Was it only a few months ago when large groups of people readily met for various events? When we had small group scripture studies without face masks and hand sanitizer? When the collection basket was passed around during Mass, and hundreds of people turned from left to right to share the sign of peace? It’s no secret that our world is vastly different today, and that includes how we tell people about Jesus Christ.
For parishes that haven’t focused as intently as they should have on evangelization, COVID-19 was a complete wake up call. Even the parishes that were doing a great job connecting with members, had to scramble to find ways to keep that connection going using digital tools. There wasn’t time to test or research various tools or methods — for many, it was all just a “leap of faith.”
Different Types of Communication
The health pandemic taught parishes that they needed a back-up plan and ways to connect with members using as many digital methods as possible. Just as they may have a variety of platforms for social media, so, too, do they need different types of communication methods to reach parishioners where they are.
So many of our families experienced (and still are experiencing) terrible difficulties when they had to quarantine. If they were fortunate enough to be able to work from home, many parents found themselves balancing not only full-time work, but also homeschooling their children or at least keeping the young ones entertained while day care was closed. It’s a consistent struggle for so many — did they know to connect with your parish for help?
“Build It and They Will Come” Isn’t Working
During this time, parishes need to be on high alert for how to best serve their members. If not food and financial assistance, what about for spiritual direction and prayer? If your church is more of a passive, “build it and they will come” type, you probably discovered that not a lot of members even thought to contact you. And that needs to change.
Think of all the different types of communication methods there are. From phone calls to email, to social media and direct messages, it’s nearly impossible to not connect with others. During this time, parishes have discovered that they need to be the ones to reach out to parishioners in order to help form and maintain that personal connection. Even a quick email from the pastor letting them know he’s praying for them and asking that they contact the parish with any needs, is a great start.
Ministering Through People, Not to People
It’s easy to assign one task to one person, but when it comes to evangelization, it just doesn’t work that way. It’s all our jobs to show the face of Christ to others, and so that means we all need to be nurtured in the faith so as to share with each other. The pandemic exposed the parishes that focused on discipleship, and those that didn’t.
When we say that the mission of the Church is to build up the Body of Christ, that means that everyone needs to be a part of that, not just the pastor, or the youth minister or the director of evangelization. It’s a mission, yes, but a shared mission.
The “Crux” of the Story
When it comes down to it, the one take away from this whole COVID-19 pandemic is that we cannot wait for a “better time.” We can’t wait to come up with communication methods for all kinds of situations, online donations so members can donate whether they’re in the pews or not, and responsive websites that make finding your parish easy for the average user. You can’t wait to come up with a way to fully engage the members of your parish in their Catholic faith and teach them Christ’s Great Commission: To go out and make disciples of all nations.
An effective evangelization plan is one that mimics the method of Jesus and the Mission of the 72:
He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:2-3
This pandemic has shown us the importance of going back to the basics of our Catholic faith and applying the teachings of Jesus in everything we do. As Church, now is the time to find our “apostles,” those who feel a special calling to Christ and his Church, and use the knowledge gained to go out and form his disciples.
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