Your parish is about to change. Here’s why. This Sunday, look around at the people in the pews. Then estimate what percentage of those people will be retired in ten years. Now look for the 20- and 30-somethings. Are there enough of them present to fill the shoes of those who will be retiring?
Trends that will change RCIA ministry
Here is another indicator of change. How many Masses in Spanish did your parish have ten years ago? How many does it have now? How many will it have ten years from now?
And one more trend. Ten years ago, how many people in your parish had a Facebook account? How many have one now? How many will be on Facebook (or whatever replaces it) ten years from now?
All of these trends are going to affect your parish’s initiation process. Your challenge, as an RCIA team, is to figure out how these and other trends will change your parish and what your response as an initiation team will be.
The benefits of a clear vision for your RCIA team
In other words, you need a vision for the future. Developing a clear vision for the future will help you do three things:
- You will be able to identify the direction in which you need to move as an initiation ministry
- You will motivate yourselves and others in the parish to take significant action to move the parish in that direction
- You will be able to coordinate your actions within your team and across parish ministries with great efficiency
Consider the first point for example—identifying the right direction to move. If we can get everybody on the team to see that we need to do a lot more outreach to young adults and Spanish-speakers, and we need to figure out how to communicate our message through social media, we can settle a lot of smaller debates quickly. We can more quickly see if what we are currently doing or planning to do fits into our vision of the future.
A clear vision will also help us motivate others. Perhaps everything looks fine right now. But if we all agree that things are going to change in the very near future, then we can all agree that we have to do something to meet the change. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard RCIA team members say something along the lines of, “If it’s not broke, why fix it?” Well, what if it is broke? What if we all know it’s broke or very soon will be? Let’s roll up our sleeves and fix it.
The third benefit may be the most important. You can’t launch a ministry to the Spanish-speaking or an effective social media campaign all by yourself. But if all the ministries of the parish understand the direction we need to move in, they will quickly come on board to help move the parish in that direction. You’re work and your ministry becomes a lot easier if broad coalitions in the parish have signed onto a clear vision for the future.
How many angels have you seen lately?
Let’s say a little more about vision. We Catholics have a specialized understanding of that word. Mary and Joseph both had visions, as did Jesus. Many of our great saints have had visions. Many of us have had visions also. A vision, for us, seems like something miraculous, other-worldly, and outside of our direct control. Visions are visited upon us from angels or the Holy Spirit.
Some visions need bifocals
But that’s not usual, is it? If you have a miraculous vision about how God wants your parish to move forward, by all means, go for it! Most of us, however, are going to have to find more mundane ways to come up with a vision. In his book, Leading Change, John P. Kotter says that a good vision has six key characteristics. A good vision is:
- Imaginable: We can really see what it looks like in our minds and hearts
- Desirable: We really want the vision to happen; life would be better for everyone if we lived into this vision
- Feasible: We can do this! God has given us all the talent and resources we need right within our own parish
- Focused: We see clearly where we need to go, and we start making decisions about how to get there
- Flexible: We know all plans change as circumstances change; our vision doesn’t change, but the details might
- Communicable: We can easily explain the vision in a bulletin announcement or an announcement at Mass
Developing a vision that does these things is not miraculous, but it does require hard work. You will need to involve more people than just the RCIA team. You will need to invest some significant time in shaping it and making it appeal to both the head and the heart. But we don’t really have any choice. Because everything is about to change.
What do you think?
- Are there trends happing in your parish right now that will change your community in the near future? What are they?
- Is your parish developing a vision for the future? How does that affect your RCIA team?
- Are there other characteristics you would add to the “good vision” list?