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Starting where people are

Catholic social teaching (CST) has often been called the Catholic Church’s best kept secret. Well, with Pope Francis, the secret is well and truly out of the bag. So much of what he says, and especially what he does, can be seen to embody CST. And initiatives like Together for the Common Good and Blueprint for a Better Business are finding ways to make the teaching known beyond the Catholic Church.

Yet local Christian communities remain challenged in how to help people recognise these guidelines about how we treat ourselves, one another and the world. How do people truly engage with the guidelines? When developing Love in Action, a programme on CST for Caritas Social Action Network and Caritas Westminster, we used the six steps of the 'Engagement to Action Model' from the Kaizen Partnership.

  1. Raise Awareness
  2. Stimulate Interest
  3. Create an opportunity
  4. Facilitate Choice
  5. Addressing needs and removing barriers 
  6. Action

We knew that offering a series of evening talks on ‘the Church’s best kept secret’ would only bring in some of the usual group, many of whom probably know it already. If we want to engage new people with an idea, we firstly need to raise their awareness about it, and to do this we need to go to where they are.

People are still in the church building on a Sunday morning, even if not as many as we might like. So the programme requires a commitment from the church leadership team to unpack the themes each Sunday for at least six weeks, using the prayer and reflection resources, and not just putting a note in the church newsletter.

Outside of this, existing groups are encouraged to reflect on the themes in the course of their activities, not at an extra meeting. So the group who care for and clean the church are asked to look at if and how they embody the guidelines in their service. Using prompt cards whilst having a cup of tea together, they can reflect and challenge themselves to go further.

Once this process has begun, we created new opportunities for people. We have seen that a group of people from across the parish are willing to come together when invited to reflect on what this learning is telling the community about where they are living out the guidelines, and where they might be choose to do more, and then to put this into action.

But all of this can only happen once people are interested. And for that we have to start where people are, and not where we think they should be.

For more on the Kaizen Partnership see

For more on Love in Action, visit