Updated: Sep 23, 2021
It might seem like a strange thing to create a plan for evangelization, but as one who has been working in full time evangelization for many years now, I can assure you that often it is not only helpful but necessary.
Not only will having a plan relieve much of the stress that we can place on ourselves when evangelizing, but it will help us to focus and to make the best use of the time that we do have.
Oh yes, and tracking.
By having a plan, we can actually track how God is blessing our efforts over time or even how we might be veering off course. Both are worth knowing.
And while you could certainly get a ready made plan for you, like the one provided in my book, Dare To Be An Evangelist, there is no reason in the world why you cannot come up with a plan for yourself.
You might be surprised to learn that doing so is actually quite simple.
So to help you to create a truly phenomenal plan, today I am going to walk you through the five essential elements that I include in any plan to evangelize. I hope you find it helpful.
The first step to creating any plan for evangelization is to be crystal clear on precisely who it is that we are evangelizing.
STEP 1: FOCUS ON YOUR CIRCLE OF GRACE
The first step to creating any plan for evangelization is to be crystal clear on precisely who it is that you are evangelizing. And though it may sound obvious, I assure you that many people I talk to are far too quick to jump over this first step.
The reason of course, is that though there are many misconceptions about evangelization, one of the biggest has to do with how we choose our focus audience.
Some tell you that we must evangelize everyone, which is true but requires further explanation. Some tell you that we should just evangelize whoever we want to evangelize, which is only partially true. And still others will tell you not to explicitly evangelize at all so that the Holy Spirit has the final say (Gosh, where do I even begin with that one).
The truth is that, though the Holy Spirit will constantly be using our words and actions to speak to hearts all around us and will do so at any given time (think of the power of the Saints for example), we are still asked to be coworkers with the Lord in discerning who it is precisely that we focus our attention on.
This means that we must bring the people that we think are the best fit to the Lord and wait on His confirmation.
When discerning the best fit, we might ask ourselves questions like:
Are we friends?
Is he or she a permanent fixture in my life?
Do they seem open to questions about faith?
And so on. But no matter how perfect or ready we think a person is, ultimately only God can read hearts.
Your mission and the people our Lord wants you to reach are very specific. Do not move forward until you have His blessing and confirmation that the mission is in fact a go.
Action to take for your evangelization plan: Put yourself in prayer and allow the many faces of your life to pass in front of your imagination. When you see them, ask the Lord: do you want me to focus on evangelizing this person?
STEP 2: EXPECT TO LEARN ABOUT THE OTHER
Once you have your mission in front of you, that is, the person or people that our Lord wants you to evangelize, the next step is to learn more about them.
And while I am certainly not advising you to suddenly become a stalker, I am advising you to become more attentive when in their presence.
Over time, you should be learning about what bothers them, what excites them, what successes and wounds they have, and of course, take note of their biggest needs right now.
It is not enough to be aware of their shortcomings; knowledge of this kind comes all too easily. Instead, over time, we should be striving to figure out what caused the shortcomings in the first place.
That being said…
It is important that we allow these conversations and vulnerabilities to reveal themselves slowly. We shouldn’t be approaching every conversation with a checklist in our heads.
In fact, the greater friends you become, the more naturally and easily this information will come. So focus on friendship not on data.
Action to take for your evangelization plan: Do what you can to cultivate an authentic friendship. After all, authentic friendships are the fastest and most sure way to learn about the person that God has called you to evangelize.
STEP 3: MAKE PRAYER A DECISION
The third step is to put into action a concrete set of dates and times to pray for this person. It needs to be frequent and it needs to be aggressive.
As you know, prayer is powerful, but far too often we treat it like an occasional extra.
But if you are serious about evangelizing this particular person in your life, if God has identified this as your mission, then your prayer for them must make that plain.
In this step, we need to be asking ourselves questions like:
Who around me would be willing to pray for them too?
What prayers best address their needs and wounds?
Which Saint would take a special interest in this particular mission?
Make no mistake about it, God wants us to bring others to faith together. And that’s what we’re doing when we pray for them.
Action to take for your evangelization plan: Fill in the exact days and times when your prayer will be offered up for this mission. Find at least one other person, whether in heaven or on earth, to help you pray for your friend often.
STEP 4: BE HONEST ABOUT YOURSELF
I often find that step 4 is difficult for people. Essentially they want to say, “Patrick, what do my wounds and shortcomings have to do with someone else?”
And the short answer is, “Lots.”
You see, we tend to fall into two opposing traps when we consider our role in evangelization. We either say, “I am not good enough to evangelize,” or “My brokenness doesn’t matter.” Both are incorrect.
We need to understand that while no wound or deficiency is deep enough to exclude us from the commission to evangelize, it is equally true that our brokenness does often make it difficult for us to carry out the task.
Perhaps we are not very patient with people.
Perhaps we tend towards arrogance.
Perhaps we just have a hard time opening up to others.
Or perhaps we just don’t know our own faith very well.
These and a whole host of other qualities are going to make evangelization a struggle, but it need not be the case.
The whole point of step 4 is to be honest about our shortcomings so that we can actively work towards improving them.
Action to take for your evangelization plan: Ask yourself these questions: what shortcomings of mine are going to get in the way of evangelizing this person? How might I go about improving?
STEP 5: HONE THE MESSAGE
Once we have put into place the four steps above, it is now time to address how we are going to express the Gospel or Good News.
And if you have never really considered that before, don't worry, you’re in good company.
For most people, they just assume that at some point in the relationship they will begin talking about Jesus and all will go well … but that’s not how it works.
Just as the same words can be heard differently by another if we are smiling or grimacing, the Good News of Jesus Christ can sound joyful and compelling or dismal and pessimistic depending on our approach.
That’s why the final step in our plan is to seriously consider the different ways of speaking about the Lord.
In this step, we should be asking ourselves questions like:
Which language of evangelization do they speak?
What is their level of religious attuning?
And how do they respond to ethos, pathos, and logos?
By finding the communication strategy that fits them best, we now have the final piece that we need to put our evangelization plan into action.
Action to take for your evangelization plan: Learn about the languages of evangelization to discover which way of communicating best fits your current mission.
AS I SAID, creating a plan that actually bears much fruit does not have to be hard, though I know it can seem like that sometimes.
When in doubt, simply follow the five steps I outlined above and be open to tweak the plan as you learn and grow.
Do that, and your plan will truly be brilliant.