Has this ever happened to you? You went to a workshop or read a book or saw something online, and a lightbulb clicked on. Suddenly, everything was so clear about how to structure the catechumenate process. Or maybe just one part of the process. The point is, before you didn’t know and now you did. Things had to change.
So what did you do? You probably did what I would do or anyone would do. You rushed back to the parish and immediately started changing things to make them right. Right?
Well, if you have ever actually had an experience like that and tried to change things like that (I have), you know what happens. The more sure you are about the change you want to make, the greater the resistance to the change. And that is soooo frustrating.
What to do when your RCIA ministry changes are met with resistance
It can help ease the frustration a little if you remember that most people aren’t resisting your great idea because they think you’re wrong. They just don’t like change. I had a pastor tell me that once. “You’re absolutely right,” he said. “But I don’t like change, and neither do the parishioners.” Okay, maybe that didn’t help ease the frustration, but at least I didn’t feel like I was crazy.
Sometimes you’ll get stopped before you even get started. Other times, you will have the authority or influence to actually make some changes. And when you do — that’s when the real resistance starts. People will complain; they’ll call the pastor; they’ll threaten to quit; they’ll talk about you to their friends. And when all that happens, we sometimes want to back down. We know things have to change, but change is hard.
I’ve been on both sides of change. I’ve been the change agent and had people mad at me. And I’ve experienced change that I had no control over, and it made me angry. What is true is, change happens. It can happen because we plan for it, or it can happen to us when we don’t expect it.
John P. Kotter believes in planning for change. He is a professor emeritus at the Harvard Business School and a thought leader in business and leadership. Kotter has an eight-step strategy he uses with businesses to get them to plan for positive change rather than let unwelcome change happen to them. I wrote about some of Kotter’s ideas in previous posts.
Applying select business strategies to RCIA ministry
A few years ago, I saw that Leisa Anslinger was also writing about Kotter’s ideas. Leisa believes in planning for change as well. She is a consultant and mentor to parishes in North America in the areas of evangelization, faith formation, and stewardship. Leisa was translating Kotter’s strategies from the business world to help parishes plan for positive change instead of letting unwelcome change surprise them.
So I asked Leisa if she could do the same thing for us RCIA folks. I wanted to know if she could explain to us how to use Kotter’s planning techniques to develop and strengthen parish catechumenate processes. She said she’d love to try.
Well she did more than try. Liturgical Press has just published her book, A Vision for Conversion: Eight Steps to Radically Change Your RCIA Process. It is a masterful guide to planning for positive change. And the way Leisa writes makes you feel like she’s sitting right next to you, supporting you and gently explaining how to lead your team and your parish to real growth.
I wish I would have had this book all those times when a lightbulb clicked on and I knew we had to change things. I knew that things had to change. What I didn’t know — and what Leisa teaches us — is how to plan for change in way that doesn’t rock the boat.
I hope you’ll get this book, and a highlighter, and a stack of sticky notes, and start planning for change soon. Change is going to happen. It can either happen because we plan for it or because we let it happen to us.
What are your experiences with “rocking the boat” in your RCIA ministry? What are areas you’d like to strengthen in your RCIA ministry? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
2 thoughts on “What happens when you rock the RCIA boat?”
I’m looking forward to reading this book! I have felt that I have been the agent of change for the past 7 years – some were easy changes and others that made pulling teeth seem easier. Once again, I am the agent of change as my parish and two nearby ones form a region. One of the parishes is very resistant to change, especially to the year-round catechumenate. One of the areas I would like to strengthen is the (all three) parish’s involvement in the process – the parishioners taking a role in welcoming and befriending the seekers who show up. Everyone’s opinion is RCIA is those classes that are done “over there” for those people, and we in the pews are not involved. Trying to figure out the baby steps to take to get the parishioners where they need to be seems out of my grasp.
Over my 30 years as RCIA catechist, any suggested changes have been resisted by team or pastor or both. Eventually after much struggle some get accepted. But it is too draining. For this reason, I will be leaving the RCIA after this year’s Mystagogia.