Parish Evangelization Models
There are four prominent models of evangelization in a parish context operating today. While there is overlap in practices, they each bring a particular insight and gift to evangelizing parishes. Parishes discerning how to become deliberately evangelizing parishes will likely begin with one. However, at least three out of four need to be addressed to become healthy outposts of the Church’s mission to the lost. The reason? There are eight characteristics that evangelizing parishes inhabit. Ultimately investing in at least three models tend to cover all these characteristics.
The eight principles needed for strong parish-based evangelization initiatives
1. Calling upon the Holy Spirit for help and faithfully expecting the Spirit to act through every stage. This is not optional. (1 Cor 12:13: no one can say Jesus is Lord except through the Holy Spirit
2. Discernment. Take a fearless, evidence-based, prayerful look at where you are, and where you want to be. Dream a bit. Get a group of your most devoted prayer warriors to pray for the process. Be open to the unexpected.
3. Hospitality. Make people, especially “outsiders,” genuinely welcome from start to finish: not just tolerated or allowed in.
4. PROCLAMATION. (Sometimes called the kerygma.) People need the opportunity to hear and respond to the basic proclamation:
God is good, and created everything good! But we turned away from God into sin, introducing evil in the world. We cannot get ourselves out of sin, but the Father pulls us out of it through the life, death, and resurrection of his son, Jesus. Jesus Christ sends us the Holy Spirit to live as God intended: for the good, in love, for love, for him, and drawing others to the life-changing power of God.
(A really good summary of “different ways to present the proclamation” can be found here.
WE NEED TO REMIND OTHERS AND OURSELVES WHAT THE HEART OF THE FAITH IS. We tend to get lost in the theological weeds, and we need to focus on the cornerstone: Jesus Christ saves us.
And don’t forget creating space for people to respond!
5. Enabling and Empowering Witness. People need to say the J word (Jesus). In particular, we need to practice speaking about our life of faith to others, so it becomes normative. Right now, too many parishes in the USA are in our own “witness protection program”…we don’t talk about Jesus outside of liturgy. And honestly, we don’t “talk” in liturgy.
6. Expectation of Spiritual Growth. In general, do not measure this solely by sacramental participation (although we definitely want people participating in the sacraments). It is clear our people need to be evangelized and set on the path of discipleship before they engage the path of catechesis, which is supposed to be for mature disciples. This means fostering intentional spiritual growth.
7. Meeting People in their Spiritual Need. Offering the sacramental life is essential. But they become stronger disciples based on addressing their openness to the sacraments, and helping people through spiritual blocks is a work of mercy and key to missionary discipleship.
8. Share the Gospel with People Outside your Church. Many people want to focus on the people in the pew, presuming that they need to be strengthened to do the work of evangelization. That’s true, but I argue for the “1-2 punch.” We need to shatter the idea that the parish exists just for us. It exists for those who need to know Jesus Christ. These moves, made simultaneously, strengthen each other.
Choose a model and explore!