Do you run your RCIA like a business? Maybe you should

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIASeventeen years ago, I left the professional ministry field and started a career in publishing. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by the intersection between business values and spiritual values. There can be a tendency among ministry folks to stereotype business people as being completely focused on money. Recent stories about unscrupulous bankers and greedy Wall Street CEOs seem to reinforce the stereotype. But my experience has been that the vast majority of business people are guided by deeply spiritual principles. They may not think of their principles as spiritual, but that’s how I see them.

For example, I stumbled across a blog post today by Barry J. Moltz (via Liz Strauss). I don’t know anything about Barry, but take a look at what he wrote in Letting Go of the Outcome. His suggestions, his business principles, are terrific reminders for RCIA teams.

RCIA is a process, not a program

“Process needs to trump outcome,” he writes. How many times have we all said, “RCIA is a process, not a program”? I hear that phrase so often that it has become jargon. What do we really mean by that? Barry has an insight for us:

“During these tough times, it is important to let go of a specific outcome.” He’s speaking of the tough economic times, of course. I think of tough spiritual times. Often, inquirers come to us in some state of spiritual distress. They are looking for peace or hope or faith. They don’t show up at a church all of a sudden because everything is going fine in their lives. What is important, what our spiritual principle is, is that we need to respond to the inquirer’s longing. We need to provide peace or hope or faith. We need to let go of the “specific outcome” of initiation.

“We need to be flexible,” Barry writes, “or we are bound to end up disappointed or disgruntled much of the time.” That has been soooo true for me! If an inquirer stops coming or a catechumen misses Mass or a neophyte falls away, I tend to take it as a personal failure. I can get really down on myself and spend a lot of negative energy wondering what I did wrong. When I am feeling that way, it’s a sure sign I’ve put programming ahead of process. So what should I be doing instead?

Due diligence

“Be diligent in formulating the best process that you can,” says Barry. He means business process, of course. Good customer service, accurate billing, quality manufacturing, stuff like that. But I think of “best process” as being diligent about my own prayer life; or listening, listening, and listening some more to the deep needs of the inquirers and catechumens; or constantly sniffing the wind for parishioners with just the right talents to help with the initiation process; or scrutinizing the fine details of every Sunday liturgy and initiation rite so the ritual can do its conversion thing.

If we pay attention to the process, the outcome will take care of itself. It’s a good principle to remember—in business or in ministry.

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  1. Great insights. The first thing I thought of when I read this was the old saying, “Let go and let God.” When I do this at work, it’s amazing how many times things fall into place and goals are achieved. We really have to trust God in the RCIA process and–this is a real challenge for many–let people progress on their own spiritual journey. Subtle pushing and nudging down the path is not as effective as providing a map and compass. Guiding–not directing–enables people to make their own connections. They’ll be stronger in the end when they look back on their journey and realize catechists opened their eyes and hearts to God and did not feed them by force.
    Keep up the great work on the site!

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