Training is an essential part of every profession. Not only do many professions require a certificate or college degree, but many professions and trades are tested and monitored by state boards. Further, many of these professions require ongoing training or the earning of CEU’s (Continuing Education Units) in order to maintain their credentials. Why all this training and testing and monitoring? It’s to protect us—the people whom these professionals serve, to make sure everyone who engages their services is getting the best possible care and attention.
The church requires the same for all of us engaged in catechetical ministry. Every diocese I’ve encountered follows some kind of process for the formation and training of those in catechetical ministry.
Trained and experienced RCIA guides
Unfortunately, for those of us working as initiation coordinators and ministers, basic catechist formation is not enough. The special conditions of addressing adult needs and the considerations laid out in the RCIA requires that we seek additional training and formation specific to our ministry. I feel this is so important that I’ve always considered it the first necessary step to making sure your RCIA is open year-round. And like the professionals I mention above, this training isn’t so much for us, it’s for those whom we serve.
In addition to the many years I’ve spent as a catechist, I’ve also spent most of my life as a volunteer leader in Scouting. In Scouting we have a phrase: “Every Scout deserves a trained leader.” When I think of my daughter working her way up the trail to Eagle Scout, I most certainly want to make sure that her troop leaders are trained and experienced. Only those who are well trained can guide her effectively to her goals. Knowing this, it doesn’t take a stretch of one’s imagination to consider that this same ideal applies to initiation ministry. To paraphrase, “Every candidate and catechumen deserves a trained catechist.”
What does formal training provide that makes it so important?
- It builds community. There’s no substitution for the grace we receive celebrating as a community of believers. Jesus taught us this as he gathered his apostles and disciples. In community we find strength and unity of purpose. It shows us that we’re not alone and that we can learn from each other as we share similar challenges and build relationships with our fellow initiation ministers.
- It forms a unified vision. The goal of leading adults to full initiation in the church may be our common goal, but we also need to make sure we’re all on the same page with how best to lead them there. I will never forget the utter confusion I had when I first read the RCIA. Only through training did I come to understand its intent and meaning and how we could translate those requirements to the needs of our parish community.
- It makes us better catechists. Training isn’t meant to show us what we’re doing wrong, it’s meant to show us how we can be better. For as proud as I am with what we’ve been able to accomplish at my parish, I’m also well aware of those areas where we still need to improve. No process is beyond the need to improve. Jesus himself always pushed his disciples to do more (Mark 10:17-25), to go one step further. We should do the same.
- It gives you and your team confidence. Whenever I’m recruiting new team members the most common sentiment I hear (second only to “I don’t have the time) is, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” But here’s the truth—we’ve all been there. No one who starts in this ministry started as an expert. I certainly wasn’t. The initiation director I am today only came after training and working with other more experienced leaders.
- It can be the catalyst to move your process forward. I’ve met many initiation catechists who recognized the need for change but didn’t know where to start. No process is going to change overnight, nor should it. Only through training, for you and your team, can help you gain the knowledge and skills to identify those elements of your process that need to change and help you prioritize those needs in a way that is best for your community.
Lent will be here soon, and as we know it is the season where Catholics traditionally “give up” something. Today our understanding of this tradition has evolved. It’s more than just giving something up, it’s about building good habits that make us better disciples of Christ. So why not make team training one of your goals for this coming Lenten season? There are a lot of resources out there, and TeamRCIA is ready to help!
What training has helped you the most in your ministry? How has it enriched your community? Share your thoughts in the comments below.