On Sep, 10 2021
Evangelization is at the very heart of what it means to be Catholic. Here are 3 foundational aspects to understanding and implementing evangelism on your campus!Answering the call to evangelize on campus doesn't have to be complicated; Stick to these three simple principals as you cast vision to your students & ignite a desire in their hearts to share Jesus with their community.
To help students confidently evangelize on campus we must first communicate what evangelization actually is and how vital it is to our identity as Christians. In fact, Pope Francis has described the call to evangelize as our Church's deepest identity.
Simply put, evangelization is sharing the good news of the Gospel. When Jesus commands His disciples in the Great Commission, which also extends to us, He says explicitly:
“Go and make disciples of all nations…” MATTHEW 28:18-20
In the history of our Church this commission has been associated more with priests or missionaries traveling to foreign lands, but we have come to understand that by virtue of our baptism, we are all called to live out the great commission, to be missionary disciples and play a part in the New Evangelization. Pope Francis speaks of this frequently,
“All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization.” (Evangeli Gaudium)
The term “agents of evangelization” can sound very daunting but it really is just about knowing and living out our identities as sons and daughters of God, and sharing that with others. Understanding this God-given identity reminds us (and our students) that the Church doesn't exist to be a building or a social club, but she actually exists "in order to evangelize."
Learning to use the power of invitation is another vital aspect of campus ministry evangelization! There are different components to evangelism and many ways that we can go about it, both directly and indirectly. One of the most important, and often overlooked, ways to evangelize is actually pretty simple: extending the gift of Invitation. Brainstorming creative ways to practice hospitality and invite those on the outside into our ministry is guaranteed to plant the seeds for success on any campus.
It’s great to extend invitations when hosting events at our parishes or Newman centers, but it is even more important to get outside of the walls of our "catholic bubble" and connect with people in their own elements. Teaching student leaders to seek others out intentionally, and to create a habit of inviting others into our communities, brings outreach to a whole new level.
This can look like a simple invitation to mass or a student retreat, or even just asking someone to grab a coffee. These seem like small gestures but one a small yes (to a BBQ or coffee) can and usually does have a greater impact and eventually lead to a greater yes (like to a bible study or even to the Church).
This foundation is seen clearly in the life of Jesus, the ultimate model for evangelization. He didn’t simply ask his disciples to an event to listen to his preaching in the synagogues. When He said, “Come, follow me”, He basically invited them "on a three year camping trip", where he lived life day in and day out with them as they journeyed throughout Galilee during his ministry.
Check out these videos for more:
This final principle is seen most clearly in the life of Jesus Christ Himself. The story of Christ's Incarnation has a lot of implications for the way we are called to be Christ to others. He modeled discipleship and evangelization from the very beginning, by becoming one of us. The incarnation made God available to meet humanity exactly where we needed Him-in our own, messy lives. By coming down to our level, God became like us, in order to save us.
Just as our Catholic faith is sacramental (the sacraments are outward signs of inward grace) it is also incarnational. This means that we are living signs of our faith to the people we meet.
Incarnational evangelization is the way we become an instrument for others to connect to a living God. This foundation is central to our Catholicism, so much so that it “encourages [us] to enflesh our faith, to realize it [daily] in [our] lives, far beyond purely the confessional..” (Tom Groome, American Review).
Just as the Creator of the Universe didn't stay in heaven waiting for mankind to come to Him, His disciples follow His example by getting out of our own comfort zones and circles, making ourselves “all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:22) to reach the many souls waiting to encounter the life-giving truth of the Gospel.
Practicing incarnational evangelization touches all aspects of our lives and is as simple as allowing ourselves to be spirit-led in life and ministry; Being unafraid to go into the trenches, spending time with people who might not seem like the “type” we’d expect to respond with an immediate “yes” or regularly show up to ministry events.
The apostle Paul also models this in the way he was willing to make a gift of himself to all people he encountered, ensuring they heard about Jesus no matter what the cost. He actually sums up this type of evangelization perfectly in his letter to the Thessalonians:
“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” ( 1 Thessalonians 2:8)
Fall outreach is a great place to get started with our students and teach them to evangelize! At the next leadership meeting, try asking students to think on the following questions. Oftentimes we overcomplicate evangelization and it can be helpful to recall our own experience of being invited into ministry or the Church:
- Was there a time in your life where you experienced the power of invitation? What can we learn from that?
- What are specific ways we can be agents of evangelization on campus this week and invite those we meet into our community?
More Newman Connection Resources for Evangelization: