When your parish conducts your annual stewardship renewal, it is important to do so in a proper manner. The renewal is a big part of your year, as it offers your entire parish a great opportunity to re-evaluate our lives and re-commit yourselves as Christ’s disciples. However, it is important to carefully conduct the renewal so as to truly encourage your fellow parishioners to make a commitment to Christ. Therefore, you need to be cautious of some common mistakes that will, inevitably, hinder the success of your renewal.
Here are 10 key mistakes to avoid:
10. Too Many Stewardship Sundays
The Stewardship Renewal is an intensive time of education during which you ask parishioners to make commitments of time, talent, and treasure. About four Sundays of talks, announcements, and homilies is the max. “Stewardship fatigue” is a reality, so at some point you have to conclude the Renewal, even if the response is not what you’d hoped for. (However, homilists should mention stewardship regularly in homilies throughout the year.)
9. Conflicting Events/ Announcements during your Stewardship Sundays
During your Stewardship Sundays, the focus needs to be on stewardship. Other announcements, appeals, and big events should be scheduled for another time.
8. Lay Witness is off-message
Your lay witness speakers shouldn’t preach about the meaning of stewardship, but rather, simply share how they have practiced stewardship in their lives. Make sure you have reviewed the speech and that it is consistent with the parish’s overall stewardship message. At the same time, give some latitude for individual perspectives.
7. Allowing Sign-Up Sheets during Your Ministry Fair
Don’t do this! When interested parishioners visit your ministry table, it may seem like the most natural thing in the world to have them write their names on a sign-up sheet. The problem with this method is that it does not provide any accountability. The solution is to have interested parishioners sign up on a Commitment Card instead. This allows the staff and Stewardship Committee to ensure that all interested parishioners were called.
6. Separating Time & Talent from Treasure
There are three main reasons you should always include Time, Talent & Treasure during a single Stewardship Renewal. First, theologically they belong together. Second, when they are broken apart, Treasure tends to become over-emphasized. Third, it is far more efficient to keep all three together; printing and mailing costs are lower, and parishioners need to return only one card instead of two.
5. Poor “Build up” to Commitment Sunday
In general, parishioners need to have a sense that the whole parish is undergoing a time of “renewal” and that everyone should be thinking and praying about their commitments to the parish. It needs to be clear that Commitment Sunday is the “big day.”
4. An uninspiring Commitment Sunday
Because of its importance, Commitment Sunday needs to be very well orchestrated. Teams of parishioners should be handing out Commitment Cards at the doors of the church. The pastor should preach at all Masses, and the homily should be 100% about stewardship. It should be an inspiring call to action. The pastor needs to make it very clear that if parishioners have not brought a completed card to Mass, they are expected to fill one out in-pew. Some parishes even have a special procession in which one member of the household walks up and places the card in a basket in front of the altar—a practice that can be powerfully symbolic, and actually flows more easily than it may sound. Catholics are used to processions!
3. No Follow-Up Announcements
It’s not over after Commitment Sunday. Make sure that you have a very strong follow-up announcement 2-3 weeks after Commitment Sunday. It is often effective to have a respected lay leader make this announcement.
2. Poor Ministry Follow-Up
Not following up with parishioners who have signed up for a ministry has been called “stewardship suicide.” It cannot be overemphasized that follow-up will “make or break” the parish’s stewardship efforts. To that end, your stewardship committee should be intensely focused on keeping Ministry Leaders accountable to make their phone calls. Moreover, this needs to be done in a friendly and hospitable manner that makes the parishioner feel needed and welcomed.
1. Lacking a Spiritual Focus
During the Renewal, parishioners shouldn’t have the impression that it is the annual fundraiser or volunteer drive. Above all, it needs to be a time of spiritual conversion, in which parishioners respond joyfully, with gratitude to God, by investing themselves in the faith community. It is a whole-hearted effort to give ourselves to our Creator. “If God, who owes nothing to us, is ready to impart to us no less than Himself, shall we answer with just a fraction of ourselves?” -Mother Teresa