How to be an apostle in a difficult environment?
13 Helpful Tips
A not minor portion of my time is dedicated to visiting communities, groups, movements and parishes. These visits are usually to make a talk about a topic related to youth life and Christian experience. But not always local games.
A number of my experiences consist of lecturing at colleges, universities, institutes and other organizations with non-Catholic youth and adults, sometimes they are not even Christians. They're just sitting there because they forced them to go and because the activity organizer is hoping that this talk will touch their hearts. It's almost never easy and almost never comfortable, but things always happen, and God is always in the middle of everything doing something.
About that, I want to share it with you. Surely you have to see yourself several times in the year with audiences that are not interested in the topic "God", "faith", "religion", "catechesis," values "or any of the things that you are interested in and that are the reason why you are standing there with everything ready to excite and motivate an experience of faith or to deepen some Christian experience.
I want to offer you some ideas (not just to go out without tomatoes or eggs on your head), but so that what you want to convey is welcomed by your audience and be God who reaches the hearts, more than your message. These ideas are not laws, nor are they infallible methods; they are just some strategies and principles that I have been discovering as I have gone wrong and I have had to rethink, not to communicate well, but so that God does not stay halfway and it is He who speaks through me. Not only do they apply when you are faced with giving lectures, but when you have to argue something close to your faith, in your university class, in your work, with a group of friends, in your family, etc.
"Youth ministry, as we were used to developing it, has suffered the onslaught of social change. Young people, in the usual structures, do not usually find answers to their concerns, needs, problems, and wounds". (Evangelii Gaudium 105)
1. Do not despair
It is a natural reaction to begin to sweat, to speak faster and stronger, and even to exasperate you. Don't despair or panic. Don't make anyone feel like you're suffering trying to do something that shouldn't be uncomfortable (even if it is). Remember who put you there, remember what your motivation is. It's not about saying everything and running away; it's about transmitting a message that you live. It means communicating something really important that can change people's lives.
2. With large audiences: be close
It is difficult to keep a large number of people completely attentive to what you are trying to share and communicate. Avoid starting with hard information: things like dates, statistical data, textual quotations and large amounts of text; All that makes people disperse and get distracted. When the audience is big it is easier to get to the heart than to the head. Start there. In Chile, we say "touch the fiber", which refers to more questioning than concrete content, with experiences and ideas that make sense. Make them excited like you're excited.
3. With small audiences: address them as you would address a friend
Do not expect to be moved to tears when you tell them a story, nor do they laugh to the point of breaking into applause and laughter. Small audiences are a good place to be concrete, because it is easier to keep them attentive, look them in the eyes and speak to them by name, as with friends. Small audiences are a good scenario to give numbers, dates, lists of things, historical data and any type of theoretical content that is closest to the message, all accompanied by your personal experience.
4. Transmits an experience, do not deliver information
"The contemporary man listens more at ease to those who testify than those who teach, or if they listen to those who teach, it is because they testify" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, N. 41). Therefore, taking the words of Pope Paul VI, although the message you share contains content and doctrine, the hook that will keep your audience attentive is your testimony of life and your "being a Christian in real life" rather than the books. But don't forget that the content is fundamental. Don't stick to the anecdote, we also need structure and a solid foundation, but we don't know where we're going to stop.
5. Go to the point!
"What happens is that what I want to tell you I wanted to tell you but I'm not sure I can tell you because when I say it the truth is that I'm not telling you ... ". Do not go around or you'll get dizzy. If what you have to share is short, well be brief. It is not necessary to extend yourself beyond what is necessary and that wanting to complement an idea makes you sway from one side to the other without being concrete and punctual. Nothing else reviews from time to time the twitter of Pope Francisco, which is less than 140 characters gives us tremendous messages and does not need an entire hour.
6. Humor is a good ingredient
You do not have to prepare a "stand up comedy" routine, nor have a list of jokes written to get out of the way when everyone distracts (although sometimes it is useful to have some under the sleeve in case of flies).
