Among the most crucial tasks of any catechetical leader are the recruitment and retention of good catechists. Preparation for recruitment of catechists should begin on the ground floor, with a good look at current program needs. Is there a need for catechists, small-group leaders, assistants, backup support, or substitutes? What will the new volunteers be asked to do and how often? Writing a brief job description for each position will help both you and each potential volunteer. Pairing the right person with the right age group and task is critical to a volunteer’s comfort and success. Some people are eager to take on real responsibility, while others would prefer a less visible, more supportive role. Identifying the kind of help you are looking for will assist in placing the right people to fill those roles.
Once you know the positions you need to fill, you can consider the best strategies for recruitment. If you need people for hospitality positions or to pass out scissors, an open recruitment with sign-ups after Mass might work fine. But if your specific need is for a catechist or someone with special skills, the sign-up model can be counterproductive. When a volunteer with specific skills is needed, it’s best to offer personal invitations to selected individuals. You may locate these people by asking other parish leaders whom they might recommend from among their acquaintances in the parish.
Another source of recruitment is the section about prior service from recent new-parishioner registration forms. Ask the parish office to include a section on the form listing potential interests, if there isn’t one on the form at present. It might consist of a short list of boxes that can be checked for the particular skills you’re looking for and the positions you need to fill.
Before Catechists Serve
Any potential catechist needs to be interviewed to determine if he or she is the right person for the task. Help each individual to discern both the hearing and the answering of an invitation to service in catechetical ministry. If both of you agree on his or her service, the volunteer will need a certain minimum amount of preparation for the role, no matter how unassuming it may be.
A handout with the program mission statement and a brief list of specific responsibilities should be given to volunteers as soon as possible. Training and formation sessions will help new catechists develop confidence to serve effectively. Likewise, be sure to inform new catechists about parish and diocesan policies and provide orientation to the program handbook, textbook, or list of basic support materials available in the parish library or diocesan resource center.
A group meeting with the whole catechetical team before the program year begins is desirable. At the meeting new members can be identified and welcomed, and they can receive an introduction to team values and goals. A mentoring partnership can give a new catechist an immediate resource—to answer questions, consider small concerns, and share experiences.