In this post, I’m going to describe a simple, easy-peasy way to dramatically increase the number of people you have in your RCIA process. But first, we have to do a little math.
You probably know that the fastest growing religious group in the United States is the “nones.” The Pew research group regularly asks people what church they belonged to, and the answer they get the most is “none.” (I don’t know if that’s true in Canada and other English-speaking countries, but my guess is that it is.)
16 million seekers a week
What is important to understand, however, is just because these folks don’t have a church, doesn’t mean they don’t go to church. One-third of the “nones” say they would join a church if they found the right one. So, if Pew is right, about 16 percent of the U.S. population has no religious affiliation. Of those, one-third—about 16 million people—are looking for a church on any given Sunday.
Try translating this to your city. If you live in a city of 100,000 people, one-third of 16 percent of them—about 5,333 people—are diving around town, checking out churches on Sunday. If Catholic parishes make up 20 percent of the churches in your city, that could mean about 20 percent—1,066—of the seekers in your city will be in a Catholic pew next Sunday. If there are 10 parishes in your city, you will potentially have more than 100 seekers visiting you this coming Sunday.
Okay, maybe that’s not possible. It can’t be 100, right? What if the number is only half of that? What if it’s only 50? Still outlandish? What if it is only ten? Ten people in your parish next Sunday looking for a church home? The point is, it’s not zero. Ten people, each week, is over 500 seekers a year visiting your parish hoping that something clicks.
RCIA teams ask us all the time how they can get more people into their initiation process. Sometimes the most obvious answer is just too obvious to notice. Here is the big takeaway:
To get more people into your RCIA process, say hello to the strangers at Mass every Sunday.
Learn from salespeople
Think of your parish in the same way a car dealer thinks of his showroom. If a stranger walks in the front door and starts looking at a car, she probably wants to buy a car. If a stranger walks into your church and starts looking at Catholics, she probably wants to be a Catholic. Or at the very least, she’d like to meet a couple of Catholics and learn a little more about Catholics.
What would happen to the car dealer who assumed that if the stranger really wanted to buy a car, she’d walk over to the office, knock on the door, and say, “I’d really like to buy a car. How do I do that?”
And yet, that is exactly what many of our parishes expect the seekers who come to Mass on Sunday to do. The results are predictable. The number one reason seekers do not return to a church they are trying out is because no one talked to them.
Look for young adults
Okay, one more statistic, and then I won’t make you do anymore math for a while, I promise. Remember I said that 16 percent of the U.S. population make up the “nones”? Well, if you only consider young adults, 18-29-year-olds, the percentage shoots up to 24 percent. If you know four young adults, one of them is a “none.” So if you see a young adult at Mass whom you do not recognize, I can almost guarantee you that he or she is looking for a church home.
That young person is sitting there, waiting for someone to cover over and “sell the car.” If you want to completely transform your catechumenate and your parish, next Sunday, go find a young adult you don’t know. Put on your best smile, stick out your hand, and say, “Hi. I don’t think we’ve met. Are you new to our parish?”
What do you think?
How many strangers do you think come to your parish every Sunday? Who talks to them? What “next step” do you have to offer them? Please share your comments below.
“Woman With A Sad Expression On A Dramatic Background” by Sira Anamwong | FreeDigitalPhotos.net