1. Leadership Formation: If you are working to develop the spirituality of stewardship more fully into your parish, it is imperative for the parish staff, pastoral council, and finance council to undergo some serious formation. This is of utmost importance for your current and future success.
2. Parish Planning. Don’t spend three years coming up with the perfect three-to-five year strategic plan, only to then need to start developing another plan that applies at that point. Come up with what you plan to accomplish in regards to developing stewardship throughout the parish for this year, and map out who is responsible for what and when it will be completed. Keep it simple. Too often, parishes spend months and years on planning and never get around to accomplishing much of anything.
3. Ongoing Stewardship Education. Stewardship can’t be of utmost importance once a year when asking for annual commitments during the annual stewardship renewal. Stewardship education needs to take place year-round. A monthly parish newsletter with stewardship education articles and stories showing stewardship in action in your parish are invaluable. Incorporating stewardship into homilies on a regular basis is key. This blog has free resources for priests and deacons in preparing their homilies based on the Scripture readings each week. Use the bulletin for stewardship education, and don’t just have parish offertory numbers and one quote from scripture under the heading of stewardship. Parish-wide retreats need to take place each year with a focus on stewardship and its connection to living our life as a disciple of Christ.
4. Annual Stewardship Renewals. Time, talent and treasure. These need to be done every year. In the area of time, focus on personal prayer, family prayer, reception of the Sacraments, etc. In the area of talent, focus on making new and renewed commitments to ministry. Make sure you break out these two groups so you can put a huge emphasis on contacting and welcoming parishioners who have made new commitments. Treasure is obviously the parish offertory.
5. Follow-up to Ministry Commitments. This is critical. If you don’t have a good follow-up plan in place, then you shouldn’t ask parishioners to make new commitments to ministries. And, don’t assume that every ministry is going to do what they should in this area. Follow-up on the follow-up.
6. Parish Survey. Assess parishioners’ needs by asking them what their needs are. Don’t assume you already know based on the feedback from a small group, even if that group is the parish council or parish staff.
7. Pastoral Influence. The pastor can’t “make” stewardship happen, but he can block real stewardship development in a parish. I have seen a pastor stunt or end the growth of stewardship in a parish by actually telling parishioners that stewardship really is just about money. I’ve seen pastors fail at stewardship by shortcutting the process of getting regular parishioners involved in ministry leadership roles and having the parish staff act in this capacity. And I’ve seen pastors who want to make all the decisions themselves or referring to stewardship as a program and seeing their stewardship efforts fall short. That said, the pastor is key in the development of a stewardship parish. His example is even more important than anything he says from the pulpit.
8. Web Application. We’re about to launch a new web application that we’ve already started using with our client parishes. It’s going to take following-up with parishioners during the stewardship renewal to a whole new level. It will also utilize social media to enable your parish ministries to better communicate, collaborate, and be more effective. There is much more you will be able to see once the app goes live in the near future. Click the following link www.StewardshipPro.com, and if you register, we’ll keep you updated and let you know when it’s launched.
9. Stewardship Is Not. Stewardship is not about the parish’s need to “get” because we have certain needs in our parish, no matter how important those needs seem to be. All too often, this is the driving force behind a parish’s stewardship efforts. Even when it is not the driving force it’s very easy to let that creep into various communications to parishioners when the parish needs something, even at a veteran stewardship parish.
10. Stewardship Is. Stewardship is about our need, as individuals, to return a portion of the gifts God has blessed us with in thanksgiving and gratitude for these blessings. It’s a response that is ultimately going to help us to develop more faith in God and more trust that He will take care of us. Placing more faith and trust where we should helps us to grow closer to God and deepen our relationship with Him. This helps in our personal, ongoing conversion and is what can then transform the life of a parish.