Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Advice for a New DRE {Tips & Resources}

Diving into the world of parish ministry is certainly exciting, but is also overwhelming.  Turn over for catechetical leaders is incredibly high, and while we could cite several causes (time, expectations, pay, etc.) I think that some of the most common reasons that people leave ministry have more to do with support- from parish leadership, from volunteers, and from parents. I get lots of questions and requests for advice on how to get started as a new DRE, and I try to do my best to answer, but the truth is that my experience is unique and each parish and diocese is different.  I went to my followers on Instagram and asked what advice they would share.  Below I've compiled a few of my thoughts and lists of ideas from the hundreds of people who helped on Instagram.  I hope that some of these ideas are helpful for a new parish worker, but I also think that there are some great suggestions for catechists, youth ministers, and school teachers, as well as resources that would work for parents in their own homes.

Three notes:
-This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
-By supplying a link or a recommendation, that doesn't necessarily mean that I have used that resource or endorse every aspect of the website/program.  I did my best to sort through the responses and give you quality recommendations, but please use your best discernment especially for your own program and students.
-If you have any feedback or ideas that we missed, please comment or email me! I'll happily edit and add to this list as I hear of more resources.

Advice for Recruiting and Training Volunteers
This is a job that is literally impossible to do alone.  Recruiting solid volunteers who love and live their faith and work well with kids can be one of the biggest challenges, especially when you are new to a parish. Make sure you talk to your pastor about volunteers, both for his advice as well as his insights. Build up relationships and start with talking to people you trust, either to help or to give you others to ask.  Make sure you are familiar with your diocesan procedure and policies about volunteer training and background checks, asking for help when you need it.

Some resources for personal formation:
National Directory for Catechesis
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Echoing the Mystery
Christ in the Classroom

  • Personal invitation/personal relationship
  • Reach out to Deacons to help with training
  • Parents of kids in the program
  • Past youth who were active
  • Find the person's passions and place where they will shine
  • Development of substitutes and assistant catechists- often will become lead catechists
  • Diocesan training and retreats
  • Remember it's ok to be picky
  • Priest invitations
  • Send letters home
  • Have a ministry fair
  • General announcements rarely work
  • Thank them often
  • Don't be afraid to delegate and share responsibility
  • Ask people to pray about it
  • Get recommendations from pastor, current volunteers, and parents
  • Give specific jobs- feel responsible and will follow through
  • Pray for them specifically- God is faithful and He answers

Ideas for Organization, Schedules, Communication, etc.
There is often a lot of freedom in planning a parish religious ed program, as in you get to start from scratch, but that can also be difficult as you work withing a busy parish schedule and also try to account for area school and extracurricular calendars. Communication is key, and getting out info to families in multiple formats is a big part of a a DRE's week-to-week responsibilities.  As I set the calendar for our year, I always start with the Liturgical Calendar and plan the general outline for classes, Bible studies, and youth group.  Then I add in extra events like family nights, Children's Masses, open houses, etc. For communication, good old email and text remains our most solid way of reaching everyone, but we've also used Remind, Flocknote, fliers, the parish bulletin, and CCD Newsletters.
Here are some other suggestions:

  • Use a planner (Long term planners)
  • Plan by Liturgical Year
  • Flocknote
  • Unison
  • Remind
  • Google Suite Tools
  • Social Media
  • Make lists of specific tasks in your planner, even things like reminders to send emails, etc.
  • Add things to lists in your planner and clean out your inbox every few days
  • Don't forget to communicate successes to catechists, pastor, boss, bulletin, etc.
  • Take home folders for kids to take back and forth between church and home
  • Coordinate and plan long term dates with pastor, other staff, and volunteers
  • Find multiple ways to communicate and over communicate
  • Check all school sports/event calendars before planning big events

Encouraging Parent Involvement
Parent involvement is critical, as the Church teaches that they are the primary and most important teachers of their children.  I have a whole post with ideas about the why and how of involving parents here. Here are some ideas that others shared:

  • Consistent communication- figure out what works best (text vs email, etc.)
  • Family nights (back to RE blessing & ice cream)
  • Encourage parent help (use
  • Family Faith Formation Program
  • Help from other parish leadership positions
  • Find what is important to parents and give them those opportunities with their children
  • Use fellow parents to recruit/remind
  • Ask for them to pray in specific ways
  • Get to know the parents, then invite them to be more involved specifically. The better you know them, the easier it is.
  • Send home activities with the kids to do as a family & bring back to share
  • Include in notes to parents what is being studied in class so the discussion can continue at home
  • Get the parish (non parents) involved in supporting families
  • Have mandatory monthly family meetings
  • Show charity and be welcoming, not accusatory
  • Invite them to spend time in the classrooms
  • Schedule adult classes during the same times as the children's classes