It is a fact, that some saints had a remarkable humorous vein, they even knew how to use it to transmit their own charism. Such is the case -among many- of San Juan Bosco who even had to act as a magician and tightrope walker Santa Teresa de Ávila, with a great sense of humor but going through difficult times and many trials, he said to God in prayer: "If this it's the way you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few! " It's about being you, spontaneous, happy and natural -obviously keeping the cares of solemnity if the occasion requires it-. Use humor to your advantage, make them laugh, laugh with them, but never laugh at them.
7. The Saints are an excellent example. Know their stories and make them known.
Knowing the stories of the Saints is important, not only because they inspire our lives and are a model in the follow-up of Christ, but also because they are an inexhaustible source of anecdotes, entertaining stories, and testimonies of human fragility but struggle and Holiness, who will surely help you exemplify whatever you want to communicate.
Every time you can, study the life of a saint, having that fresh knowledge in your memory will not only help you get out of the way with a good story, but it is the church itself that puts you forward to talk about God.
8. Prepare not only theoretically
It's very good that you study and prepare, in fact, it would be irresponsible if you did not. Dominating what you're sharing is crucial when the audience gets uphill. It is also important that you prepare a good material, be it slides or a text that you want to give to all attendees. Having good support to share always makes things easier. But the most important thing is that you invest prayer time for those people, for you, for your conversion, so that you are a better apostle. It doesn't mean that if things don't come out the way you hoped, it's because you prayed badly or little. God does not take vengeance, the prayer part of our apostolate, through prayer is that we find God to be able to transmit it
9. Do not stay with stereotypes, meet your audience
Do not judge who you have in front and do not stay with his appearance. Many times, we become stereotypes, especially with young people and with the elderly. Do not fall into generalizations, each one is a unique being, so give him the opportunity to surprise you. The challenge is to keep you constantly updated to find out what things are doing in your free time, that you see on television and the Internet, how you spend your money and your energies. At the same time think about how you are when you are part of an audience. I discovered myself sitting watching the best talks of my life but back on the chair, idly, looking at the ceiling, very serious and apparently distracted, but my heart was completely there. Consider the possibility that those who look so apathetic in front of you are being touched not only by your message but by God, even if they have not warned your face.
10. Remember that it is not a dissertation, it is your life!
Even if you're in a school class or a catechesis meeting where if or if you need to address some content, the bottom line is that you're talking about something that moves your guts. Let that never stop happening to you. Having the opportunity to teach, train and accompany others in the faith is a gift and as an apostle you are, you should vibrate of passion to be there. Therefore, since you are sharing something that gives meaning to your life, consider doing it with passion, leaving in the heart on the court, give everything, even if it is a meeting for three or four people.
"This passion will arouse in the church a new missionary action, which cannot be delegated to a few specialists but rather implies the responsibility of all the members of the people of God. Whoever has truly found Christ cannot have it just for himself, he must announce it. It is necessary for a new apostolic impulse that is lived, as a daily commitment of the communities and of the Christian groups» (Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, N. 40).
11. Avoid complicated language
There are times when language can create communication barriers, provided for mockery, bad interpretations or definitely not understand anything you want to say. Imagine that you are in an activity of evangelization and one of your slides invites them to be apostles and titles: "Be fishermen of men". We understand you here inside the boat, but surely more of someone is going to misunderstand. The list of things that only we understand is immense, take care of those expressions to communicate better with who is not familiar. There are theological and philosophical concepts that most people are not familiar. An evangelist is a translator who explains the teachings of the Church to the language accessible to all.
12. Sometimes you just have to shut up
Although it has been a few times, it has happened to me that those who are in front of me, are not only apathetic or distracted but are aggressive, questioning and even violent in their language. I certainly do not wish anyone to be in such a situation, for it is very uncomfortable. We must learn that there are times when we must learn to be silent. It is not to give the fight for lost, it is to discern that there are occasions when it is not worth giving any fight because it is meaningless. In my experience, when someone wants to attack the faith, the Church and God, that's what they want: to attack, and say what we say, we will not make him change his mind. The only thing we will achieve is to radicalize more of his posture and we in ours are becoming more and more distant from each other. Is this discussion any good?
13. Write your advice here...
The idea is to leave this empty space for you to add another point that you believe is missing in this gallery and you can help others from your experience:)
Cheer up, keep persevering, look for new strategies and don't give up! even if those in front of you have a face that they are not interested in what you are sharing.