Beginnings are fresh and exciting times for catechists and the young people they serve. Here are a few ways to make good use of this opportunity to set the pace for a new catechetical year.
Make it clear that God is the center of your time together.
From the first gathering, establish that this isn’t just another group activity, club, or class. Begin and end each session with prayer, perhaps use the Sign of the Cross and/or a consistent reminder of being in the presence of God. Younger children respond better to a simple routine that they can count on; older children can handle as many variations as you may wish to use.
Structure is a catechist’s best friend, and it helps parents and children get organized too. Begin and end each session on time.
Be clear about program expectations.
Begin the year with an overview of the content that will be covered by your group during the year.
Aim to create a comfortable and orderly atmosphere.
Establish procedures and rules for the group. Post them, explain them, and use them to remind the children to treat one another with respect.
Communicate with parents early and often.
Religious instruction requires the cooperation and involvement of families. A short summary note home each week or once a month may assist parents in reinforcing lessons with their children. A word of advice from you about how to do this, such as sending home a prayer of one of the saints for nightly use, will help the family support your efforts.
Communicate with the whole parish.
Work with leaders in your parish to share specific information. Make the most of multiple posting opportunities such as parish bulletins, Web site, and community bulletin board whenever possible—the reinforcement of your message helps keep everyone informed.
Set achievable goals.
Don’t try to launch too many additions and improvements to your catechetical year at once. If writing an annual handout to the parents at the start of the program is new, congratulate yourself on that accomplishment and plan additional improvements for the following year.