John J. Boucher has worked for decades in evangelization and wrote many books on the subject. On this essay, originally published here in 2015, he provides steps to reach to inactive catholics.
It can be difficult to reach inactive Catholics in our parish. What if we re-envision our efforts as a journey together toward and with them, where we take the first step, the next one, and then the next? We have learned over decades that there are at least 10 steps to starting effective inactive Catholic outreach programs:
- Choose and study the materials (print/online) about the program you want to propose. How much money and effort it will take to do this program?
- Get extra materials for sharing with parish staff and interested parish members.
- Make an appointment with a parish staff member to talk about the program. Was the same program tried before and failed in the recent past? What happened? Why?
- Share materials with the staff member and explain how the program may fill a felt need in the parish. (For example: to reach people on parish lists who seldom come to Mass, to reach the inactive Catholic parents of children in catechetical or school classes, to help parents whose young adult children have stopped going to church, to help families suffering because of broken relationships, etc.)
- Set a second meeting in two or three weeks with the staff member to find out what they think of the program.
- If there is an openness to discuss doing the program, offer to go with him or her to parish staff meetings or other groups in the parish to explain and discuss implementing it.
- If the pastor approves the program, develop a simple plan to implement it. Start small but always include three parts: preparation (what needs to be done to start?), the event or series (how the public part of the project happen?), follow-up (what will your invite participants to as the program ends?.
- Form a team of 5-6 people to implement the plan. Seek pastor’s approval of each member.
- Study the program materials with your team and do a dry run through it, using participant materials. Then start the program.
- If the proposed program is rejected, ask the parish staff member to help you understand why. Explore together what other program or approach might help the parish evangelize inactive Catholics. Begin again at Step 1.
John J. Boucher is a Catholic evangelization consultant and trainer. He served for many years as the director of evangelization in the Diocese of Trenton. He has authored/co-authored over 300 religious articles and many books including, Sharing the Faith that You Love: Four Simple Ways to Be Part of the New Evangelization and Mending Broken Relationships, Building Strong Ones: Eight Ways to Love as Jesus Loves Us.