There are many different reasons why pastors and lay leaders become interested in developing stewardship in their parish. Many are good, but many others fall short.
It’s always great for me to assist a parish looking to develop stewardship as a way of life in order to deepen the faith of each individual parishioner. They don’t usually know this at first, but it is focusing on evangelizing the individual parishioner that truly leads to long-term stewardship success.
Just take St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wichita, Kansas, or St. Mary on the Hill in Augusta, Georgia, as two examples of true stewardship in action. Neither parish is perfect, and both still have a ways to go, but the commitment to personal conversion of their parishioners for years has been at the heart of their ongoing stewardship development.
The results, in short, are:
• Mass attendance that is double or even triple that of the average parish
• Ministry involvement in both parishes are through the roof
• Both have seen many vocations come from the parish
• The weekly offertory at each parish is in excess of $75,000. That’s per week, in case you thought that was a typo.
More often than not, the real reason a parish “gets into” stewardship is because we need a bump. A bump in the number of volunteers. A bump in the offertory. A bump that will somehow save the parish school. Each of these reasons most likely will result in failure. Or, at best, very limited and short-term gains. These misdirected parishes looking for the quick fix and who start a “stewardship program” hope to experience the results like the two parishes I mention here, but most likely will never get even part of the way there.
To really develop stewardship in a parish and see substantial, long-term growth, it takes a commitment. A commitment that is solely focused on the ongoing spiritual development of every individual parishioner, and a desire to help strengthen each parishioner’s relationship with God. This commitment and desire must begin with the pastor, with full support from lay leaders and parish staff. The more committed a parish is to this focus, the more likely they will experience success. Both in the short-term, as well as the long-term.