When I served as pastor of St. Francis here in Wichita, fall was always the time for renewal, and I am sure it is for many of you, as well. So, I wanted to take a moment to encourage you in your efforts.
I always thoroughly enjoyed this time of year as a pastor. Sure, it was a very busy time for us as a parish, but I found it to be spiritually refreshing, both for me and for my parishioners, as we reflected on all that God has given us, and re-committed ourselves to a life of discipleship through stewardship. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the multitude of tasks involved in the renewal and, in turn, to forget what it’s all about. But, I assure you, if you keep your focus on what it is all about – committing to be followers of Jesus Christ in your every day life – you will emerge as you should from the Renewal – renewed!
Over the years, many people have asked me how I did it at St. Francis, how I was successful in implementing stewardship, and how they can have a successful Stewardship Renewal. My answer is always the same. It is all Jesus.
I was not successful. Christ used me to be successful Himself. Rather, even more to the point, Christ used me to minister to His people and bring them closer to Him. And as a stewardship people, that is where our success lies.
Sure, as we carry out our Stewardship Renewals, we look to see how much our ministries have grown and how many people increase their gifts of treasure to the offertory, but those are only important insofar as they are helping our parishioners grow closer to Christ. It is our job – as pastors and lay leaders – to keep the focus on Jesus.
We aren’t in the business of “building ministries,” per se. We are in the “business” of helping people grow as disciples of Christ. Do that, and you can count yourself as successful.
All that being said, I would like to take a moment to address the importance of the Stewardship Renewal materials and the proper follow-up.
As I invited my parishioners to join me in living the stewardship way of life, I found it vital to have materials available for them that clearly spelled out the many ways they could get involved in the life of our parish. It was one of the biggest reasons that stewardship was so successful at St. Francis. The parishioners were invited to give of themselves as disciples of Christ and they were shown a multitude of ways in which they could do so, and then given the opportunity to make a written commitment.
What’s more, following up with those who have made written commitments and personally inviting them to participate is necessary also. Your parishioners need to know that their participation in the life of the parish is wanted and even needed. They need to be invited and then encouraged along the way.
Just remember as you do so, it is not about building the parish ministries or increasing the offertory for the sake of it. It is about bringing your parishioners closer to Christ, and encouraging them to give of themselves in His service.