By: Dianne Davis
So you’ve just purchased the Discovering Christ kit, or maybe you’ve already been running the series at your parish for a few years, but the BIG question is the same:
"How do we get people to sign up?"
All of us on the ChristLife staff are practitioners, which means we all volunteer to run the ChristLife courses at our own parishes. We've been running it for years and we've experimented with many different ways of inviting people. Some ways didn't turn out the way we expected, but others worked really well. I'm going to draw on our successes and share 5 keys to attracting new people to Discovering Christ.
1. Pray together as a team regularly.
No invite method will work if you and your team are not united together in prayer. Evangelization is the work of the Holy Spirit, and we cannot evangelize without Him! So make sure your team has regular times to pray together, as well as individually. As a staff we regularly intercede together for the fruitfulness of our evangelization efforts. One resource that you may find helpful for these times of prayer is the Discovering Christ team prayer.
2. Mobilize your entire team for the invite.
As a team, it’s everyone’s job to evangelize! So that means the set up crew and hospitality, facilitators and helpers, technology and emcees are all evangelizing! Have everyone on the team start thinking and praying about the people they know in their families, their neighborhoods and people in places they encounter often, like the coffee shop, the gym, or sitting in the stands as your kids are playing soccer. These are all opportunities to invite someone to explore the meaning of life! And that’s one of the best ways to invite them.
I usually get to know someone first and build a friendship. And as we talk about life, our jobs, our marriages, our children, the news, I wait for the Holy Spirit to give me an opening and I ask, “do you ever wonder about the meaning of life?” I’ve found that almost everyone says yes to this question if they don’t already have a personal relationship with Jesus. That’s when I say “My church is doing a course all about the meaning of life and we are even going to serve a free dinner. Do you want to come!?”
This was a little out of my comfort zone when I first started, but after extending a couple of invites, it got easier. I’ve gotten some declines to this offer, but I don’t let it get me discouraged. It’s my job to step out and invite them and it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to give them the grace to say yes. I’ve even had some people decline, but a few years later show up for the course! So don’t get discouraged, just keep on praying and inviting!
3. Leverage your next Sharing Christ course.
If you’ve already run the ChristLife process at your parish, the people who have come through Sharing Christ are your missionary disciples! Saint John Paul II said "only from a personal relationship with Jesus can an effective evangelization develop." By the time people have signed up for Sharing Christ, they will have already had the opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel in Discovering Christ. In Following Christ they learned about developing their relationship with Jesus and how to follow him. In Sharing Christ, they will be equipped and inspired to evangelize.
You should schedule Discovering Christ within a few months of ending Sharing Christ. At the Sharing Christ retreat, we always give out both business card sized invite cards that can easily be slipped in a man’s wallet or pocket, as well as postcard sized invites to Discovering Christ. I like to challenge people to invite 5-8 people each, but to aim for filling their seat at a minimum.
The weekend of the Sharing Christ retreat we all attend one of the parish-wide Masses together. During Mass our Pastor concludes with a commissioning rite for all the Sharing Christ graduates. As they stand for this special blessing, they are a witness to the rest of the parish for committing to and completing all three ChristLife courses, and to the importance of being missionary disciples. It’s always so inspiring to see them all stand up throughout the church as our pastor prays over them. This is also a great opportunity after Mass for them to speak to the person sitting next to them and tell them about how Discovering Christ helped them to find the answers to the meaning of life AND invite them to the next Discovering Christ course. They are prepared and ready to give away their invite card!
4. Be creative with your marketing campaign.
In my local area, we’ve had over 2,000 people who have come to Discovering Christ. We’ve reached people in the pews, people who did not go to church regularly, people who were former Catholics, agnostics, atheists and other non Christians.
How did we do it? We captured their attention and it made them want to check out what our course was all about!
5. Adopt God's definition of success.
I think it’s important to end with our definition of success. At first thought we may think success means that our courses are filled to capacity, or that they keep on growing. But after 10 years of running ChristLife courses, I’ve learned that the true definition of success in evangelizing is seeing lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
On our ChristLife team we’ve run courses with 5 people to as many as 500! But our greatest rejoicing is when we hear about lives being changed. Jesus says that all of Heaven rejoices when just one sinner repents (Luke 15:10). When I think of that verse I imagine a big party with all the angels and saints cheering for the one lost soul who has been found. Your next Discovering Christ course may not have as many people attend as you had hoped, but if just one person turns to Jesus, have a celebration just like the one that is happening in Heaven!