How to influence your pastor

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAThis article is focused on influencing the pastor because that is how the question is most often asked of us here at TeamRCIA. How do I get my pastor to do X?

If you are a pastor, I know your concern is the reverse. How do I get my RCIA team to do X? I think most of this will translate both ways, so pastors, please bear with me. Put on your translation hat and substitute “team” for “pastor” in the comments that follow.

There are some universal tools for trying to influence anyone. Keep in mind, however, these are only tools. They are not magic potions that will change someone else into people who think and act like we want them to. We can’t change anyone. All we can do is nudge, suggest, guide, and influence. But, if you do these things well, that’s a lot.


1. Sit in your pastor’s chair

I mean that metaphorically, but go and actually do it if you think it will help. Before you try to influence your pastor, you have to adopt his point of view. The pastor’s job is to take into account the needs of the entire parish. As best you can, you have to try to think like he thinks when he is making a decision. Every pastor has management “hot buttons.”  What does he focus on? Where is his passion directed? One pastor might be constantly worried about finances. Another might be very active in social justice issues. Another might be a liturgy nerd. If you want to influence your pastor’s behavior, you have to frame your proposal in a way that will help the budget, make the parish more merciful, or lead to improved liturgy — or whatever his passion is.

2. Use pictures

I struggled for years trying to give new team members and overview of the RCIA process. The process is laid out clearly (to my mind) in the table of contents of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. But some people just can’t hold information in their head that way. Then one day, I asked someone with art skills to draw a path with arches for me. And now, I always use that picture when I’m explaining the process. (Click here to see it.) If you are trying to get your pastor to see things in a new way, try drawing it. Or take a picture. Or make a video. Most people respond more to a visual concept than they do to the spoken or written word.

3. Make it real

When you talk to your pastor about “the RCIA” or “the catechumens” those are just abstract ideas. In his mind, they go on a shelf next to “the parish banquet” and “the first Communion program.” But if your pastor personally knows: Alice, the single mom who isn’t sure she’s a good mother; and José, the lawyer who struggles with some shady ethics at his firm; and Jack and Lucinda, working parents of five children under eight who aren’t sure how they are going to keep enough food on the table — if he knows these people, he will be more invested in their preparation process. You can think up lots of ways to foster relationships with your seekers and your pastor. Here is one that I find effective. Invite your pastor to do an anointing ritual with the catechumens (see RCIA 98). If you have baptized candidates, they cannot be anointed. But they can celebrate reconciliation (see RCIA 482).

These tools will make you a better influencer. And they will change you as well. If you use these tools, you will no longer be another “committee member” asking (begging) for the pastor’s permission or time. You will be an ally and a support to him in his mission to shepherd the parish. It will boost your credibility tremendously if you provide actual support to your pastor consistently and frequently — not just when you have an RCIA request. Become a person he trusts and counts on and your influence will skyrocket.

What about you?

What are your success stories of influencing your pastor? Pastors, what advice would you give to team members who would like to influence you? Please share so others can benefit from our shared wisdom.


See also these related articles:

  1. Six ways to involve your pastor in your RCIA process
  2. 8 Powerful Steps to Attract RCIA Inquirers
  3. Are your RCIA seekers awed by the faith?
  4. Share your salvation story with your RCIA group
  5. Four ways to attract more seekers using social media

“yes? no? maybe” by Visionello | Flickr

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  1. Lynda says

    Thank you for these very practical suggestions.

    We are blessed in our parish to have a pastor whose primary concern is the spiritual growth of his people. RCIA is a high priority for him as are other “programmes” of spiritual growth such as scripture study, Alpha for Catholics, etc. When we approached him with the year round concept and he realized that inquirers would be in RCIA for two years in many cases, he was concerned that people would find that too difficult but he gave us the freedom to try it. Now he is amazed and grateful to God that this has been embraced by every inquirer because he is witnessing the results of a greater commitment on the part of those involved.

    Pastors have many balls to juggle and your suggestions are excellent; however, I would add that, above all, let us pray for our pastors.

  2. Denise says

    Perseverance is a wonderful thing! I once worked with a pastor who was very timid about inviting the Assembly to extend their hands in prayer toward the catechumens during the Scrutinies. The first year I explained my experience in previous parishes and the effect it had on parishioners’ ‘ownership’ of the catechumens. He said no. The next year I asked again, reminding him of the positive experience the sponsors and team had extending their hands in prayer during our RCIA catechetical sessions. He said no again. The third year I asked again and, before I had a chance to give him a reason, he said to me, “You’re going to keep asking me until I give in, aren’t you?” – to which I replied, “Yes, I am.” That year he explained the meaning of the gesture to the Assembly with great enthusiasm, and the power in the rite was astounding!

  3. ANN says

    What a blessing this article was to me. i have been struggling with my Pastor’s seemingly closed mind to all things and all things new. i could not figure out how to connect with him and how to not let it interfere with my association with him. This article gave me some tools outside of my comfort zone that i was not using. Thank you so much for the great information and the wonderful subject as now I know that i am not the only one to suffer this hard-headed illness (that i have myself) ????

  4. Jerzy says

    The ideas are wonderful if the pastor will talk to you. Instead he acted like Moses presenting us with stone tablets written from on high and no discussion was allowed for to question Father was to question God. He said he would run Mystagogia but never showed up at any of the sessions. After that no one on the team ever heard from him again. He didn’t even have the common courtesy to say that he decided to take the program in a new direction and that the team’s services were no longer required nor even to thank the team for their past contributions to the parish. We were just shutout. Needless to say none of the former team members belong to his parish anymore and the RCIA program there has fallen completely apart.

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