You can be a Christian who is alone, but you cannot be a Christian by yourself – John H Westerhoff
Faith is formed, developed, and owned in the context of communities of faith – Craig Dykstra
From the early history of the church a catechumen was a person preparing for baptism and membership in the Church. For our purposes, a catechumen includes not only persons preparing for baptism but anyone seeking to join or deepen their commitment to the faith community.
The Catechumenate focuses on the development of the disciplines of faith: worship, prayer, service, study, and generosity
- Process-oriented (the journey is as important as the destination)
- Lay-led (though visible clergy support is important)
- Relational (creating a cohort of support in order to enter into the life of the congregation)
Through the Catechumenate, adults on a spiritual quest are offered an apprenticeship in the life of faith and those already baptized are aided in the deepening of their faith and commitment.
There are three roles within the Catechumenate, the catechumen, the sponsor, and the leader. Each of these has its attendant responsibilities, which are outlined below.
Catechumen: The Catechumen’s primary responsibility is commitment to the process and integrity. They are expected to attend all meetings, to share honestly, to meet with their sponsors and to attend worship regularly .
Sponsor: The sponsors are not expected to be theological experts or living saints, but they are expected to be willing to honestly share their own experiences as Christians and as members of the congregation. They should attend worship with their catechumens and also meet or be in contact once per week. They should also pray for their catechumen and his or her family. Ideally, sponsors should be personally compatible with their catechumens, sharing gender and of a similar age and background whenever possible.
Leader: Leaders aren’t expected to be theological experts or saints either. They are expected to be mature in their faith and committed to Christ and the Church. Their primary responsibility is supporting the needs of the sponsors and catechumens by facilitating the meetings and providing structure to the process. They are also called on to lead the discussions during the “Topic” portion of the process and be willing to draw upon their own faith experiences while doing so. Leadership should be shared responsibility amongst a Leadership team.
What the Process Looks Like
The process should be a minimum of 10-12 weeks, but can be expanded or contracted to meet the needs of the congregation. Check out my Sample Schedule for the timeline, events, and topics.
The group should meet weekly for the length of the Catechumenate and should include food; lunch or dinner is great, though light snacks will also work.
The room should be set up as follows:
- Chairs, one per participant in an unbroken circle
- Sponsors and Catechumens should sit side-by-side, with Leaders dispersed throughout
- A small table in the center, with a white cloth cover, a bowl of water, a small cross and a single white candle
- A table for the food or snacks off to one side
- A dry-erase board or flip chart nearby for use during the “Topic” session
Other General Points
- Each sponsor/catechumen pair takes turns hosting the meal/snack time – Leaders set the example for the first week (keep it simple)
- Each week, a different Leader acts as Facilitator
- The session lasts 1 hour and 50 minutes – this gives some flex time to still be done in under 2 hours. Honor everyone’s time by starting and ending promptly
|Who’s Responsible?||What are we doing?||Tips and notes||Time|
|Facilitator||Opening Prayer||Begin by lighting the candle and saying “The Lord be with you”
Ask everyone to stand while we say an opening prayer
|Facilitator||Check In||Invite everyone to share their stories and reflections from the week
Do NOT problem solve – accept everyone’s sharing without commentary or response
|Break up into groups of no more than six persons by having the sponsors count off (1,2,3,4, etc)
Each group will be led by one of the Leaders
|All||Break||Bathroom break and allow people to gather their food||10 mins|
|Topic Leader||Topic Presentation & Discussion||Try to pick a scriptural verse to use as a “headline” for each week and put that somewhere prominent in the room and on any handouts
Try for 1/3 presentation, 2/3 discussion
|Facilitator||Closing Song||We’ll close with a hymn or song that reflects the topic||5 mins|
|Facilitator||Closing Prayer||Lead the group in a closing prayer||5 mins|