Closed Parishes Have Prompted Imaginative Ways to Evangelize
2020 has been a tumultuous year. In March, COVID-19 hit the US and was projected to last only a few weeks, then the lockdown extended to a few months. It’s been over eight months, and there is no end in sight. Wearing masks, social distancing, and limited in-person interaction is now commonplace. Every aspect of our lives has been affected. Instead of managing a temporary inconvenience, churches have had to adapt their everyday practices to virtual experiences.
Pandemic or not, there is a dire need for the church to reach more people. Church closings have only emphasized what has already been happening for decades – the church as we know it is dying. Attendance has fallen, with little promise of revival through familiar evangelization and discipleship efforts. 2020 has challenged churches to evangelize differently, which may be a hidden blessing. Since evangelization is about reaching out to others in any way possible, why not start now, amid the pandemic, with the right tools?
How to structure evangelization and discipleship in your parish
Evangelization itself is straight-forward; having a conversation with someone about their faith or what they think is their purpose is a start. What makes evangelization difficult is determining a person’s unique journey, guiding them, and measuring progress. Parishes utilize several different strategies to form a structure around evangelization: Divine Renovation’s Game Plan, Systems of Parish Life, and Disciples on the Way are a few common programs. Regardless of the method you employ, the end goal remains the same. COVID-19 will force you to alter how you reach others and maintain personal relationships without meeting in-person.
Start right now
Have a brainstorming session with parish staff
The best idea often arises amid open-ended discussions. Meet with staff and have a no-judgment rule. All are welcome to offer unconventional outreach ideas. Jot them all down, preferably on a whiteboard so everyone can see. Once all ideas are captured, start to examine how and if each idea is realistic and will bring people to evangelization. Offering a “no idea is a bad idea” approach will put others at ease and really let the creative sparks fly.
Brush up on your technological skills
Some see technology as more of an obstacle than a tool for evangelization. The pandemic has pushed us all outside of our comfort zone. For many, learning more about video conferencing software can be overwhelming. Fortunately, today’s applications are very user-friendly and include many how-to videos to get you started. You can even put out an SOS to your parishioners for help. There are bound to be few technology experts out there.
Many parishes have found success using popular video conferencing software. The most well-known applications with free versions include:
Investigate existing evangelization programs
Most existing evangelization programs have already adapted their course material and delivery to an online platform. Take advantage of the resources already successfully set up and in use.
Regardless of which program you use, it is imperative to have a tool to log participant details and measure an individual’s growth through their current experience and beyond. The objective to measure a faith journey should not end at the individual, but should also have the intel to look across all participants to determine the parish’s progress to becoming missional. This is exactly what the Mission Suite was designed to do.
Learn more about hosting online experiences
Online groups and sessions take a slightly different skill set to master; preparedness, technological awareness, and the ability to build relationships remotely will result in a more invested audience. Refer to our earlier blog article, Get Creative With Evangelization, for tips to evangelize remotely.
Meeting people wherever they are in their journey is the secret to successfully creating a culture of evangelization and discipleship both in and outside the parish community. The pandemic has not changed this objective; it has galvanized it. People are not just leaving the faith willfully; it is becoming more difficult for the faithful to celebrate the Eucharist in-person. This obstacle may be just what turns a person away from the church for good. The creative evangelization efforts used today will not cease once the pandemic has lifted. We will need every tool possible to reach others to be a parish on mission.
Cultivating a person’s faith equips them to be more present during mass, become more involved in parish ministries, and give more of themselves – both financially and spiritually to the church community. Each person has an innate need for a spiritual connection, and harnessing this need in a new way will transform each person and energize the parish to not only survive but thrive.
Measuring faith journeys with Mission Suite
For more information about measuring faith journeys, watch our 3-minute overview video.