The 2012 How *TO* Evangelize Guide Every Catholic Needs To Read

So now that we’ve gotten through two rounds of talking about how not to evangelize, I thought I would conclude with some ways to counter the non-evangelizing tactics and add a few of my own pro-evangelizing tactics I’ve come up with. I even have my own thoughts on what makes evangelizing effective. Let’s start with that.

1) Put aside the notion that you’ll ever see the fruits of anything you say to someone else in the hope of converting their mind and heart to Christ. I have nothing to back this up, but it feels like for every one person who says something to me about a conversation we had “ya know, way back when” where, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I said something that brought them closer to Christ, there are likely nine more out there that I’ll never know about. I like to think of these conversations, or crossing paths, as God’s way of telling me “great job” or “keep it up.” They often happen at times when I feel down or that my efforts are in vain. He has never let me down and knows just when I need to hear those words of encouragement.

2) Know your role. It is by God’s grace that you have the ability to be good at anything, including evangelizing. The sooner you give props to the Big Man, the sooner He can get to work on your heart, bringing out the best in you in a way that brings others closer to Him. He desires that we are all close with us because of his particularly scandalous love for each of us. Plus, the sooner you accept that your talent is through Him and because of Him, you will become more effective at reaching others. I had a hard time learning this particular lesson because my pride would get in the way. I would get puffed up when I would hear stories of how I had helped someone become closer to God rather than humbling myself and offering gratitude to our Lord for the gift in the first place. I would say, even now, it’s still a daily struggle, but the awareness has been piqued. Realizing it is through God that you have talent gives you the ability to free your mind, let the Holy Spirit do the heavily lifting, and you can just focus on being friendly. 🙂

3) Pray. Sounds a bit obvious, but before you talk to someone {and sometimes this isn’t always possible – you may run into someone off the street from time to time} ask for the Holy Spirit to guide your words, your actions, and your body language. Thank God for the outcome, whatever it may be.

4) Evangelizing is an art form that requires skill, finesse…and a good dose of shut up. I remember once listening to Father Corapi on Relevant Radio a few years ago and he said {roughly paraphrased} that in order to effectively evangelize and witness, you would need to be quiet…for a great deal of the time. I  recall thinking ‘huh, Father?’ to myself. How am I supposed to actively witness if I don’t actually say anything??? It took a long time for that nugget to really sink in and marinate, but I finally understood. Evangelizing is a lot like psychology…except different than psychology because the goal for me isn’t to tinker with your head. I found that if I was to effectively evangelize to someone in particular, it would first require my getting to know who I was talking to. Not everyone responds the same way, even though I have one story to tell. Sometimes I tell my story differently depending on who I’m talking to. The phrase “know your audience” could not be truer in this situation. There isn’t really any specific way for me to map this out for you…it all comes through trial and error, unfortunately and fortunately. You will have to become more attuned to your style of sharing the Faith with others to make sure you aren’t knowingly or unknowingly turning people away and figure out how to combat that. The one piece of advice I can give that works effectively for me is that I typically ask questions back of the person who is seeking, meaning I am asking them to continue to build their story for me so I can assess how best to address their questions and/or objections. I find this often works best because it not only gives me an opportunity to really hear the underpinnings of the objections, but it gives me a chance to get to know the person, which I enjoy doing. I’m not just evangelizing to “a face,” I’m evangelizing to Joan Smith who is a parishioner and sits at the same Mass I attend and she has kids my age and is involved in our community… Do you see the difference?

5) Use social media to effectively evangelize. This is harder than it sounds. Reference #2, if you are like. Just like you wouldn’t give a cookie cutter evangelization/witness story to every. single. person. – you also don’t want to beat people over the head with your non-stop Catholic updates, links, activities, groups, etc. Not that any of those are bad, don’t get me wrong. All I’m saying is that if your friends are all solid, orthodox Catholics, you probably aren’t sharing anything that is life shattering in the first place. However, the number of people I know on Facebook {or Twitter, Pintrest, etc.} who are exclusively Catholic is…well, none. So…we want to focus on being inclusive. Try branching out into status update topics that are intriguing, fun, mundane, boring, conversation starters, etc.

  • We’re having tuna noodle casserole tonight. What are you having for dinner?
  • What’s your all-time favorite 80s song?
  • What’s the cutest thing your kidlets have done today?
  • Can you share some homeschooling organization tips with me?

and for you guys…

  • Who do you think is going to win the Super Bowl? The Patriots or that other team?
  • Who’s looking to rumble on Words with Friends? My handle is “superstud74.”
  • Guinness is a necessary staple for football watching around here. What are your must-haves for the games?
  • Playing Mr. Mom and putting together a gingerbread house…this should be interesting! The studs are in place…ready for drywall.

6) Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know the answer to that.” This seems to trip up a lot of people and instill fear into those who aren’t well-catechized, but are well-intending and on fire for the Lord. What I’m getting at is you don’t have to be the New Advent of Catholicism for people to take you seriously, you just need to be sincere, authentic, and well-meaning. Friends and strangers who are genuinely curious about the Faith will see that you don’t have to know every detail of the more than 2000+ years’ worth of Church history in order to be a good, practicing Catholic. Consider every obstacle you encounter to be an opportunity to open yourself up to what God wants you to learn.

It takes both courage and humility to say “I don’t have the answers,” especially if you are a parent. And trust me, your kids can think up some real doozies that can challenge even the most theologically adept minds…I’ve heard. I’m definitely not making a commentary on my own knowledge of the Faith, fo sho.

Whether it’s your kids or friends, strangers or other family members, it’s ok to say you don’t know, but always offer a solution. You can:

  • look up the answer together {especially if you have a catechism on hand or a laptop/computer nearby} or
  • you can refer them to any solid Catholic websites that will answer their questions honestly and thoroughly.

ex. New Advent, National Catholic Register, Catholic Answers, Catholic Online, Fish Eaters, and EWTN for starters.

7) Narrow down broad questions. Sometimes you’ll get someone whose question is so broad, you would literally need weeks to answer the question…assuming they actually want to know everything their question encompasses to begin with. The best tactic? Ask questions back until you get to the real question.

Q. What’s the deal with the Mary?

A. Oh, I’d love to share what I know about the Mary. What specifically do you want to know?

Q. Um, I dunno. Why do you worship* her?

A. Why do you think we worship her? OR

A. Where did you hear that we worship Mary?

Q. Oh, I dunno. I heard it from my friend’s dad who is a pastor at Mega Evangelical We Don’t Like Catholics Because They’re Going To Hell church.

A. Ah, ok. Well, the good news is your friend’s dad is actually gravely misinformed and we actually do not worship Mary, but we do venerate her. We should talk about the differences between the two because this seems to be a common misconception among non-Catholics, especially evangelicals. ::refer friend to Catholic Answers, an online version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church {CCC}, or even to Catholics Come Home::

*You see the question had nothing to do with Mary and more about a common misconception that Catholics worship Mary.

8 ) Meet people where they are. To be effective, you need to know the best way to reach someone. That may be online for some and in person for others. Some people respond better online and it is every bit as effective as meeting someone for coffee or during swim lessons while the kids are taking classes. As a mom of five and one on the way, I know my time is pretty well divided to start. More importantly, I have always been a bit of an introvert who struggles to break free from those shackles. I have found that being accessible to friends and strangers via online is what works best for me, although I don’t limit myself to online interaction. I take opportunities at the grocery store, at church, at the kids’ activities to share and witness if that’s what God has in mind for me at that moment. This particular approach relies on mastering #4.

I am including a snippet from one of friend Jen Fulwiler’s 7 Quick Takes Friday that had me laughing and wondering if we weren’t separated at birth. If you aren’t an introvert pretending to be an extrovert, you won’t find the humor in this and, for that, I offer you a mea culpa.

“…Long story short, I now have an Android.

So far it’s been great, although I think my friends would give me a D- grade as a smartphone user. Because I’m really into limiting distractions, I promptly turned off the sounds that let me know when I have a text message or email; I manually check for new texts every now and then, but other than that don’t know when I have a new one. It leaves me having conversations like:

FRIEND: “Did you get my text?”
ME: “I never check texts. You should email me.”
FRIEND: “I did.”
ME: “Oh, that’s right, I avoid email as much as possible.”
FRIEND: “Did you at least get my voicemail?”
ME: “I hate checking voicemail. I only do it about once a week.”
FRIEND: “Soooo…I guess I need to come to your door if I need to get in touch with you?”
ME: “Yeah. Although sometimes I hide behind the couch when I hear a knock.”

So as much as I would like to tell you that you should meet people where they are, I can assure you that I am looking squarely in the mirror on this one. But hey, that’s why we’re called “practicing Catholics,” not “we got it all figured out Catholics,” right?

Your turn!

What ways do you find are effective at evangelizing?

What can you add to this list? 

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