Welcome to the penultimate installment of our summer series, Preparing Hearts and Minds: 9 Simple Ways for Catechists to Cultivate a Living Faith, based on my book of the same name.
Strategy #8: Build and deepen commitment.
Many advertisements not only entice us to purchase a product, but they invite us to re-prioritize our lives around an idea. Some of the best examples of this are diet plans, which are no longer just about losing a few pounds but are about adopting a new lifestyle, not characterized by skipping meals but rather by eating differently.
The invitation that we catechists offer to those we teach should follow the same approach. We are not just inviting people to stop doing sinful things! We must be about the work of helping them live differently. We are not just inviting them to “sprinkle a little Jesus” on top of their existing lives to add flavor. We are inviting them to follow Jesus and to rely on him. To follow Jesus requires us to re-prioritize our lives, to adopt a new philosophy and strategy for living in order to create a new lifestyle—to embark upon a better way of being human.
Relationships change us. The further we pursue a relationship, the more it changes us. This is why we can often tell if someone has fallen in love or entered into an unhealthy relationship: we notice a change in the way the person acts, the way he or she looks, how and where the person spends time, and who she or he spends time with. Whether positive or negative, relationships change us and cause us to shift our priorities. Our goal is to invite those we teach into a relationship with Jesus—a relationship that will bring about changes in their lives and cause them to re-prioritize, placing Jesus and his mission at the center of their lives.
To help our learners achieve this, we need to do the following:
- Lay out a plan that includes specific behaviors (virtues, works of mercy, prayer, etc.).
- Integrate project-based faith formation.
- Offer support, assistance, and reflection.
- Identify behaviors to avoid, and replace them with healthy behaviors.
- Focus on the “why” of such a lifestyle change.
- Assess progress and offer feedback and affirmation.
- Ritualize every step of progress made.
As evangelizing catechists, may we continue to invite emerging disciples to do more than spread a little “Jesus frosting” on the cake of their lives and rather commit to a lifestyle change. To till the soil is literally to change the conditions in which a seed will be planted. The work of faith formation is to help people to continually till the soil of their lives lest it become compacted and incapable of sprouting new leaves.
* * *
Be sure to check out my new book, Preparing Hearts and Minds: 9 Simple Ways for Catechists to Cultivate a Living Faith.