How skilled is your RCIA team at evangelization? Many teams don’t think about it much. Most of us have a few weeks of the year that we identify as the “precatechumenate,” but that often seems more like interviews or classes than evangelization.
Here is what the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults says our teams are supposed to be skilled at for the precatechumenate:
It is a time of evangelization: faithfully and constantly the living God is proclaimed and Jesus Christ whom he has sent for the salvation of all. Thus those who are not yet Christians, their hearts opened by the Holy Spirit, may believe and be freely converted to the Lord and commit themselves sincerely to him. (RCIA 36)
So, strictly speaking, this is a period that is oriented toward those who are not yet Christians. I think we could also add in those who may be baptized, but don’t know Jesus because they never received any formation after their baptism (see RCIA 400).
A time for RCIA teams to evangelize
How do you make the precatechumenate into a time of true evangelization? It will require some skill building for most RCIA teams. Fortunately, most team members already have the basic skills, and they just need to be developed. Here are three evangelization skills any RCIA team can master:
1. Meet and greet ministry
Almost everyone we know already knows Jesus. In order to find and recognize people who do not know Jesus, we have to meet a lot more people. Job One is meeting strangers. Ask each team member to set a goal as to how many strangers a week they will meet. The only rule is the goal cannot be zero. For the extremely shy, the goal might be one stranger a week. For the social butterflies, the goal might be 10 or 20 strangers a week. For me, it would probably be five a week.
No matter what your number is, you can (and should) do a lot of your meeting and greeting at Sunday Mass. There are strangers there every week. We have to get outside of our comfort zones and start looking for strangers among us.
2. Loaves and fishes ministry
I think that if the church changed the word “evangelization” to “potluck,” we would have a lot more success with introducing people to Jesus. If you look at how Jesus evangelized, it was often while people were eating. If you want to be an effective evangelist, plan to eat more. For example, almost every parish has someone say something like this at the beginning of Mass: “Welcome to any visitors who are here. If you’d like to know more about St. Catherine Parish, please see the bulletin or visit our website.”
What if we changed that to: “Welcome to any visitors who are here. After Mass, a few of us are going out for brunch. If you’d like to join us, we’re going to a place that serves the best pancakes in town. Meet me at the door of the church right after Mass.”
Or what if a team member hosted a potluck in her home once a year? If you have six team members, you could host a potluck every other month. If you have twelve team members, you could do it once a month. Every time you meet a stranger, invite them to the potluck.
3. Toe in the water ministry
In my parish, we usually have at least six announcements at the end of Mass—often more. These are always about parish business, and, if you’re not a member of the parish, you probably don’t know what the announcement is really about. Or you don’t care because it doesn’t concern you.
What if we kept the parish business announcements to a maximum of three each week with a goal of only one? Most announcements just repeat what is in the bulletin anyway. And then add a next-step announcement for newcomers. Have something going on in the parish each week that you can invite newcomers to. It has to be something a stranger might actually show up for. Maybe a Catholic Answers night? Or a How to Plan a Wedding workshop? Or a movie night? Be creative. The point is to give first-time visitors a reason to come back, to come to a low-risk activity at which they can get to know you, a chance to just stick their toe in the water.
There you have it. Three easy-to-implement evangelization skills every RCIA team can master.
Did this spark any creative ideas in you? What other evangelization skills might you add to this list?