Welcome to the final installment of our summer series, Preparing Hearts and Minds: 9 Simple Ways for Catechists to Cultivate a Living Faith.
Strategy #9: Empower disciples to evangelize.
Hardly anyone purchases anything online these days without first reading the customer reviews. Satisfied customers are eager to leave glowing reviews, which often include personal stories about how they have successfully used a product or resource in their own situation, in hopes that others in similar situations may benefit. Of course, disgruntled customers are just as eager to share their experiences in hopes of protecting others from making a purchasing mistake. In either case, potential customers deeply value the experience and insights of existing customers in helping them make their purchasing decisions.
In my catechist formation presentations, I often tell my audiences about the book, Creating Customer Evangelists by Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell, not because I think they should read it, but because, as Catholics, we should be aware of the fact that a book that has nothing to do with faith, religion, or spirituality is using the word evangelists! The premise of the book is that customers should be so enamored with a product or service that they will not be able to resist the urge to become “outspoken evangelists for your company,” (as phrased in the book’s description) who will spread the good word to others by word of mouth in order to convince them that it will be to their benefit to follow their example. They are considered “evangelists,” because they believe and they preach. Companies, then, are encouraged to “convert” people into “believers” who will then form an army of evangelizers to advocate on their behalf.
Our job, as evangelizing catechists, is to create an army of evangelizers—people who will be so enamored with Jesus Christ and his Church that they will become outspoken evangelists for his better way of being human. If the next generation of disciples is going to be more effective at evangelizing than we have been, they will need to be better at:
- removing the perceived conflict between science and faith
- embracing cultural diversity
- avoiding political ideologies and focusing on Catholic social teaching
- making faith relevant
- making worship more robust
- placing expectations on disciples
- mastering technology
- populating people’s imaginations with Catholic imagery
- teaching prayer, spirituality, and discernment
- forming families (supporting parents)
- going forth
- reaching men
The New Evangelization will not be powered by TV ads, print ads, billboards, or social media advertising. It will be accomplished by ordinary, everyday people who are not afraid of getting their fingernails dirty by tilling the soil and planting seeds—by sharing their stories of how living as disciples of Jesus Christ has transformed their lives and enabled them to live a better way.
Hopefully, when my generation of catechists is “six feet under,” we’ll rest in peace knowing that the sound we hear above us will be the sound of the next generation of catechetical ministers cultivating the soil!
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Be sure to check out my new book, Preparing Hearts and Minds: 9 Simple Ways for Catechists to Cultivate a Living Faith. I hope you enjoyed this summer series.