Last night we had our introductory meeting of our The Apostles study group. Looks like we will start out as a group of seven. I am not in the least bit disappointed with that number. It is a beginning. However, I have learned that starting such a group is not as straightforward as one would think.
First of all, in a parish that does not have a culture of adult religious education, a blurb in the bulletin under the religious education banner does not get the word out. Every person that attended last night was there because I contacted them via email about the group. No one saw the notice in the bulletin. The fact that I had their email address means they had shown a previous interest in adult religious education so my outreach effort was made to a receptive population.
Here is my question: How do we draw in those who don’t even know they are supposed to be learning? If you are reading this blog or other Catholic blogs regularly, you are already way ahead of most of your pew mates. How do we convince the rest that continued study of their faith deserves as much attention as their favorite television shows, kids’ sporting activities, and the Indianapolis Colts vs New England Patriots football game? I think we first must do it by example. We must be willing to make time in our own schedules for these programs. Then we have to be willing to extend the invitation to others to join us. The programs need to be structured and well planned. If people are going to make time to come, they need to receive quality instruction. Depending on the parish personnel resources, that may mean utilizing quality pre-packaged programs. There is no reason each parish should be expected to re-invent the wheel.
I would love to hear from you if your parish has been successful in igniting the fire of learning among your members. What lessons have you learned?