Church Life, Small Groups

Five Strategies to Reach Adults

The parish that ignores the adults for the sake of the kids is building on sand. The foundation of Christian education is the family. After all, the parents are the primary educators of their own kids, and yet how many times have we acted in exactly the opposite manner? Here are five strategies to stop neglecting the adults of your parish and start winning them for Christ.

Presume No Knowledge

No one wants to be embarrassed by their own lack of knowledge. Break everything down to its simplest components. Many of my adults stayed away from our 10 different weekly Bible studies because they know nothing about the Bible. So I started offering an hour-long class where I literally never move past the table of contents. About a third of the adults only owned Children’s Bibles. That is your audience. Do not talk past them!

Teach to Win

Catholics who had instruction in their youth have a mishmash of information, but nothing to really harmonize it all. They have catechesis, but little evangelization. We need to stop this and start evangelizing adults. Why? Because preaching the basic gospel message is how we get the response of faith: repentance, conversion, faith in Christ, union with the Church. How do you teach so as to win adults for Christ? Tie everything to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is the harmony between the Old and New Testaments, between Word and Sacrament, between faith and works. Preach and teach him.

Win to Teach

Our words are only as good as our witness, and our witness must be authentic. You absolutely have to earn the right to be heard. We do this by really living what we’re preaching, and by being open about our own faults and failures. Parents assume my kids are flawless at Mass. When I share that my kids are more often terrorists, you can visibly see the tension leave their shoulders. Sympathy, empathy, and vulnerability will win your ability to speak into their lives, and not just their ears.

We Need Community

My banner ads on my parish website for getting people into community groups.

My banner ads on my parish website for getting people into community groups.

I’m the biggest believer in the power of community. Faith is meant to be lived in a community. Pastor Rick Warren says, “If you want to be forgiveness, confess. If you want to change, get accountability.” I push home-based small groups because I believe American suburbs do not have a real community, and neither do our parishes. So my goal is to build that up in any way that I can. Utilize small groups as much as you can, whether or not they are in homes, or a break out in RCIA or at a Bible study. Get people together and get them sharing their faith out loud.

Evangelical Event-based Initiatives

Quarterly we offer an event that is free, evangelical, and sacramental. We call it Glorify and it is a night of prayer, praise, a short message, and Eucharistic Adoration. We do not do announcements, take sign-ups, or push flyers. It is purely about worshipping Jesus Christ. The talk is based on a Gospel passage and is meant to lead people to make an act of faith in our Risen Lord. Events like this need only a one-time commitment, is open to everyone, and is entirely evangelical in nature.

So there are five strategies that you can use to at least evaluate how you approach the adults of your parish. If you need help creating a vision for adult faith formation in your parish, I do consult!