As parishes throughout the Diocese of St. Petersburg seek to fulfill the goal of equipping individuals as missionary disciples, the Office of Evangelization held a workshop to train parish leaders on the “Call and Steps of Evangelization.”
“We are all called to be evangelizers and we all know people we can reach,” said Jim Kissane, presenter. “Our example of Christ’s love is our strongest evangelization asset.”
Throughout the full-day workshop, Jim and wife Nancy stressed that there is no one size fits all when it comes to evangelization. Each person has their own unique personality, spiritual gifts and relational style that determine how a person will live out their baptismal calling to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
“Discovering our evangelization style will equip us to do what we’re called to do to support the universal mission of the Church which is bringing all souls to Christ,” said Jim.
Attendees learned about Church teaching on evangelization and its inward and outward focus. Catholics are called to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ through an ongoing conversion both individually and as Church. Second, Catholics are called to an outward evangelization, which seeks to reach those who have not heard the Gospel, have stopped practicing their faith, and those who seek the fullness of faith.
When it comes to evangelization, people seem to fall into several categories, no religion/not baptized, those who consider themselves spiritual but “not religious” or with “no affiliation,” Catholic, but only occasionally attending Mass and somewhat inactive in the parish and Catholics attending Mass weekly and active in the life of the parish.
The spiritual but not religious reject any type of organized religious structure but still believe in spiritual things. These individuals are both a challenge and an opportunity in evangelization.
The unaffiliated might not believe in God or might have drifted away because they did not experience the Church as welcoming, they disagree with church teaching, because of church scandal or other reason.
The occasional and the active Catholics are in our pews and are seeking to live out their baptismal calling in various ways. Fostering Missionary Discipleship begins with enlivening and supporting the faith of these people so that they can realize their evangelizing potential.
To discover why some people leave, some parishes have started using an “exit interview” with questions such as what caused you to leave, what would you change at the parish if you were the pastor and what first appealed to you when you joined the church. Individuals may or may not be interested in talking about this, but it can provide great insights at the parish level.
Societal shifts are also changing how people come to know and experience a faith community.
Older generations learned the facts of the faith, which led to a change of heart, which led to participating more fully in the Church.
Thanks to the internet and shifts in society, younger generations are interested in relationships and good feelings first. This means that active Catholics seeking to evangelize are asked to model the Christian life through hospitality and generosity.
“First and foremost, we need to have that identity as members of the Body of Christ and living a Christlike existence. That’s the cornerstone of our evangelization efforts,” said Jim.
“If we do that, we can begin a dialogue that can lead to participation in different kinds of activities, maybe a book club, coffee, backyard bar-b-que. People want to interact with people they know, respect, like and trust and that takes time. Being focused on productive, Christ-centered relationships will lead us to the goal of bringing more people back,” Jim added
The workshop outlined baby steps of evangelization. They are: Identify someone who would be receptive to your message; Develop a relationship and help them to become curious about your faith; Welcome them with warmth; Invite them to church-related events; Inspire them to go deeper in their faith; Invite them to assist with the mission of the church; Help them grow in their knowledge of the faith.
The workshop also focused on helping people to understand their personality types, which impact a person’s spirituality, prayer and preferences for sharing the faith.
The workshop presenters also shared information about the generational differences between Gen Z, Gen X, Millennials, Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation. Jim described changing trends from a community-centered life to a network-based life.
“Communication is a big challenge, especially for reaching youth & young adults. The tools of yesterday need to be updated to meet today’s challenges,” said Jim.
The presentation also focused on discovering an individual’s spiritual gifts and relational styles to better assist in the building up of God’s kingdom.
Personality, spiritual gifts and passions can unlock God’s plan for an individual and the purpose or mission God has created them to fulfill.
“Do we have the faith we need to be courageous as we are called to be. We have to work constantly on our own spiritually to be examples of faith,” said Jim.
Scripture for Reflection:
“Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:2-5)