I’m going to tell you the secret to starting and sustaining a successful RCIA team:
Break bad habits
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Sounds too simple to be true? Well, you’re partly right about that. It sounds simple, but it is also difficult. Have you ever told a smoker to stop smoking? If he’d just stop smoking, he’d be healthier. He knows it. You know it. Everyone knows it. Simple. But not.
The bad team habits are like that. The habit gives us something we like, even if it might be bad for us. So it can be very difficult to give up some things we’ve come to rely on.
Executive coach and management consultant Marshall Goldsmith recognized this behavior in business teams. He says that some of the habits we get into may in fact have led us to our current level of success. So we hold onto what has worked in the past, even though those same behaviors are keeping us from moving forward into the future. In his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, he describes 20 habits, many of them unconscious, that business leaders fall into that prevent them from becoming the best leaders they can be.
One habit he says leaders need to break is continuing to do things that we should just stop doing. He suggests that leaders take a break from making to do lists and, for a time, make a “to stop” list. What would that look like if we applied it to our catechumenate processes?
If we could stop doing some of things team often wind up doing—things that do not directly pertain to the RCIA—perhaps we could reach a deeper, more powerful level of initiation ministry.
For example, what would happen if teams stopped doing some of these things:
- Helping faithful Catholics who missed confirmation as teenagers “catch up” on their sacraments
- Putting faithful Protestants through the same process as the catechumens
- Celebrating the Rite of Acceptance before the inquirers are ready to make a true commitment
- Celebrating the Rite of Election with catechumens who are not ready to be baptized
- Relying on sponsors who are not fully participating Catholics
Those are all things I used to do, and each of them eventually wound up on my “to stop” list. I can’t say that taking the steps to break these bad habits, all by themselves, made our teams successful, but the process of examining what the rite was really asking of us—and then trying to live up to it—did get us a lot closer to what we thought of as successful.
How about you? What’s on your “to stop” list for the coming year?
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