Wow! The importance of “surprise” in the RCIA

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIA

Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson Books, has written a lot about creating “wow” experiences. I think we can learn some things from him and apply his “wow” principles to our RCIA processes. The first step, as I wrote about here, is to identify the wow experiences in our own lives. Then, Hyatt says, we need to ask what it is about those experiences that makes say, “Wow!”

Be surprising

First on his list is surprise. “A wow experience,” he writes, “always exceeds our expectations. It creates delight, amazement, wonder, or awe.”

I wonder how we can surprise inquirers when they seek us out to learn more about becoming Catholic. What are they expecting? I think some might be expecting a class, some rules to memorize, perhaps some low-level judgment about their “shameful” past. What are some things that might surprise and delight them?

Here are just a few things off the top of my head. Please add your own ideas as well.

Here are some more things I thought of. What if, as we get to know them better, we do thing like:

  • Send a card on their birthdays and anniversaries
  • Remember their children’s names
  • Give them free tickets to parish events and banquets
  • Invite them to a movie
  • Invite them to dinner
  • Ask their advice

Share your surprising ideas

Can you think of some other things? Have you done things that have surprised and delighted the folks in your process? Can you imagine doing some things you haven’t tried yet? What would make your inquirers, catechumens, and candidates say, “Wow!”?

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  1. I would add “no rehearsals.”
    So often I’ve seen catechumens and candidates (and children preparing for First Communion; youth preparing for Confirmation) run through rehearsals that detracts from the real experience. Better to have welcoming guides on hand to gently move people from one spot to another and let them experience everything as it happens instead of worrying about remembering the instructions they received.

  2. Very interesting. I am in RCIA right now and this, other blogs, and the book for class have been very helpful.

    This is my suggestion for a “don’t”: so far in my classes half or more of the focus is on politics or how Protestants are wrong wrong wrong and less about Catholic doctrine (at the last class I timed it and only a third of the session was “here’s how Protestants are heretics” free). I came to learn more about Catholicism. I expected and welcomed discussion of how it differed from Protestantism, and how it was the correct set of beliefs, but when that dwarfs discussion of the Holy Spirit (which I never heard much about in the Protestant church growing up) and other things I would like to learn about, that is a problem.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. NKL, I’m sorry to hear of your experience. You really should bring that up to your pastor/catechist. Please know that the church is called to be ONE. Our hope is to see all of Christianity/Humanity as one family. Satan needs to do nothing more to Christianity than “divide and conquer”. Our Protestant brothers and sisters have much to teach us as well. I’ve been in charge of Faith Formation/RCIA for a long time. What you’ve described is not the norm. In the processes that I am aware of (as in our own parish)the opposite statements have been made. Inquirers have been almost shocked to hear that we DON’T put down other faiths. You don’t have to be Catholic to go to heaven!!! However, we have “God given” and time-tested tools! Our job as catechists is to focus on teaching you how to use those tools.–We have these beautiful gifts called the Sacraments. We have the Eucharist!! We have sooo much to be grateful for. My own personal desire as a catechist is simply this. I want to go Home–and I don’t want to leave ANYONE behind. I am grateful to ALL who join in on this quest!!!Most catechists that I know of, would agree.

  4. Regarding the “WOW” factor. At the presentations, we get everyone involved. Since we are unable to do them within mass, we’ve done it during the weekday. They are told that they are to meet for an evening reflection and during the course of the session, they hear a knock on the door, and are led outdoors to our cross on the hillside with the parish serenading them with the “The Summons” everyone holding a candle escorting them up the hill. I usually do a reflection with the parish before hand. I have them reflect on the Israelites journey home. Then, we do the readings and pass on to them the Our Father written on burnt scrolls. All are always in tears.

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