by Sarah Reinhard
If you think that being a catechist takes a big investment of time, you’re right. But that time is a gift you give, not just to your parish but to the entire Church. Our kids aren’t just the future of our Church; they are our Church—right now. This is an investment you make for something and someone bigger than any of us.
Yes, you can be a catechist.
Excuse No. 1: I don’t know enough.
Here’s a secret: You don’t have to know it all. In fact, you don’t even have to know very much.
The fact that you can even say that you don’t know “enough” (however much that is) shows that you have a certain level of humility. And you need humility to teach other people. You have to be willing to look for answers, journey with your students, and try to understand how best to help them in their search to meet that Person.
Are you willing to tap into your resources, finding answers in your Catechism or asking your pastor? Can you look someone in the eye, even someone who’s many years younger (or older) than you, and say, “Hey, that’s a great question! I’ll find an answer”? If you answered yes, not only can you be a catechist, but you, my friend, will be a great catechist!
Excuse No. 2: Kids are scary, and they bite. Plus I’m not holy enough.
Perfectly rational people who seem to have no problem dealing with half-naked toddlers and unreasonable preteens suddenly turn tail and scurry out of the parish center at the first whiff of “we need another adult” coming out of my mouth.
Wasn’t it Jesus himself who said, “Let the children come to me” (Matthew 19:14)? While you may respond that you can’t help that our savior was a bit crazy, let me suggest this: He was on to something.
None of us are holy enough, and none of us can be holy enough, not on our own. But you know what I noticed after teaching our third grade classes for a year? I understood more than I did at the beginning.
Teaching others taught me—and it opened me to learning things I didn’t know I needed to learn.
Maybe your role as catechist is less about teaching and more about learning. Maybe your first focus should be not on busywork and lesson plans but on prayer work and being open to the Spirit’s movements.
“We catechists are the face of the Church to many families who pass through programs in a superficial way due to ignorance of the treasures of our faith,” said Lisa Mladinich, founder of AmazingCatechists.com. That’s a responsibility, and it requires regular, ordinary, approachable people—just like you.
Excuse No. 3: I’m not a public speaker.
Ah, yes, but you don’t have to be! Isn’t that great news?
Can you talk to your family at dinner? Do you read to your kids before bed? Have you ever told a joke to a group of friends?
You’re not going into the classroom blind or unprepared. You’ll have your lesson, and your parish staff is, undoubtedly, planning to spend some time with you to go over some basics.
But let me tell you again: You do not have to be a public speaker. Speaking in front of groups is scary, I know. But talking to some kids? Step away from the ledge, please, because there is hope!
No, really! Do you care about your faith? Why, yes, you obviously do. Do you love people? OK, maybe not enough to be naked in front of them, but you have your clothes, your wits, and whatever cheat sheets you need.
Catechesis is echoing the faith, sharing what you love, and engaging with the next generation (even if they’re the same age as you are). A number of years ago, my then over-70-year-old grandmother confided something to me. “I only feel like I’m 16 inside,” she said. “I’m sometimes surprised to see that I’m old!”
Do you remember what it’s like to wonder and ask questions? What’s that spark inside you? What about your Catholic faith gets you jumping around and excited? Bring it, and let’s not talk about “public” speaking, OK?
Excuse No. 4: I have to go potty.
Go ahead, laugh. But there are details that can derail some of us before we even get started.
How do you deal with a kid who has needs you haven’t dealt with before? Does your aide need to bring her 3-year-old to class once in a while? What do you do about a parent who wants to sit in, or sit out, or something else that’s special and weird that you’re unsure about?
Sometimes, it takes a dose of bravery and a bit of recklessness to get in front of a classroom. What, after all, do I know? Why would they want to listen to me?
True enough. But it’s not about you, remember? It’s about him. You’re introducing two friends: the person in front of you and Jesus, the person you know. You’re helping them get to know each other.
Sarah Reinhard is online at SnoringScholar.com.
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This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, July 2015.
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