Category: Evangelization

Bold faith

Sometimes it seems like one of the most difficult things to get Catholics to do is talk about their faith. I don’t mean with each other. We seem to be pretty open about our beliefs with fellow Catholics. But our efforts at evangelizing those who’ve never heard the good news seem weak compared to many Christians from other traditions.

In “Evangelization strategies that work,” Sylvia Devillars discusses how we can move Catholics beyond the doors of the church to tell “outsiders” what we believe and why. She write:

All Catholics are urged to speak out, reach out, and live out the Good News of Christ Jesus, and many parishes seem to be getting the message.

Click here to read her many practical suggestions for going out and reaching out to those who need to hear the good news.

Share your faith. Use words!

In my experience, actually sharing faith out loud with someone is difficult for a lot of Catholics—even if they are ministerial leaders. We love to quote the saying that we should all proclaim the gospel. And if necessary, use words. More often than not, we decide the words are not necessary.

We have to become better at vocalizing our faith if we are going to be a force for evangelization in the world. We don’t need to take on the persona of a street-corner preacher. Quiet, gentle words, spoken to the right person and the right moment, can be powerful and life changing. But we have to start practicing saying something out loud that proclaims our faith.

James Czegledi asks, “If we do not share our faith with others, how will they come to faith themselves?” He also offers several tips for those of us who might be a little shy about sharing our faith:

  • Show the personal presence of God in what you do
  • Tell your faith story using ordinary language
  • Don’t criticize or judge. None of us have lived a perfect life
  • Be supportive and encouraging
  • Try not to quote others
  • Share your story
  • Include your struggles of doubt and pain as well as joy
  • Show and tell how you have integrated your faith in your life

To read more about what James Czegledi has to say about faith sharing, click here.

Evangelization strategies that work

A recent article in USA Today indicates that while a vast majority of Americans think Christmas is a religious holiday, only “58% say they ‘encourage belief in Jesus Christ as savior.’” That made me think of an article on the Today’s Parish website in which Sylvia DeVillars writes:

Catholic evangelization is now more than ever understood as the “essential mission of the church…bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new” (On Evangelization in the Modern World, 14, 18). All Catholics are urged to speak out, reach out, and live out the Good News of Christ Jesus, and many parishes seem to be getting the message.

If Catholics have been shy about evangelization in the past, it’s time to start speaking out and reaching out now. Fortunately, Sylvia suggests some concrete strategies that work. Be sure to check out her ideas.

How easily do your parishioners share their faith?

Some years ago, I was filling in as a coordinator of faith formation for a small parish that was going through some personnel changes. I figured the best way to get to know the parish catechists was to spend some time praying and sharing faith together. Well, they did fine with the praying. But when it came to sharing faith, it was like a trip to the dentist. They didn’t want to open their mouths. And when they did, it was just painful.

If the catechists among us are reluctant to share faith, how much more difficult is it to get regular Catholics to do so? This reticence on the part of the faithful to say why they are faithful is a huge stumbling block for the mission Jesus left us—to share the good news.

A while back, I asked Susan Wolf, SND, to write about why Catholics don’t more readily share their faith. She cited three central reasons:

  • We did not grow up talking about faith and, hence, are uncomfortable doing it, or we never even think of it.
  • We did not grow up talking about faith and, hence, are uncomfortable doing it, or we never even think of it.
  • We lack confidence. We don’t appreciate that faith is a gift to be shared.

Take a look at what else she has to say in her terrific article: “Why Catholics don’t share their faith…and what to do about it.”

6 bright ideas from around the web

Light Bulb 2 by brokenarts  [via stock.xchang]

People are never illegal

Father Allan Figueroa Deck writes of his time in Boise , listening to Bishop Michael Driscoll speak about his concern for the immigrants in his diocese.

It was very poignant to hear him speak about his concern for immigrants in his diocese. He noted that the very use of the term “illegal alien” by even some good Catholics is very disturbing. He points out that people may commit illegal acts, but they are certainly never illegal. To use that term is to dehumanize persons not unlike the dehumanization of the unborn….

Do you ever preach on the Opening Prayer?

Father Paul Turner reviews Daniel McCarthy’s new book , which is a compilation of his “Listen to the Word” column in The Tablet.

