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Trends in the Church: Bad News or Opportunities? with Matt Vuorela

By October 25, 2023June 27th, 2024podcast, Steier Tips

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In the Gospel, Jesus fed 5,000 with only five loaves and two fish. After the crowd was satisfied, there were 12 wicker baskets left over. God provides the abundance. In each episode of this podcast, we will explore, with pastoral leaders and development professionals, all the many ways God meets the spiritual and temporal needs of our parish communities, our Catholic schools and the diocesan church. And not only meets those needs but provides in abundance.

The 20th episode of the podcast is Trends in the Church: Bad News or Opportunities? with Matt Vuorela.

Matt Vuorela became Chief Executive Officer of the Steier Group in August 2023. In this episode, Matt shares his perspective that many of the discouraging trends we see in the Catholic Church in the United States today are actually opportunities to be bold and creative. From his seat at the head of the firm, he also speaks to other trends in the fundraising/development sector that point to some very positive news.

The bishops of the United States have recognized that the Church is in a crisis. Less than half of Catholics in the United States understand or believe in the Eucharist, Mass attendance is at an all-time low, and many young people are disaffiliating from the Church. This crisis of faith is at the heart of what could be called a crisis of stewardship in the Church. Giving to religious charities decreases with each passing generation. This means that the Church’s strongest supporters tend to be an older demographic. From a development point of view, this is a great challenge. “My call to everyone is not to accept these trends,” Matt said. “Be bold in your thinking. If you think you’re going to fail, you’re probably right. There is nothing that says we have to accept these trends. There is nothing that says we only have to survive, rather than thrive.”

There are other, more regionalized, trends, however, that give great hope. Steier Group campaigns for the Church in southern states are in support of rapid growth, new parishes, and strong ministries.  Matt notes as well that our campaigns for many religious communities with younger vocations have garnered support. School and Newman Center campaigns have done exceptionally well. In fact, major donors want to get behind campaigns to support the faith for high school and college students. “I would contend there is no investment a major donor—or any donor—can make in the future of the Catholic Church, the future of our faith, than at the Newman Center or Catholic high school level. Why? Because this is where you either keep young Catholics invested in the faith or you lose them.”

Another key opportunity in the face of these trends is to incorporate planned giving to help people make a lasting impact in support of the Church’s mission. Matt advises that an emphasis on planned giving “needs to be a more central part of every development office’s efforts now and into the future. It is absolutely critical that the office must stay on the radar of those who will give the wealth away, but also to develop relationships with the younger generations who will be inheriting it.”

Guest: Matt Vuorela
Title: Chief Executive Officer, The Steier Group

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