Can your RCIA team recognize these 6 deadly barriers to conversion?

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAThe number one roadblock for most organizations—including RCIA teams—is complacency. Allowing complacency to grow can be deadly. RCIA teams are supposed to be all about conversion. And complacency kills conversion.

Most teams start out with a high level of enthusiasm for the conversion mission. And then one of two things often happens.

  • The complacency level of the parish is high and so the initiatives of the RCIA team sink from lack of broad community interest.
  • Or the RCIA team has some initial success, and they themselves become satisfied and complacent.

Has “complacency” become the goal in your RCIA process?

What we say to catechumens and candidates is also true for us. We are never finished growing. We are in an ongoing conversion process. If we find ourselves resisting change, perhaps we have replaced “conversion” with “complacency” as our goal.

So how do we shake off complacency and get back to the conversion mission? In his book, Leading Change, John P. Kotter says we have to begin by creating a sense of urgency. But creating urgency is hard. Kotter lists these barriers:

  1. We overestimate our ability to create major changes in the team or the parish
  2. We underestimate how difficult it is to move team members or parishioners out of their comfort zones
  3. We don’t recognize how much we, ourselves, contribute to complacent attitudes
  4. We lack patience
  5. We get scared by the risks involved in pushing too hard for change
  6. We, or the team, or parishioners confuse urgency with anxiety, and then resistance to change increases even more

First step—identify the crisis

The way to create a sense of urgency is to identify the crisis that requires urgent action. So what is the crisis in your parish? More specifically, what is the crisis that your RCIA team is mandated to deal with?

Perhaps as you look around you don’t see any crises, or at least not any that fall under the umbrella of RCIA. If that’s the case, then why do you exist as a team? Think about that for a minute. If you don’t exist to solve a crisis, what do you exist for?

As a way to start identifying the crises that might be happening in your parish and your neighborhood, use the four markers of catechesis from RCIA paragraph no. 75 as a lens:

Four crisis zones

Word and tradition

  • What percentage of people in your parish deeply understand the level of sacrifice required by their belief in the Word Made Flesh who died for us and rose on the third day?
  • What percentage of parishioners are living that sacrifice in their daily lives in a way that is recognizable by others?
  • What percentage of your team members can summarize the entire teaching of the church in less than five minutes—in a way that sounds like good news to inquirers?
  • How many people in your neighborhood have not heard any good news today?


  • In the last year, how many parishioners or potential parishioners have stopped coming to Mass because they didn’t feel connected?
  • How many families who, in the last year, celebrated a baptism, confirmation, first Communion, wedding, or funeral are active your parish today?
  • Last Sunday, how many strangers were at Mass? How many of them were given a meaningful welcome? How many will return next Sunday?
  • How much of your parish resources are directed “outward,” toward those who don’t know about your parish, and how much is directed “inward,” toward those who are already members?


  • How many families who are preparing their children for a sacrament are at Mass every Sunday?
  • How strong is the response from inquirers, catechumens, and candidates to the preaching in your parish? How about the music?
  • How clear is the connection between the inquirers’, catechumens’, and candidates’ encounter with the Word Made Flesh in the liturgy and your subsequent catechetical session? How do you know if the connection is being made clearly?


  • How effective is your team, your parish, and your RCIA participants at converting systems that facilitate homelessness or food insecurity?
  • How effective is your formation process at helping the RCIA participants understand the difference between charity and justice?
  • What percentage of your team members can effectively summarize the social teaching of the church?
  • What percentage of your team can identify and teach Pope Benedict XVI’s position on the current economic crisis in the world and in the United States?

If you spend some time reflecting on these questions, you will find that crisis is all around us. So what do we do about it? We’ll look at that question in a future post.

See also these related articles:

  1. Start changing your RCIA process now—before it’s too late!
  2. Can your RCIA team recognize these 6 deadly barriers to conversion?
  3. 5 ways RCIA leaders can overcome “the way we’ve always done it”
  4. Make the shift from “RCIA team” to “coalition for change”
  5. Get an RCIA vision for your parish (angelic visitation optional)
  6. 6 essential rules for communicating a new RCIA vision
  7. Here’s the number-one rule for building an RCIA team
  8. What happens when you rock the RCIA boat?
  9. A few things you probably didn’t know about the Rite of Election
  10. RCIA will never be the same again

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  1. I’m a bit confused, guys. This article suggests that RCIA teams were created to address a crisis. I don’t think I agree with that – at least in my experience. I thought RCIA teams were created to facilitate conversion, to help those called to the Church find their place in the faith community. That doesn’t sound like a crisis to me. What am I missing?

  2. Hi Eric,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree that RCIA teams should be facilitating conversion. I see lots of areas in our world that are in urgent need of conversion. The slow pace of conversion or even a decline in conversion seems to me to be a crisis that needs the attention of RCIA teams. We do an okay job with those who call us or come by the parish. But Jesus didn’t say wait by the phone and baptize. He said go out and make disciples of all the world. We have to get better at doing that.

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