Even non-subscribers to the journal can now benefit from McCarthy’s labor of love. Listen to the Word: Commentaries on Selected Opening Prayers of Sundays and Feasts with Sample Homilies, is a most welcome scholarly and pastoral aid for appreciating the opening prayers of the mass.

For each Sunday and major feast of the liturgical year, McCarthy provides the English text of the opening prayer from the Sacramentary together with the Latin original from the Missale Romanum of 2002. After a brief introduction, he explains where this prayer comes from, its grammatical structure, its vocabulary, its scriptural allusions, its meaning, and its spiritual bearing. For people who think the opening prayer of mass has been time for a quick snooze, this work is an eyeopener.

Do more of what you want to do

Today’s Parish author Jason Womack is interviewed on how to implement strategic best practice behaviors to focus on priorities, manage change, and successfully plan for the future. Note that he is not a fan of “work-life balance.” The audio is a little soft, but it’s worth a listen.

What do people need?

Parish leaders are in the need-fulfillment business. We know people need Jesus, and we’re about filling that need. However, Seth Godin points out that “need” is not the same thing as “demand.”

If you want to help people lose weight, you need to sell them something they demand, like belonging or convenience, not lecture them about what they need.

If we want to help people find Jesus, we have to provide them with something they demand.

Spread your homily “by all means”

The Church Marketing Sucks website offers a terrific plan for spreading the Good News, using the Sunday homily. This plan would require a serious commitment to a communications strategy, but imagine the results!

The mission has never changed: Get the gospel to the world. But the tools have multiplied many times over, allowing us to do it more efficiently than ever before. Which means we can spend less time fighting to create more content at all costs and spend more time simplifying our message and distributing it effectively.

Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out my free offer to help pastors start a blog .

Is your web presence effective?

Susan Wolf, SND, says that even if you have a “great” website, that alone is not enough to create an effective web presence.

An organization, religious community or ministry also needs to be interacting with their constituents via email and social media. An organization does not need to be using every form of email communication or social media, but I think that it does needs to be using at least two platforms in addition to the website to be present to as many different generations and stakeholders as possible and to facilitate various forms of engagement.

Be sure to check out her examples of organizations that have an effective web presence. There are two parishes listed.

Free blogging help for pastors

Permission-to-speak-freely by jurvetson [Flickr]On The Daily Saint, Today’s Parish author Mike St. Pierre has compiled a list of the posts that his readers have most enjoyed related to blogging. He says:

One of the easiest ways to be creative is to blog. It’s nearly free and takes so little time that it’s any wonder everyone isn’t blogging. But they aren’t and that’s too bad because it’s a wonderful outlet for ideas and conversation.

Earlier, I made the point here that I thought pastors must blog. That drew a comment from pastor and writer Fr. Austin Fleming, which you can read on his blog, A Concord Pastor Comments.

I agree with Mike, that just about everyone would benefit from blogging. But I think pastors (or associate pastors who will one day be leading a parish) must blog because of their central role in the parish’s mission of evangelization.

Some parishes have lay people or deacons who serve in the role of pastor. I would say that they, too, must blog for the same reason a pastor must.

Free offer

To help you with this, I want to make you an offer. If you are a pastor, associate pastor, or serving in the role of pastor, I’ll help you get started. I’ll meet with you by phone and answer any questions you have. I’ll walk you through the process of setting up a blog. The phone call is free, the blog software is free, and my time is free. E-mail me, and we’ll set up a time. My only request is that if we meet together, you come to the meeting with the intention of blogging at least twice a week for 30 days. That’s roughly eight blog posts.

And if you are already tech savvy enough to get started on your own, then start. And let us know about it in the comments section. We’ll all come visit your blog!

If you need a list of ideas to blog about, click here.

How to be more approachable

my name is scottIn The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself, John Jantsch writes about a business consultant—Scott Ginsberg. There is one truly remarkable thing about Ginsberg. He wears a name tag. Every day. All day. All night. He has done so for more than nine years now, and he intends to keep doing so for the rest of his life. He is so committed to wearing a name tag that he has had one tattooed to his chest—just in case you meet him at a pool party.

He’s not crazy. Okay, maybe he’s a little crazy. But he has a sound reason for his obsession with wearing a name tag. He wants people to approach him. And it works!

