Evangelizing the churched: no ‘cookie cutter’ approach

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

Evangelizing to the “churched” starts with prayer, say Julie Delaney and Michelle Herring­ton of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Daven­port who led a breakout session on that topic during the Vision 20/20 Convocation.

Anne Marie Amacher
Julie Delaney speaks on St. Paul the Apostle Parish’s evangelization program in Davenport.

Delaney, principal at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School, and Herrington, director of parish life, said there is no cookie cutter approach to evangelization. Each parish or entity has different people, different audiences, they said. Some parishes have schools, some have lots of young families and some are very small.

“Who is your flock,” Delaney asked. “Who are typical people in the pews? How engaged are they?”

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St. Paul the Apostle began its current evangelization process in 2012. “The church and school are across the street and I felt we were connected. But I saw, no, we were not. We were very parallel and not necessarily together,” Delaney said. The evangelization process has brought the parish and school communities closer, she believes.

It didn’t happen overnight, Herrington said. The evangelization process started with surveys and conversations. Meetings started with prayer. Another step involved hiring Tasha and Michael Havercamp as directors of evangelization.

“This has been a seven-year process,” Delaney said, that looked at moving from maintenance to mission. In addition to prayer, core team meetings are a time to examine strengths and mission. Parish leadership is organized in a way that is open to change to enhance effectiveness.

The parish also revised its confirmation preparation, but implementation “was like a bomb that exploded,” Herrington said. “We learned that we needed to dialogue.”

Staff had engaged in dialogue, but did not seek parents’ input until realizing that was a missing component. Now, confirmation prep is led by youth ministry and separated from school and religious education. “You have to sign up. You are not automatically enrolled. There are adult mentors. We are seeing the fruits of it now,” Herrington said.

A delegate asked how St. Paul’s evangelization model would work for a small, older parish. “Start with three or four people,” Herrington said. “Then ripple out. Don’t be a speed boat. Just cruise slowly.”

“Start with prayer and a small core team,” Delaney said. “The spirit will guide you.”

The discipleship process is like a baseball diamond, Herrington said. You start at home plate and head to first base, and then around the diamond. The key words are love, learn, live and launch.

Share your personal story, be comfortable at Mass, learn to pray and offer small groups, ask people to be more intentional, identify gifts and build from there and launch and implement with a clear focus, the two presenters said.

Before new families or individuals fill out a form to join the parish, they meet with Tasha Haver­camp, who explains the mission and fit of St. Paul’s. A new member orientation and quarterly socials are held.

A delegate asked how to convince “old timers” who are reluctant to change. Herrington advised talking with them and developing trust.

Delaney added that those parishioners may see things differently and little by little a new relationship is formed.


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