We sometimes hear of a “stewardship parish.” Perhaps your church sees itself that way.
Yet there is no one definition of a stewardship parish. You’ll find many descriptions. But the central theme is the belief that everything we have – whether time, talent or treasure – is a gift from God, and we are called to give back to God a portion of our gifts in gratitude. We give because we are grateful for what we have been given.
Understanding this, embracing the joy of stewardship, is what creates in us a “need” to give. We give not first and foremost because there is a need to give to – our church building needs a new roof, the parking lot is a disaster, the parish hall needs renovation – but because our heart points us to the need to give as a part of our faith journey.
For each of us then, at some point, embracing the joy of stewardship takes a change of heart.
That brings us to Lent and to Easter. In many ways, this period offers the greatest opportunity for a change of heart to take place. It is a time of faith-raising, not fundraising. Yet in the life of a parish, it is that increase in faith that will ultimately result in an increase in funds. We give to what we believe in, to what we feel a part of. If our parish becomes a place of joy, a place where we meet Jesus in and through others … then generosity will flow naturally and abundantly. It won’t be contingent on convincing parishioners that the next “need” is worth their money.
How do we guide our parishioners down this path during this sacred time of the religious year? Focus on the pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Prayer: Offer what’s called a Parish Mission, an event focused on gathering the community and exploring a particular element of our faith. Perhaps it is a visiting minister offering an hour-long mix of music and message for several evenings during Lent. Then develop small-group studies that meet weekly during Lent – perhaps focused on the message of the Parish Mission or something entirely unrelated. Connections developed in small-group studies of all kinds are powerful drivers at many stewardship parishes.
Fasting: There is always the opportunity to hold a soup supper, but fasting isn’t just about food. We fast from all sorts of things – social media, alcohol, gossip – to create space for God in our lives. As a parish, encourage all kinds of fasting and offer resources to tackle tough subjects and inspire lasting change.
Almsgiving: This is different from tithing and in addition to it. While we generally give to our church’s offertory for its general operations, our almsgiving is specifically directed to those in need, those less fortunate than ourselves. A common example is Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowls for the poor in other countries. Offer another option that aids those in need in your community. This generosity opens our hearts to other giving.
In short: Help your parishioners enhance their relationship with Christ and feel more a part of your parish. It will then be something they’ve been given. They will joyfully give back in gratitude.
If you have questions about embracing stewardship in your organization or how the Steier Group can help, please contact me.