How can pastoral leaders glean something from Ginsberg’s strategy for improving parish hospitality? Can we use name tags in more creative ways to make ourselves more approachable to parishioners and visitors?

Some parishes do provide name tags for ushers and hospitality ministers. Most, however, do not. And even fewer ask key parish leaders to wear name tags. So here’s my suggestion. Make a list of everyone you think of as a leader in your parish. That would certainly include all paid staff members and the parish council members. For me, it would also include all committee chairpeople, catechists, school teachers, and liturgical ministers (lectors, Communion ministers, etc.) Draw the line wherever you like, however.

Next make a list of times and places folks in leadership would be expected to wear name tags. For example, during business hours, during school hours, at parish functions, at Sunday liturgy. Again, draw the line where you like. I think Sunday liturgy would be the bare minimum requirement because that is where we are most likely to encounter strangers.

Finally, decide what kind of nametags you are going to use. Scott Ginsberg, who is the nametag expert, wears the plain, paper, peelable kind and handwrites his name. If you decide to invest in permanent name tags, make sure the first name is at least 48-point type so it is readable at a distance.
This is 48-point type.

And, of course, tattoos are optional.

Do you have any more suggestions to share? How are you using nametags in your parish? What other ways are you making yourself more approachable to parishioners and visitors?

Why pastors must blog

bloggerFor a busy parish pastor, a blog has the potential of becoming your most effective and time-efficient tool for evangelization.

A pastor’s fantasy

Think of it this way. Suppose that after Mass next Sunday, you are shaking hands and saying goodbye to parishioners as they leave. A new person greets you and says, “Father, I’m thinking of becoming Catholic. Can you tell me what I would need to do?” Now suppose the rest of your Sunday is completely free. And suppose you are not exhausted from the killer week of meetings, weddings, and funerals you just completed. (Hey, this is a fantasy. Bear with me.) If you had all the time and energy in the world, you could spend the next couple of hours just chatting with the seeker that the Holy Spirit sent to you at that moment.

But you don’t have all the time and energy in the world. You’ve got the next Mass or the emergency finance council meeting or lunch scheduled with the capital campaign chairperson (and largest contributor to the parish). And even if you have nothing else scheduled, you’ve been looking forward to your first free Sunday afternoon in a month to just kick back and watch the game.

Now imagine there are ten such seekers and imagine there are ten more next Sunday and ten more the Sunday after that. Because in a medium-sized parish with three Masses on a weekend, that’s the potential. You can’t possibly meet, individually, with each and every one of those seekers. But they can “meet” you—if you are blogging.

When you put yourself out there on a blog, people get to know you as a person. Even if you are blogging about what you had for dinner, over time, people will discover your level of integrity, what you are passionate about, what you know about, and what you think is important in life. And they will also encounter you as a person of faith—which is what they are seeking in the first place.

No time to blog

But doesn’t blogging take time? Precious time that you don’t have to spare? Yes to the first question, no to the second. Evangelization is the number one job for parishes. Take out your calendar and add up the number of hours you are evangelizing this week. Then add up the number of seekers your evangelization efforts are touching this week. What do you think? Are you spending enough time on job one? Are you reaching enough people? If so, maybe you don’t need to blog. But most pastors are caught up in a lot of “smaller” jobs related to just keeping the parish afloat.

What if you could carve out one hour a week for evangelization and touch hundreds or maybe thousands of seekers? That’s what I’m suggesting. Write two short posts a week. Spend 30 minutes on each. And get yourself out there in the blogosphere as the evangelizer-in-chief for your parish.

And really—if you think you are too busy to blog, check out this guy! You can’t possibly have more on your plate than he does.

What to blog about?

I think what stops most pastors from blogging is not the time it takes. It’s writer’s block. What in the world would people be interested in that you would have to say? Okay, you’re going to have to imagine with me again. Or better yet, remember.

