I was recently asked to present at an RCIA Conference about retaining folks who come into our Christian Initiation Program. It has been my observation that people leave for a variety of reasons, likewise, those who stay do so for many different reasons.
Reasons for leaving:
*The teachings of the Catholic Church are hard. As in John 6:60-68, people often tell me that the teachings are difficult to accept and so, they walk away. They do not want to conform their lives to the Church’s teachings on things like sexuality and the need for the sacrament of confession.
*It is a large time commitment. (In many non-denominational churches, all that is required is an altar call and possibly a baptism-or mistakenly, a second baptism).
*They don’t get enough out of the RCIA program.
*They don’t feel connected to our community.
So how do we meet the needs of the population seeking to be Catholic while still protecting the integrity of our RCIA programs?
*Meet them where they are, but DO NOT LEAVE THEM THERE. We must teach the truth about the Faith. We can’t water it down to make it easier to accept, but we can teach with reason and kindness. Recognizing that each individual is formed by their own, “education and experiences,”(Matthew Kelly) we have to bring them along carefully. We should take our example from Christ, and if they walk away we must trust the Holy Spirit with their faith journey and not ourselves.
*Be creative with time issues. We changed our program to include Mass prior to class, longer class time for prayer/discussion and we decreased the number of classes. This seemed to better suit the needs of our population.
*Involve participants in parish activities and service projects early on. The fastest way to feel like part of the community is to be part of that community. Look for ways to bring them into the fold in a positive way.
*Don’t stop with the end of the RCIA year. Help connect your students to parish groups, activities and opportunities for further study. Several of my recent converts are now attending our parish series on Apologetics. Consider inviting them to witness the following year in the RCIA program and plan reunions for your groups.
Above all, remember that it is only our job to properly invite and instruct. It is the Holy Spirit who converts hearts!! God bless.
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