to include activities in your lesson that reinforce what you've just taught, are age appropriate, and engaging for your age group. Invest time in preparing activities and materials in advance to save precious instructional time. And always have an additional activity ready, in case your lesson unfolds more quickly than you planned and you have extra time.

Parents

The third “P” is parents. When it comes to partnering with parents in their children’s faith formation, it’s all about accompaniment. Sometimes it may appear that parents' priorities are misplaced or that they are disengaged, which can be frustrating to catechists. But it is important to work with parents and do our best as catechists to move them more closely into our programming. As a starting point, we can accept that parents are busy and that faith might not be a priority, or they may not be actively engaged in their faith in ways that we can see or know about. Then, catechists can try the following strategies to partner more closely with parents.

When it comes to partnering with parents in their children’s faith formation, it’s all about accompaniment.

Pray for Parents

Go back to the first “P” and pray to be able to creatively reach out to parents without judgment so that you can be open to relationship building and opportunities to accompany parents. Encourage parents to pray as well.

Practice Radical Hospitality

Keep inviting parents in. Express gratitude for them showing up. Greet parents and meet them where they are (not necessarily in the parking lot, but where they are in their own faith journey). Find other personal ways to accompany parents, like offering coffee or a monthly Zoom where they can drop in and chat for a few moments. Share photos of their children in the classroom or the work they have produced in class. Get to know the parents as you get to know their children.

Communicate Consistently

Create opportunities for a two-way, consistent conversation with parents. There are so many channels today to communicate with parents, physically and digitally. Try to reach out to parents once a week. In addition to communicating with parents about details and logistics, look for other opportunities to evangelize. Provide resources to parents that are intuitive, easy to use, and shareable, like Scripture quotes, saint’s stories, and reflection questions. Share something that inspires you, like a Scripture verse or Gospel story, to engage with them and help them engage in their own faith formation.

Peace

Peace is a fourth “P” in this kick-starting catechesis equation. Steve and Deacon Matt offer this bonus tip from Episode 2. If your lesson planning or instruction seems to go “off track,” remember your Morning Offering from the first “P.” Even an apparently off-track lesson is something that God is accounting for, and is very much present in. Whenever we're trying to do something for the glory of God, the Spirit is always working.

Whenever we're trying to do something for the glory of God, the Spirit is always working.

More Ways to Join the Stream

In addition to reading episode recaps on the Sadlier Religion Blog, you can also connect with Catechist Stream: