In 2019, Andrew Robison spoke with Jason Simon of The Evangelical Catholic on The Petrus Development podcast. (To listen, click here!) Since then, we’ve had a few things happen, global pandemic and such, and we wanted to circle back to Jason and hear how things are going now.
Last time, we talked about Jason’s journey to The Evangelical Catholic, how he built up programming as President, and how the organization has been transformed through philanthropy.
This time, let’s start with what has changed since 2019…
1.) How have you built up programs at the Evangelical Catholic in the last 2 years?
Since the pandemic ripped through communities, more and more Church leaders have come to see how essential it is to deeply form and equip laity for mission in the world. They see that we cannot depend on priests and professional staff to do all of the evangelization. We can't even depend on the facilities to host evangelization events. We need lay people fully engaged in their circles of influence, praying for people around them, listening carefully to get to know people, and speaking the right words at the right time to witness to the good news.
Starting in the summer of 2020, we have experienced a tremendous increase in priests who want our consultants to coach them through the process of launching more and more mature lay people into the community to make disciples in their families, neighborhoods, and workplaces. These priests and staff members are courageous and determined. We are so honored to partner with them for the gospel.
2.) Last time we talked, you shared that you started your fundraising efforts by making LOTS of phone calls to schedule personal visits with potential donors. What do your fundraising efforts look like now?
Our donor development continues to hinge on close, personal relationships of trust. We steward existing relationships with regular digital communication and face-to-face meetings. We are continuing to expand our network of donor relationships primarily through word of mouth connections. With people who are excited to support our mission, we regularly talk about others in their life who might also feel passionately about our mission. People who have conviction and passion about equipping the laity for disciple-making apostolates in the world usually know a lot of other people who feel likewise.
We also host a few larger gatherings every year in places where we want to grow. For instance, we had a wonderful gathering last year in Virginia Beach. In our invitations to the gathering, we expressed passion for Catholic evangelization and disciple making. Because of this, we knew that everyone who came resonated with this passion and was disposed to supporting organizations like the Evangelical Catholic.
3.) What have those fundraising efforts helped the Evangelical Catholic accomplish?
As our donor development expands, we can serve more Catholic ministries. We have an exciting partnership with the Archdiocese of Military Services helping 10 military bases launch military personnel onto their installations to lead small groups, meet one-on-one with people, and actively seek to make more disciples on base. Also, in June 2020, COVID restrictions had shrunk the number of our ministry partners down to 86, but less than two years later we have almost doubled that number. Every contract we sign with a ministry partner is subsidized by benefactors. So their increased support has allowed us to double the number of people we reach with the good news and accompaniment into discipleship.
4.) What are some of the roadblocks or challenges you’ve encountered in the last few years? Or expect to encounter in the near future? And how did you/do you plan to overcome them?
Our normal attrition of ministry partners is between 10-15% per year. Pastor and lay staff leadership transition is the number one cause. However, in 2020 when the bottom dropped out of many ministries' offertories, we lost 60% of our partners. We surrendered this dramatic loss to the Lord and prayed that God would lead us to the right ministry partners for our growth. We kept calling bishops, priests, and ministry leaders to inspire them to lead with confidence and hope into the uncertain future. We felt so strongly that God was going to use the pandemic in awesome ways for the Church.
It was also important during this time for me to spend a lot of time with our Board to give them hope to stay the course, keep our staff together, and keep pressing forward with boldness. Though we had lost so many partners, it wasn't the time to shrink our staff. It was time to double down our phone calls and invite more ministries to join us in launching lay people into the world as disciple makers to bring their friends back to Mass.
Our Board bought in, our staff bought in, and our donors joined us in earnest prayer for the Lord to raise up even more zeal in the Church through this uncertain time.
5.) Where is the Evangelical Catholic going next?
The core of our work focuses on coaching lay ministry staff to form and train the people in their pews to go confidently into the world to share the good news and make disciples. We talk with priests often, but we don't spend a lot of time serving them directly. We feel called to put more energy into serving and supporting them. We will launch this effort in a concerted way through our upcoming "Priests for an Apostolic Age" gathering in San Diego in January 2023.
The gathering will include time for priests to pray together. We will also have workshops to help priests leverage the grace of their office to launch people into disciple-making apostolates. Finally, a successful business leader will lead a half-day workshop to give the priests quality training in change management. Priests need these skills to lead their communities through needed paradigm shifts. There may or may not be a yacht involved—and perhaps some cheerful times of fellowship around good bourbon.