Remember back before you were a priest. Maybe remember all the way back to childhood. What did you think of priests? Weren’t you wildly curious about what kind of people they were? What they did? Why they became a priest? Did they pray all the time? Do they talk directly to God? And does God answer? Just because you have come to realize that priests are flesh-and-blood people like the rest of us doesn’t mean the rest of the world has. Seekers in particular, who are not likely to know any priests personally, are fascinated with the whole idea of “priest.” So draw back the curtain a little, and let them peak inside. You can blog about anything. It doesn’t have to be about faith or the church. In fact, it’s probably better if some of your posts are more “secular.” Here is a short list of some ideas to blog about, but don’t limit yourself to these:

  • The last movie you saw
  • The last book you read
  • A joke someone told at the priests’ retreat
  • A Scripture passage you are struggling with as you try to write this Sunday’s homily
  • A great meal you had at a parishioner’s house
  • What the bishop said to you the last time you spoke with him
  • How you pray
  • Your best (and worst) golf score
  • What you would do if you weren’t a priest
  • A list of hopes you have for the parish in the coming year
  • Pictures from your last vacation
  • The last time you blessed a car and what you think of blessing cars
  • The hobby you wish you had more time for
  • Your favorite musician / your least favorite musician
  • How you will be spending the next holiday
  • Saint of the day and why that saint is important to you
  • What the upcoming Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist holy day means and how Catholics should think of it


When I said you could blog about anything, I meant anything within reason. The U.S. Bishops have recently posted some very helpful guidelines on social media that you should read before you start blogging.

And here are five reasons you don’t need a social media policy!

Are you already blogging? Good for you! Post a link in the comments because your example will help the rest of us learn.

Do you have questions about getting started? I can help. Post a comment or send me an e-mail.

Is your worship space contributing to your mission?

“Good architecture should help a company with its mission.”

You might expect that line to have appeared in Architectural Digest and to have been spoken by someone like famous designer Cesar Pelli. In fact, it appeared in the June 2010 issue of Inc., and it was Robert Wood Johnson IV—the owner of the New York Jets football team—who said it. He said it from his office in the Jets’ new “120,000-square-foot shrine to athletic and corporate excellence.”

When I read the words like “mission” and “shrine,” and my little Catholic heart starts to perk up. Aren’t we the people who do mission? Don’t we have the corner on the shrine market? I re-read the article a little more closely.

When Johnson bought the Jets in 2000, they were clearly a second-class team in a first-class town. He did a lot of things you’d expect someone to do who wants to win football games. He hired a feisty new head coach. He drafted a hot young rookie quarterback. But Johnson considers the biggest contributor to the Jets recent success to be the “shrine” where all the employees work. How does his company headquarters help support the Jets’ mission?

A mission to win

The mission is clear: Win football games. So right in the front lobby, through which every employee, including the players, have to enter stands the Jets’ only Super Bowl trophy (from 1969). It is a not-subtle reminder of the team’s legacy and also a challenge for their future.

Next, the facility includes an enclosed, football-field-size fieldhouse with a 95 foot clearance to allow for punting practice. Most of the offices in the building have an outer glass wall that looks out over the four outdoor practice fields. The primary field faces the same solar direction as the Jets’ home stadium, and the office building surrounds it on three sides to mimic the effects of playing in the stadium.

Add to that many dozens of TVs throughout the facility all broadcasting ESPN or the NFL Football Network.

You cannot work in this place and not get the point. But just in case anyone has missed it, all the employees are given free season passes to the Jets games.

Questions for parish design

All this has me wondering, do we put the same kind of passion and focus into building or renovating our worship spaces?

  • When people walk in the front door, is there something akin to the Jets’ Super Bowl trophy that immediately communicates our mission?
  • Is the space generous enough to accommodate everything we have to do in our liturgies? Perhaps we don’t need 120,000 square feet, but do we have space for catechumenate dismissal, child care, hospitality before and after Mass, and other Sunday activities?
  • Is the worship space built to accommodate the lesser-used, but still vital parish rituals, in the same way the Jets have accommodated their punters? In other words, can rituals like the Rite of Acceptance or Easter Vigil be celebrated in a way that looks like the space was designed for these events as well as Sunday Mass?
  • As worshipers assemble for Mass, find their pews, and prepare to celebrate, what do they see? Just as the Jets employees are looking out their windows at their mission every day, what is it in our worship spaces that visually remind worshipers of our mission?
  • Finally, is what we do in our worship spaces so compelling that people feel blessed to be there—just as the lucky season ticket holders do in the Jets organization?

Good architecture should help a company with its mission. It should also help Catholic parishes with theirs.

What is your worship space like? In what ways does it support your parish mission? Please send your pictures and your comments.

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