A new and inexperienced RCIA catechist (RCIA = Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) told me she had to spend a great deal of time to prepare for each RCIA presentation. Worse still, if the preparation was painstaking, the actual presentation was nerve-wrecking. She asked if I had any helpful suggestions to offer.
To me, the differences between preparing for an RCIA presentation at church and preparing for a project presentation in school or at work are significant and unmistakable both in terms of the presenter’s mindset and of his motivation.
For example, when I was preparing for, say, a budget presentation at work, I was motivated to perform well so that my board members would not only approve the budget, but also would have confidence in me as the person entrusted with the important task of looking after the company's finances. Obviously I also needed the success to please my boss. It's all part of the hard work required to pave the way for a good performance evaluation, for getting a good bonus or salary increase, and for strengthening my position as a key member on the management team. Notice that my motivations were mostly people-oriented, and my desire was for financial gains and people’s recognition.
When I’m preparing for an RCIA presentation, none of the above-mentioned human factors and self-serving desires are applicable - at least not to the extent that my intent is pure. If I want to please my audience - in this case the catechumens instead of the board members - it's because I want my message to get across effectively so that they will benefit from the word of God. If I want to please my co-workers or my "boss" (if the pastor happens to be in the audience), it's not because of monetary considerations or vanity, but because of the need to build good rapport and to promote team work.
But the most important difference, I think, is this: in the case of an RCIA presentation or, for that matter, any other ministry-based presentations, the one thing that really drives me is an urge to spread the Good News of Christ. I can really feel its power: it’s a heart-warming sensation, a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment enticing enough to drive me to work non-stop, and rewarding enough to make all my hard work worthwhile. It is, I suppose, the same urge that St. Paul had felt so irresistible because of "the love of Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Depending on the depth of the catechist's personal relationship with God and the personal encounters with Christ that they have had in their journeys of faith, the urge may be weaker or stronger. But it should be there somehow, hidden in the background like an invisible force that drives and empowers, simmering beneath the surface like a source of energy that stimulates and propels. As long as the love of Christ is urging us on, the preparation will be a happy ride, not hard labor; the presentation will be a passionate and engaging discourse on religious convictions and experiences, not a nerve-wrecking exercise.