Now that June is here, it’s time to welcome summer! And with summer comes the opportunity for me to share a new series with you: Preparing Hearts and Minds: 9 Simple Ways for Catechists to Cultivate a Living Faith, which draws from my new book of the same name.
With the warmer weather, many of us are spending more time in our gardens. After a long, hard Chicago winter, I find that the soil in my garden is compacted. When soil gets compacted, seeds cannot take root. Unless the soil is loosened, air, water, and nutrients cannot penetrate, and those seeds that do germinate cannot break through the surface of the soil.
In a similar way, the seeds of God’s Word cannot take root in hearts that have been hardened. In today’s increasingly secular world, hearts and minds have grown compacted and much more difficult to penetrate. As a result, much of our work in faith formation is like the seed that was thrown on rocky ground: it is unable to take root (Matthew 13:5–6).
In this series, I am going to explore nine strategies for “tilling the soil” of people’s hearts and minds. Join me as we look at these nine strategies that are at the heart of the amazingly effective kerygma—the first proclamation of the Good News of salvation by the disciples that effectively “prepared the soil” and predisposed hearts and minds to accept the Gospel message and laid the foundation for more than 2,000 years of Christianity.
- Strategy #1. Point out that potential believers’ current way is broken or unsatisfactory and needs to be repaired or replaced. (We begin by drawing attention to our human brokenness and proclaim a better way to be human: an alternative known as the reign of God.)
- Strategy #2. Assure that this message and invitation is coming from a trusted source. (We offer assurance that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our Savior and that he and his disciples—the Church—can be trusted.)
- Strategy #3. Promise and demonstrate the amazing things that this better way offers. (We tell the stories of Jesus healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, calming the storms, walking on water, and changing our own lives.)
- Strategy #4. Make a claim about this better way that is so incredible that it defies logic. (We explain that Jesus died for us so that we might have eternal life.)
- Strategy #5. Promise that the story gets even better. (But wait, there’s more!) (We proclaim that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and lives and remains with us.)
- Strategy #6. Invite potential believers to this better way of living. (We extend an invitation to have life transformed by following this better way of Jesus.)
- Strategy #7. Aim for the heart, and provoke emotions that will lead to a change of heart. (We call people to repentance: a letting go of old ways in order to embrace a better way.)
- Strategy #8. Promise that potential believers’ lives will never be the same, but that they will need to commit to this better way of living. (Offer opportunities for ongoing deepening of this relationship with Jesus Christ.)
- Strategy #9. Claim that potential believers will be so satisfied, they’ll feel compelled to persuade others to embrace this better way. (Empower others to go forth to share this better way with others.)
If we want the seeds of God’s Word to take root, we need to prepare the soil of people’s hearts and minds so that God’s Word may penetrate; obstacles that compete for nutrition may be removed; and faith may take root, break through the surface, and grow, transforming the world. Too many of our faith formation efforts go into finding ways to either throw more seed or to find bigger, better seeds to throw, when what we really need to do is prepare the soil.
So get your garden hoe ready, and join me as we venture forth this summer to till the soil of people’s hearts and minds to welcome the life-giving Word of God!