This week’s chapter in Forming Intentional Disciples, the book behind Lawn Chair Catechism, focuses on curiosity. One of the discussion questions focuses on the way in which we welcome the curious:
If a newcomer walked into your parish today, curious about the Catholic faith, would someone actively welcome him? Introduce him to others? Who would help him answer his questions?
I certainly hope that someone would. (And without trying to add to the workload of our already very busy and very active permanent deacons, I hope that our deacons would be the ones answering the questions. They’re knowledgeable, personable, approachable and faithful.)
Our parish (like many others) hosts an event during Advent and asks parishioners to invite their families, friends and neighbors who have wandered away from the Church. I don’t deny that this is a good idea–in theory. But year after year I listen to our pastor describe this event as having a “non-threatening atmosphere” (yes, he uses those words) and I wonder: Is non-threatening the best we can do?
If that’s all we can manage, we’ve got a lot of work to do, and not just in conjunction with that one Advent program.
If we want people to move beyond trust, to be curious, we have to show that our faith is compelling rather than non-threatening.
Just this morning, the Pope tweeted: “If we wish to follow Christ closely, we cannot choose an easy, quiet life. It will be a demanding life, but full of joy.”
5 thoughts on “Lawn Chair Catechism 7.0”
Non-threatening does sound so lukewarm, doesn’t it? But so many people are afraid of sounding like a televangelist. A person who is excited and vibrant with her faith is far more interesting to me then someone who is non-threatening.
I LOVE our Pope!
Your pastor is onto something though. Many of the people who might come to those sessions are in the stage of trust, and they need for the meetings to be “non-threatening.” To encourage them on to the curiosity stage, they need the kinds of things that encourage question asking which is the hallmark of the curiosity stage. They need to see the Gospel directly and need to talk about Jesus directly. Run bible studies for them and give them access to committed Christians on a one-to-one basis. These are the time-tested and effective ways to get people into and through the curiosity stage. This means minimize that old Catholic favorite–talks. Get people involved.
Your post reminded me that we have something in our bulletins, small and in any random, open spot “Catholics Come Home”. Basically it then says if you feel disconnected, lost, etc. we miss you and want you back.
We also have (just before the RCIA program starts) previous RCIA candidates (now Catholic) give a talk to the parishioners inviting them to come or bring people they know. I gave one this year.
I, too, think we could definitely do more. I read on a blog this morning where an informal, recurring meeting takes place at a parish where people talk to others about the faith all year round – and not just during RCIA. People can come and ask questions or just talk. Sometimes there are a lot of people present and other times, just one or two people. I’m bringing that idea to the Deacon!
I’ve heard that term thrown around a lot in my parish as well and by Catholics in general. I’ve never given it much thought, but I agree with you. I would rather that we be *compelling* than to look for ways to be “non-threatening.” To be compelling makes people want to search out and find what you have, to really understand the faith and why it is so compelling in you. Kind of the idea of “how can I be as on fire as so-and-so.” To me, “non-threatening” brings with it the idea that we want people there but they don’t have to believe what we believe. We already have plenty of Catholics in our pews who don’t believe everything the Church teaches. I’m not sure it is enough to just get people there. We need to go a step (or more) beyond this.
Being “compelling” is appropriate for people in the curiosity stage but it can be too much for people in the beginning stages of the spiritual life, the trust stage. Those in the trust stage sip; those in the curiosity stage, sort. Helping people to sort things out, and decide what God is really offering them, is what offering compelling information is about.
Most parishes have a large number of sippers (trust) as well as a large number of sorters (curiosity), and it’s necessary to have something for everyone or people will start to drop out. The trick is how to manage access for everyone, and at the same time have a few findable and acceptable things people can go to when they are ready to grow beyond these two most common stages.