Finally we are starting to see parishes across the globe take their mission to evangelize seriously. Some of these efforts are bearing much fruit while many are still struggling immensely, and the difference between those that are successful and those which are not, is becoming more and more apparent. So if you too are serious about bringing souls back to your parish, consider these following habits.
1. Find Out Who You’re Evangelizing
One of the biggest road blocks to evangelization is that we do not actually know who we are trying to evangelize.
We assume that all people will respond to what we present to them in relatively the same ways because we assume that their needs are more or less the same.
But hold on a minute.
In your parish alone there are probably people who work in the trades; there are those who sit behind a desk. There are individuals who lead families, individuals who live the single vocation and many who are still discerning their call. Add to this the great disparity in yearly earnings and catechetical knowledge among them all and you have a parish like many others.
That’s right, your parish is like mine; complicated.
But this doesn’t mean that you can’t establish a base line for evangelization. What are the most common traits among them? What are the daily or weekly events that most of them share? This is who you are trying to evangelize. Write these traits down; give the ‘person’ a name. Wherever you find him in or outside of your parish, you will have a plan to bring him the Good News.
2. Start Thinking About People Before Programs
If you can keep this ‘person’ in front of you then you now have the perfect opportunity to decide on a program. Do you see how different this is?
Instead of saying things like, ‘I really like this program or that one’ you can begin to say things like, ‘I really don’t like this program but it will help us to reach the people in our parish,’ And this won’t just be hopeful thinking either. You can now compare what any program offers to the needs of those you are trying to evangelize. You will be able to make an educated guess as to whether it will be a fit or it will be a fail.
Popularity of a program out there in the wider Catholic world is no real indication of how well it will do when implemented in your parish. Your people are different; find the program that meets your needs.
3. Adjust to Speak Their Languages
When we bring a message to someone, the medium used is just as important. And in the world of the evangelization, the way in which you speak the Good News is extremely important.
Some people are looking for beautiful things. Some people are looking for goodness practiced right in front of them; and still others can only seem to focus their attention when logic and truth reign them in. These languages of evangelization as I like to call them are the ways in which God speaks to the heart; and you will never know which of the three resonate most with any given person unless you take the time to get to know them.
The evangelizing parish then doesn’t just say, ‘this program meets the needs of our participants,’ but rather says, ‘this program meets the needs of these parishioners who speak beauty, and this program meets the needs of these parishioners who speak truth etc.’
Of course, coming to this knowledge takes time and effort, but that is why evangelizing parishes have a team.
4. Offer to Be Part of an Evangelization Team
I do not know how many times that I have heard pastors say they cannot evangelize their communities properly because they do not have time; and they’re right.
But almost every pastor on the planet has the time to assemble an evangelization team. Approximately four to six motivated parishioners who spend their time looking at the parish in order to find ways to bring the Gospel to those in the pew and those who are not.
It is up to the team to discover who it is that the parish really needs to evangelize. It is up to the team to narrow down the search for programs that fit the needs of the parishioners. It is up to the team to take the time to tweak those same programs to ensure that the languages of evangelization are being spoken.
Yes, the pastor will have to form them. And yes the pastor will have to oversee and approve their work; but as long as he takes this part seriously, he will have multiplied his efforts and his time evangelizing by the number of team members.
Keeping It Personal
Evangelization was never meant to be rocket science, and it still isn’t, but it was meant to be a personal encounter. So get real people together and focus on meeting real faces in your community. You have someone you want to introduce them to; it’s time to get started.