Has your parish ever really looked into this? Chances are you haven’t. And, my guess is you haven’t because of the prevailing argument that we shouldn’t stick our collective noses into what individual parishioners or households are giving. This is often the argument I hear whenever I broach this subject in meetings with the parish staff, finance council, or pastoral council.
Interestingly enough, however, I often hear from these same folks that the parish offertory is too low, and the problem is that the people in the congregation aren’t giving enough, and they want to know how they can get those people to do their part. “If those who don’t give anything would only give ‘$X’ more per week…” Sound familiar?
The point is this: if we have “leaders” in our parish, leaders who are helping to guide and direct the parish, shouldn’t these people be leading by example in terms of parish involvement and financial giving? Shouldn’t there be some level of accountability with regard to financial giving for those in the highest areas of parish leadership?
Over the years, it has been (or at least was) surprising to me to look at the annual giving of all the parishioners at a given parish and, in the same manner you would segment the parish by demographics, break out the different leadership groups to see how they stacked up in regards to their stewardship of treasure. All too often, the key leaders weren’t setting an example at all. And, many times, the households that the pastor would think were “good” givers weren’t even close.
Let me suggest this exercise. Since most might shudder at the thought of looking at the giving habits of specific leaders, ask the person responsible for your parish finances to give you an anonymous breakdown. No names, just the numbers of each member of your three key leadership groups (staff, pastoral council, and finance council) in regards to how much each household gave financially over the past 12 months. Then, compare these household giving numbers with what you think 5 percent of the average annual household income is for this group of leaders. The difference between these numbers in many instances is very likely to surprise you.
I hear over and over that “most parishioners” just don’t give enough money or don’t do their fair share. Well, if your parish leaders aren’t coming close to giving the percentage of income you’re recommending for the rest of the parish, then you probably need to start closer to home instead of wasting a lot of talk in leadership meetings regarding those parishioners who show up to Mass only every once in a while.