The June 2010 issue of Inc. has a story about how Van Meter Industrial makes new employees feel welcome. They do four simple things to integrate the newbies into the company. How did they come up with the four steps? They asked a group of new hires!
It occurred to me that would be a great model for parishes to use with neophytes. Are you having trouble getting your neophytes integrated into parish life? Why not meet with a group of them and ask them what would make them feel more a part of the community? (And please be sure and post some of their answers in the comments section here because it will help the rest of us.)
Here are Van Meter’s four steps, adapted for parishes with neophytes:
1. Meet an ambassador
Match each neophyte with a parish ambassador. Ideally, they are already matched—with their godparents. But many neophytes have godparents-in-name-only who are not active in the parish. If that’s your situation, find parishioners who would be willing to serve. The ambassadors at Van Meter spend at least 12 hours the first week acclimating a new hire to all things Van Meter and introducing them to all the employees of the company. What would an adaptation of that look like in your parish?
2. Shadow other parishioners
Assign the neophytes to a parishioner in a different ministry or committee each week to follow along behind and learn what they do. Try to get the neophyte to shadow at least a dozen different parishioners. The goal is not to recruit the neophyte into a parish ministry. It is to help the neophyte get a broad understanding of how the parish works.
3. Offer classes
If during their catechumenate, the neophytes have experienced a true conversion to Christ, they will have begun to live as disciples after their initiation. After a few months in the real world, their beginner skills will need some strengthening. About three months from their baptism, offer a series of training sessions in Catholic evangelization. Or, go back to your focus group and ask them what they would like more training in.
4. Debrief with the pastor
At the conclusion of the training sessions, ask the pastor to come by for a question and answer session. Or, if you can manage it, get the bishop to come. In my diocese, it would be pretty difficult to schedule the bishop for this. But larger dioceses have auxiliary bishops who, although also busy, are sometimes easier to schedule for parish events.
What do you think? Will adaptations of these ideas help your neophytes feel more a part of the parish? What other strategies will help?