Set the stage for effective evangelization

Coffee or tea? by basykes via Flickr

We get a lot of questions at TeamRCIA, but one question we never get is, “How can our team be better at evangelization?” If you think about it though, shouldn’t this be the burning question for every RCIA team? The first stage of the catechumenate is named the “Period of Evangelization.” Everything else we do flows from that stage.

Like all the other ministries of the catechumenate, the ministry of evangelization belongs to the entire community. The team, however, needs to model this ministry and coach other members of the community in their role as evangelists. To do that, you are going to need a parish-wide evangelization strategy.

Do you have what it takes?

You will need to collaborate with the pastor, the religious education folks, the school, the parish council, and the liturgy committee to develop this strategy. Any one element of an evangelization strategy is not too difficult. But making evangelization the focus of all parish activities is a discipline that requires courage and perseverance. Which, I’m guessing, is exactly why the Holy Spirit led you to this ministry.

8 ways to jumpstart evangelization in your parish

Here are some elements of an evangelization strategy. I’m sure you can think of more.

  1. Train yourselves and others in evangelization techniques. The United States Catholic Bishops list ten different national Catholic evangelization programs. One of the best among them is the Paulist Evangelization Ministries. Get one or two resources, try them out, and start to improve your skills.
  2. Ask your pastor to tell evangelization stories. At every meeting and parish gathering, ask him to share ideas about sharing faith. His example will go a long way toward encouraging other parishioners to share their faith.
  3. Pray more. Pray especially for those who have never heard the good news of Jesus Christ. Pray that God will lead you, today, to someone who needs to hear good news.
  4. Hang out in bars. Or coffee shops. Or bookstores. Be out in the neighborhood more and in church less. The people who need to hear about Jesus are not coming to meetings at the parish.
  5. Hang out in the back of church. When you are at Mass, stay near the doors and greet people as they enter. If you see someone you don’t know, use your evangelization techniques you are learning (see step one) to start getting to know them. And here’s a tip. Seekers do not come to Mass early. They come after Mass has started. Stay put at the door until after the first reading.
  6. Already have greeters at the front door? Then greet someplace else. Are there greeters at the side doors? Out on the sidewalk? In the parking lot? If you have ever been to an evangelical megachurch, you’ve seen greeters in all these places. I once had a megachurch greeter rush to my car with an umbrella on a rainy Sunday morning.
  7. Host monthly information events. For example:
      • What do Catholics think about Harry Potter?
      • 10 things everyone asks about the Catholic Church
      • The history of Catholic immigration in Santa Clara County
      • 5 things you need to know next time you attend a Catholic wedding or funeral

    Make up your own event. Try not to be too theological or too pious.

  8. Fix your website. Every parish website I’ve ever seen is designed for parishioners, not for seekers. A very few have a little information for seekers, but the site as a whole is always for those who are already members. Think about this for a minute. If a car dealer had a website that spoke primarily to employees and other car dealerships, how many cars would he be likely to sell? Check out that megachurch site in your community. It is absolutely focused on seekers.

A three-month challenge for your team

These are just a few evangelization strategies. Try focusing on one or two over the next three months. Then, meet as a team and ask yourselves, “How can our team be even better at evangelization?”

Share your thoughts

Can you add any more strategies to this list? What has worked in your parish? What next steps will your team take?

Read all the posts in this series on evangelization:

  1. A challenge for established RCIA teams
  2. Evangelization vs. reevangelization in an RCIA process
  3. If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?
  4. Set the stage for effective evangelization
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  1. Tips #5 and 8 are the most important parts of your list, I think. I greet before Mass, and I always stay until after the Gloria (or the first reading during Lent and Advent). I also believe strongly in “reverse greeting.” You welcomed them warmly, so why wouldn’t you wish them a good week as well? That might even be just the opportunity seekers need to ask someone about starting the RCIA process.

    Tip #8 is a fantastic point in the argument for use of not-so-new media in the new evangelization. Anyone should be able to find Mass times, confession times, and a phone number and generic email address on the first page of your parish website. I’ll admit that ours needs work, but at least we try.

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