Advice from a Master Catechist: Vetting Volunteers

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Question: When soliciting volunteers to help with faith formation programs, what might be a respectful and noninvasive way to vet someone’s catechetical background? We want to ensure that they understand foundational Church teachings and have the right resources to answer students’ questions with the truth rather than their own opinions. — Katie S., Massachusetts

JONATHAN F. SULLIVAN RESPONDS …

Sit them in a bare room with a single light bulb over their head and start grilling them with questions from the Catechism! (Just kidding.)

This is a question a lot of catechetical leaders wrestle with. We rely on the generosity of volunteers to staff our programs, so we don’t want to overburden them with questions and requirements that might dissuade them from giving their time and talent. At the same time, we know that a well-formed catechist is essential to our ministry. As the General Directory for Catechesis says, “The charism given to [the catechist] by the Spirit, a solid spirituality and transparent witness of life, constitutes the soul of every method” (156). Evaluating new (and returning) catechists ensures that we are supporting their ministry by providing them with the formation and tools they need.

One way to do this is to have incoming catechists fill out a simple self-assessment form that allows them to rate themselves on knowledge of the faith (Christology, liturgy, etc.) as well as catechetical methodology (lesson planning, classroom management, etc.). I’ve put together a sample two-page self assessment for catechists; you can download it at CATmag.us/2Moxl4x.

For returning or long-term catechists, you might consider offering the NCEA’s Information
for Growth (IFG) assessment. A companion to the popular ACRE assessment, IFG is a more in-depth examination that gives adults the opportunity to identify their level of religious knowledge and personal spirituality. Find more at here.

Both a self-assessment and IFG can help catechists develop a personal faith formation plan by helping them identify the areas they need to stretch themselves. If your diocese has a catechist formation process, a broad look at your catechists’ needs can help you identify which workshops or classes to offer in a given year or which subjects need to be reviewed.

If you have concerns about a potential volunteer’s level of knowledge, keep in mind that no
one has a right to volunteer in the Church. You are always free to say, “No, thank you.” Having a published set of expectations and qualifications for parish catechists can help in this process by giving you a set of criteria to point to. Alternatively, you can assign a new volunteer as an aide to a more experienced catechist mentor for a year. This will allow the new volunteer the opportunity to receive a year of formation before becoming a lead catechist themselves. The mentor can also give you feedback about the volunteer’s degree of knowledge and skill as a catechist.

 

Jonathan F. Sullivan is the director of parish ministries, services, and catechesis for the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana. He can be found online at JonathanFSullivan.com.

This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, October 2018.

Photo: Icons8 team on Unsplash

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