Challenges (& How to Overcome Them)
You're not alone.  There are others who have walked before you and can walk with you in this ministry. My biggest advice is to establish relationships with other DREs or parish workers both for help and for camaraderie.  I also highly recommend developing trust and open communication with both your pastor and the diocesan education staff, which will be indispensable when you are facing hurdles big and small. These are some of the challenges (and solutions) shared by other DREs:
  • Organization (Keep it simple and Liturgical)
  • Difficult kids
  • Getting families to go to Mass
  • Administration (Ask people for help simplifying)
  • Communication (Use technology to communicate with catechists and parents)
  • Teen engagement (Seek experienced teachers)
  • Low numbers (Doesn't equate a bad program.  Seek quality over quantity. Remember leading one soul closer to Christ matters.)
  • Complaints (Involve pastor in decisions so you have a united front)
  • First 18 months are the hardest
  • Burnout (Seek the help and advice or fellow DREs and YMs for questions and issues)
  • Push back from older parishioners and parents (Cultivate respect for leadership)
  • Youth are so poorly catechized at home (Pray the Holy Spirit illuminates your short time in class)
  • Working on weekends- Sunday school, special Masses, retreats
  • Over working (Keep track of your hours even if you are salaried)
  • Temptation to administer instead of ministering
  • Holding on to joy of serving the Lord (Take time off to avoid burnout)
  • Needing a break (Find friends you don't have to talk about ministry with)
  • You can't solve everything (Prayer & lots of time with God)
  • God already saved the world- we don't have to ;)

Favorite Curriculum Series/Texts
Sometimes you have control over curriculum, sometimes it is set by the diocese or parish (or is just established because starting over with a new series can be a serious investment.  I've always advocated first knowing your diocesan religious education standards (here are ours for example), and then teaching from a series as a resource.  The book shouldn't determine everything happening in a classroom, but most catechists are not teachers by trade, so they need a starting point.  Then support them with supplemental resources and activities, especially for the Liturgical year, Saints, and Sacrament prep. Provide a wide variety of Catholic books to be read and used in the classrooms. Make sure to check the USCCB Conformity Listing of Catechetical Texts and Series or if a bishop has granted a nihil obstat or imprimatur to any resource you use. Your diocese might also have an approved or recommended list of curriculum or series.

Favorite Catholic Websites and Resources

Sacrament Prep

Resources for Kids with Special Needs

Podcasts & Audio Resources

Other Advice

  • Pray
  • Connect with area DREs for support
  • Ask catechists about what works and doesn't work for them
  • Be careful with videos- if dated, message can be lost
  • Treat your volunteers like family- you're a team
  • Keep in mind that the parents might have a difficult relationship with the Church
  • Make sure you don't make parents feel ignorant- lack of catechesis often isn't their fault
  • Use Google Drive to share resources
  • Allow kids to write down anonymous questions
  • Have a team of 4-6 parents that are your go-to for helping with events
  • Focus on building a small team, then grow
  • The Bosco Conference at Franciscan helps you network and grow
  • Support your volunteers so you don't lose them

Be assured of my prayers for all of you and the students you will minister to this coming year.  Feel free to comment below or send me an email with some of your favorite resources that didn't make this list! And thanks to everyone who contributed your wisdom to bring this post together!


  1. Katie, this is wonderful! Thanks for all the great advice and links! May I also recommend the book, Developing Disciples of Christ by Julianne Stanz? It is part of a series of books written for catechetical leaders, but relevant for all in this ministry. I pray God is with all of your readers, may He grant us the Grace's we need to plant the seeds of the Spirit among His children.


  2. Thank you for the post! A couple more websites:

  3. has free lessons to teach about faith and science. So many young people are leaving the Church because they are being taught in public schools about science alone and that faith in God cannot be proven. Not so! Credible Catholic gives lots of proof!-Julie

  4. I have a meeting/interview tomorrow to be a religious education coordinator and help build the youth group. I know this is an old post, but I remembered you had this, and I will be bringing a few of these ideas with me tomorrow. Thank you so much for compiling it! God Bless you.

    1. Congrats, Erin! That is exciting! I'm glad this was helpful- I need to share it again! Prayers for you and your program!

    2. I got the job! They liked the ideas I brought- I so appreciate this blog!