Traps for Catechists and How to Avoid Them

Traps for Catechists and How to Avoid Them August 16, 2016

It’s new-catechist season, and if you know such a person, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the book you want.  It’s Classroom Management for Catechists, by me.  It’s cheap, short, readable, and gives you a 101 on how to avoid all the stupid things I did as a new religious ed teacher, and instead go directly to putting together a decent class even if you aren’t a genius with magical superpowers.

There’s a Spanish version, too.  If you are buying in bulk for your parish or diocese, call Liguori directly because they sometimes run discounts.

Here are a couple of the reviews that have gone up on Amazon since last I checked, they pretty much get right to the point.  Then below I’ll share with you a thing that’s in the book that came to my attention just this week.

Classroom Management for Catechists is proof that great things come in small packages.

As a new catechist, I had been given a curriculum and lots of encouragement, but I knew I needed more help to give my best for these young people.

This book is exactly what I needed. What a gold mine! It’s jam-packed with solid advice and ideas, written in a friendly style, and organized for easy reading and easy reference. I read through it right away, and I know I’ll be referring to it often. I’m also buying extra copies to share.

It’s that good, and it’s that important.

If you are a first-time catechist, you should definitely read this book. And if you are an experienced catechist, but want to be a better one, you also should read this book.

And this one backs up my claim that no, I don’t have some amazing new method.  I learned from people who knew what they were doing, and then put it into a book:

I don’t know that the information was earth shattering, but it was certainly very helpful. I just started teaching CCD and I can truly say that I had no idea what I was in for. Having the ability to teach means nothing if you can’t manage a classroom. I teach 8th graders, and was just kind of “thrown in” without much warning for what to expect. The only thing that will keep kids in line (and they will test the line very aggressively) is you. Classroom management is a skill, and an essential skill that has to be learned (very few just naturally have “it”) if you want to actually teach these kids something.

So there you go.  Get the book for a religious ed teacher you know and love.

***

Now the funny story about why I’m thinking about this book, what it tells us about planning a decent course.

Here’s something I wrote in Classroom Management, about one of the big traps catechists fall into:

The “All I Need to Know About Jesus” Trap: Taking Advantage of the Verse-and-Refrain Class Structure

Have you ever had a profound, heart-moving moment with God? A moment of clarity, when suddenly all the noise and details of everyday faith-life seemed to lift away, and you were touched by the utter simplicity of the Gospel? You realized in one moment that God’s love alone is sufficient. Or that all your worries about some difficult decision could be set aside, because the one thing that mattered was trusting in God’s grace and provision. Or perhaps you had long misunderstood some aspect of our faith, and suddenly you realized you’d been distracted by too many details, and a few words of re-direction put you back on solid ground.

Resist the urge to make these “Aha!” spiritual moments the complete content of your class.

The other day over at the Conspiracy, I shared one of those moments I had last week while I was lectoring at my niece’s wedding.  Ever since writing those comments, I’ve been walking around reminding myself at pertinent intervals Love never fails.

Well that’s all fine and good for a blog post or my personal spiritual life, but DO NOT try to teach a class in three words.

But let’s say you want to teach a class with the Love never fails memory verse as your big theme. What do you do instead?

If I had to teach such a course in the next five minutes, let’s say to high school students, I’d grab these three things, since they happen to be sitting around at the ready:

  • The Love is . . . reading from Corinthians that builds up to the pivotal verse.  Loads of life-application in that reading, excellent fodder for vocation-prep of any sort, and bonus: It’s the Bible.
  • The Litany of Humility, since I maintain that it’s a foundational prayer for rightly-ordered love, it’s spiritually demanding, it opens up all kinds of questions about discipleship, and it will be new to most students, but is still manageable for brand new arrivers.
  • The life of St. Rita.  She’s on my mind since hers was one of the feast days I was assigned for the Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion.  You could pick any other saint, but St. Rita has the advantage of being an important one to know and whose life story fits very well with the other components of the class.

Lots of material from a variety of angles, but all of which comes back to the Love never fails theme for the class.  All the material is approachable for just-darkened-the-church-doors students, but dense enough to keep religious ed veterans thinking and talking.

You might pick a different three things.  Pick “evidence” for your big revelation that is material you can teach from with confidence.  If you haven’t yet gotten your mind around the Litany of Humility, for example, don’t go there — you’ll flounder. Do something else.

But you cannot, I warn you, you cannot, just walk into class with three words and expect the course to teach itself.  You can always choose not to pull out all your class-fodder if the discussion takes off in a good direction without any help.  But pack it along and plan to use it.

For loads more information like that to get your class off to a strong start, get the book.

Cover art courtesy of Amazon.com.

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