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Getting Past the Paralysis of “Picking the Right Program”

We’ve never had this many great evangelistic programs in the history of the Catholic Church. No matter what type of event you want to run or area of theology you want to teach, you can almost always guarantee that someone out there has put together exactly what you need.

The problem isn’t the absence of content but knowing what kind of content you’re looking for in the first place.

We’ve all heard the silver bullet pitch. 

“Run this course and your parish life will never be the same!” 

“Expert evangelists say they’ve never seen anything work as well as this!”

“Guaranteed conversion!”

Okay, maybe not that last one. 

With all of those programs out there claiming perfection, how do you know what will work? You may have seen other ministry leaders try something that bore incredible fruit but when you tried to implement it just didn’t land. It can feel so discouraging to fail when all you want to do is see people come to know Jesus.

We need to start thinking in steps, not programs. As in, we need to start thinking about an individual’s unique journey and not just whether we can cross them off the list for coming to an event. 

The reason why some programs seem to work in other parishes but not in our own is because people are all different. They need different things. They reached people who needed that type of content in that particular stage of their faith journey. 

Here are some great ways to pick a program that reaches people where they are at in their faith journey.

Don’t Be Afraid of Data

So how do you know where people are in their faith journey? Ask! If we ask the right questions and discern with the Holy Spirit the needs and struggles of our community, we can make program decisions that are actually impactful and aligned with our mission. Try building out a digital form and sending it to your parishioners. Ask about struggles, goals, and desires and pay attention to trends as they emerge.

Speak to What People Need

A great place to start in choosing a program is to look at what we call the “felt needs” of your parishioner. A felt need is any pain point or struggle that a person has deemed important in their life. After we’ve collected the data, we can start to examine it and see what felt needs our parishioners are struggling with.

For example, if a large portion of your congregation has been struggling to have meaningful times of prayer, you can browse through content sources like Formed.org or the Tilma Content Library to find courses or articles that resonate with that struggle.

Test It Out

Before committing to an event or program that might require time and financial investment, send out an email with an article or video embedded that builds on the felt need trends you identified. Ask parishioners to share how it resonated with them and see if anything new comes up.

Focus on the Journey

Think back to all the moments in your journey with God when you took the next step in deepening your faith. Sometimes what worked really well in the beginning of your relationship with God is unhelpful in your current state. The same is true of our parishioners. If you find a certain program is losing its effectiveness, don’t be afraid to reallocate your resources elsewhere. Focus on the journey of your parishioners and supporting them as a Church.

Evaluate and Iterate

After your program has concluded, evaluate how it did! Ask yourself and your parishioners if the content encouraged them in their faith journey or if they remained stagnant. Go through the same process again, looking at felt needs and choosing the program that will help your congregation take the next right step. Use the data you got after running your last program to correct mistakes and optimize the effectiveness of the experience.

Imagine our ministries if we detach ourselves from programs or processes. What would it look like to just focus on the individual needs? By focusing on content that reaches felt needs, we can make our parishioners feel seen and cared for and build a parish that continually takes people to the next step in their walk with God.
Learn more about how to implement this in your ministry philosophy by listening to our latest podcast episode with Pete Burak from Intentional Disciples.

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