The time has come for us to stop using pastoral models that try to feed people who do not even know they are hungry. Instead, we need to use evangelizing methods that allow God to stir up their hunger for him that already exists within every human soul, (…) to help our people experience and embrace who they are as sons and daughters of God. The depths of their identity can be unlocked only in an encounter with Jesus Christ. Fostering such encounter and supporting their journey toward Christ will, in turn, propel them out on mission. – Fr. James Mallon, Unlocking your Parish, (2019), p.17 and 19.
Parishes continuously ask for the best tools to promote that encounter with Jesus Christ. There are several “programs” accessible to parishes that could support this effort, but none of them will produce disciples in themselves. The following suggestions should be used as a foundation for a larger strategy that encompasses hospitality, leadership building, faith formation and discipleship development. This strategy is based on the need to meet people where they are and to accompany them along the road, and not to necessarily start this journey with traditional “catechetical methods and programs”.
Other initiatives to “welcome back Catholics” might also be useful, within that larger disciple-making strategy, especially if they are accompanied by the intention of providing a welcoming environment that will instill the sense of belonging-believing in every Catholic wishing to return to the church.