Growth Through Evangelism

It doesn't really matter if your parish has more baptisms than funerals in a given year, your parish is still in numerical decline. Evangelism can change that.
Parishes grow larger through evangelism. The reception of new converts into a parish is not only the means of greatest numerical growth, but it’s also the best sign of a healthy and growing parish.

There are only two ways for a parish to grow numerically. One is for married Catholics to stop contracepting, which will eventually happen if you manage to educate them in the faith and help them to understand and live what they learn.

The other way of achieving numerical growth is through evangelism. This last of the elements common to all healthy parishes is the hardest to set into place systematically, because unless your parishioners really like the idea of reaching out to other souls they will resist the whole idea of evangelism. Human nature being what it is, there are only two types of people who normally have a desire to evangelize and actually follow through with satisfying that desire: the well informed Catholic who is a sales oriented individual, or the well informed Catholic who is excited enough about the faith that his enthusiasm compels him to share the faith. Even these two personalities can actually be narrowed down to one, and that is the well informed Catholic who knows and understands his faith it the mission of the Church.

It has saddened me over the years that so few parishes have any sort of evangelism taking place at all. The implication is that we tend to see our Catholic faith as a sort of exclusive club requiring an engraved invitation to attend. Reinforcing that implication is the attitude of so many cradle Catholics. Most parishes I go in to, and within numerous Catholic organizations (my KofC Council is a good example), when it's learned that I'm a convert I'm often made to feel like I'm an interloper. In fact, I've actually had more than a few Catholics tell me I'm not a "real" Catholic because I wasn't born into the faith. It's no wonder the Church is in decline in America! So if you are to balance the five elements necessary for a parish to grow, you must inaugurate a system for evangelism… after helping parishioners to see the need for being evangelistic.

There are literally hundreds of ways and means to evangelize, but it all boils down to doing something we all do daily—carry on a conversation. If you’re working in a group, like the
St. Paul Street Evangelization apostolate, it’s a ton of fun. When it’s one-on-one and personal, it’s just a matter of talking. I know a man who, like me, is a member of the Marian Catechist Apostolate. He's also a lay evangelist who has worked under the radar for years being used by the Holy Spirit to make at least two-thousand converts directly and indirectly. At this writing he is authoring a handbook for evangelization in a one-on-one manner. He has trained perhaps close to one hundred people individually in how to evangelize in daily life situations. This man is a professional marketer who also uses some very unique methods for fundraising. Also like me, he has the privilege of being endorsed by Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke. I only take a moment to mention him here so that if you're interested in speaking with him you can contact me and I'll put you in touch with him. I don't mention his name because he's not a public figure and I've not asked his permission to use his name.

Although it seems contrary to our thinking to view evangelism as selling, that is certainly what evangelism is—selling. The average person in the pew doesn't like the idea of selling and dreads even the though of doing so. The sense of dread people have when it comes to evangelization really has nothing to do with “selling” though. The real problem is lack of product knowledge. When people aren’t confident about what they need to know, they become fearful of making fools of themselves. Those who tend to engage in heated argument do so because they lack confidence in what they know about the Church’s teachings. Again, we go right back to defeating the ignorance of the laity. So if you want to add balance and growth to your parish, you have to add a system for evangelism to your parish. Of course, to do that you must also help your parishioners learn the faith as well as they should know it.

This ends the series on the five elements of parish growth, and I hope you've enjoyed it. In fact, I'd really appreciate it if you'd let me know your thoughts either by commenting on this page or sending me a comment through my contact page. In the mean time, please consider the possibility of allowing me, Joe Sixpack, to help you give your parishioners a better, deeper understanding of the faith by using
What We Believe...Why We Believe It in your parish bulletin.
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