One of the key success factors in developing a stewardship parish is the spiritual formation of parish leaders. This is an area where many parishes receive a failing grade.
If the “leaders” in a parish aren’t formed in a solid understanding of the spirituality of stewardship, how can we expect the rest of the parish to understand its meaning?
What can a parish do to rise above the rest and give itself a better-than-average chance to more fully develop stewardship within the faith community? A fundamental step is to make a serious effort in forming key parish leaders. You may be asking, “Who are we talking about here?” First and foremost, it starts with the pastor. Just because he’s an ordained minister doesn’t mean he fully understands – or even practices – the spirituality of stewardship.
Moving beyond the pastor, parishes must educate the members of key leadership groups, such as the Parish/Pastoral Council, Finance Council, and Parish Office Staff. In the hierarchy of parish organizations, these groups are often viewed as a tier above the rest and, therefore, are not in need of any stewardship formation. As a result, the stewardship formation of those key leaders is usually nonexistent. The assumption is that those individuals have more important things to do than to gain a better understanding of the spirituality of stewardship – after all, they’re the ones who plan for the future of the parish (Pastoral Council), decide how to spend the money brought in by the offertory (Finance Council), or deal with the day-to-day inner workings of the parish (Parish Staff). And, in most cases, these leaders are also responsible for so much more. This is why it is imperative for parishes to include such individuals in the formation process.
But, wait, these are our leaders, and they’re all too busy to work stewardship formation into their agendas. You will likely hear this complaint from many members of these groups. Unfortunately, it is this kind of thinking that will ultimately lead to the demise of a parish’s stewardship efforts. This includes parishes just beginning this process, as well as those that have worked at developing stewardship for many years.
What can your parish do to take a first step in the right direction? Begin with the United States Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, as well as the Pastoral Letter from the Diocese of Wichita, The Pillars of Parish Stewardship. Both are brief and easy to read, and are solid tools for teaching the spirituality of stewardship. Both documents also include discussion questions, which have proven to be very helpful when further exploring stewardship spirituality. Click the links above for PDFs of each document.
If key leaders in your parish are clueless about what it really means to live stewardship as a way of life — both on a personal and parish level — then most of your stewardship efforts will be in vain.