Evangelizing through the hard times
There's no easy way to say this - the Church is suffering right now.
At this point, we've had Cardinal McCarrick, the PA grand jury report, and the accusations by Cardinal Vigano, which up to this point Pope Francis hasn't really addressed. I put in that timing disclaimer only because I have a feeling more is going to come, and it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
And now I'm going to try to tell you how to evangelize.
First, let's establish why we'd even fathom evangelizing right now. Jesus is still the Christ, and there are still many people who don't know about Him. The fact that our Church is pretty screwed up right now doesn't change that fact. Nothing can, and until it does, we need to keep telling people about Jesus.
And, with all of this scandal in the news, the number of people hearing the wrong information about God right now is pretty high.
So how do you attempt evangelizing or Catholic marketing in the midst of scandal in the Church?
First, start with love and understanding. People are going to be angry and upset (heck, I think we all are). Be ready to explain why you still love and will remain with the Church. And be ready to be mocked and ridiculed and misunderstood, as always.
Whether or not you want to address what is going on is completely up to you. The basic rule of PR is to 'fess up early, to beat everyone else to it, so my advice is always going to be to address things honestly and candidly, but if you feel your church or business is not equipped to talk about the scandal, simply sharing your prayers and own resolution to helping out may be enough if you are not directly involved or if you are not located in one of the dioceses particularly affected. In other cases, you may want to address what is happening head on, and I think for most this is the better route, provided you feel equipped to speak on the topic. In this particular case, remember to be sensitive to the victims first and foremost and always include the reason why you're staying despite everything going on.
Secondly, don't remain sad forever. That doesn't mean we should forget what happened; far from it. We need to keep the current climate at the forefront of our minds so that change can happen. But it also doesn't mean that every social media post has to be about the scandal if you're referencing the faith. If you feel called to say something, by all means do, but mentioning the scandal in every marketing effort for the next three months is going to feel stale and insincere quickly. When to transition back to "normal" is up to you and what feels right. I waited to publish this post until now because frankly, I felt like any sooner would have been disrespectful to the victims. But now, a few weeks out, I think we can begin to talk about the future and moving forward from this.
But most of all, be ready to love. Continue with your mission, because it is churches, businesses, schools, and ministries like ours that will help change the Church and the world. People are turning to the Church like never before despite the crisis - in fact, because of it - because they want answers. They want to know why they should stay.
And it's our job to tell them.
Now is a great time to talk about Christ and the foundation of the Church. In your marketing, focus on the essentials - Christ loved the world so much that He died for us and He wants to have a relationship with you. Be a beacon of hope and a place of understanding in your work, and we can continue to bring hearts to Christ even in the chaos. That's how they did it in the Early Church and it's how we have to do it now.
And whatever you do, don't stop now. Now is the time when the Church needs us.