When I train RCIA teams, especially newer teams, someone almost always asks, “How are we ever going to get ______ [Father, volunteers, the parish council, the 10 a.m. Mass community, the DRE] to agree to all this?” The question is understandable, but it is the wrong question. It is the wrong question because it implies defeat before we’ve even begun.
In their book The Leadership Challenge, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner list a three-step process to move others to share a common vision. Kouzes and Posner are writing to a business leader audience, but the principles are just as powerful for catechumenate leaders:
- Discover and appeal to a common purpose
- Communicate expressively, thereby bringing the vision to life in such a way that people can see themselves in it
- Sincerely believe in what they’re saying and demonstrate their personal conviction (129)
The first step is the most essential. There is only one way to discover a common purpose. You already know what your purpose is, right? So how will you find out what is common in the purposes of other leaders and parishioners? You have to ask. And listen. And listen some more. And listen still more. Effective listening can take a very long time, but we have to invest the effort so we can confidently say: “Here’s what I heard you say you want for the parish. Here’s what I heard you say is your deepest desire. And here’s how that desire can be met by participating in a vision of an initiation-centered community.”
The next step is to communicate expressively. You have to tell stories, using concrete images and powerful metaphors. Language is a powerful tool. Look at the way Jesus used language, and take his example. He told stories about widows, travelers in strange lands, mustard seeds, and vine growers. Use words that are realistic, optimistic, active, and certain.
Finally, you have to believe. If you think nobody is really going to buy all this, they won’t. You have to be 100 percent convinced that your vision for an initiation-centered community is the very best path for the parish. And you have to know why you believe it.
With this powful process in your toolkit, the question you and the rest of the parish will be asking is: “When do we start?”