Most parishes are experiencing a financial shortfall and hard economic times right now. Many parishioners are losing their jobs, and others are worried that they will
, while others are afraid that their retirement income may lose its value. So, some parish offertories are feeling a dramatic drop. Still, the parish needs money to pay its bills, but this is a tricky thing to talk about. As soon as you start talking about money with your parishioners, many of them shut down. They don’t want to hear it. And more often than not, they don’t want to give.
I know the scenario all too well. I’ve been there. At each of the parishes I pastored, and even the ones where I served as an assistant pastor, I saw this play out. The pastor mentioned money, and many of the people turned their ears off. And I am sure that they do so even more these days in the midst of this economic crisis. For many, the idea of giving their money away when they have their own bills to pay can be painful.
So, how do you get your parishioners to give more generously?
I’ve seen pastors run fundraising and letter-writing campaigns in a drive to quickly bulk up their finances. While these types of efforts have been successful in garnering funds for the time being, I have never seen them pay dividends in the long run.
It has been my experience that fundraisers get the people fired up to give to the need, and then, when that immediate particular need seems to be taken care of, the giving ceases.
So, again, what do you do? How do you get your parishioners to become more generous and give for the right reasons in an on-going way?
The answer is stewardship.
Truth be told, it’s not about the money. It is much deeper than that. We need to help our parishioners understand that everything they have – their time, their talents, AND their financial resources – come by way of gift from the Lord. We need to challenge them to become better disciples of Christ, without whom we would all be nothing, and to put their trust in Him rather than their jobs or their savings accounts.
Jesus called the first disciples to “drop their nets” and follow Him, to put Him before all else, even their families and their careers, and to put themselves at the service of the gospel, becoming “fishers of men.” Likewise, He calls us today to give our time, our talents, and our treasure, in essence, to give our whole selves to the service of the gospel and the building of the Church. It is a radical calling, and answering this call can be scary. There are sure to be challenges along the way. But that’s what it means to be a Christian disciple – to recognize that all good things come by way of gift from God and to use them in His service. And I can promise you that, while it may be greatly challenging, living the life a Christian disciple — the stewardship way of life — and calling your parishioners to join you on the journey will be richly rewarding. You will see a change in your heart and in theirs, as well, and then you will see a change in your parish life – in your parishioners’ commitment. They will surely give of themselves – of their time, their talent AND their treasure. The more committed people are, the more they give.
It may not happen immediately, and you are sure to run into some people who are leery of such a radical way of life, but I can promise you that if you choose to live the stewardship way of life in an effort to follow Christ unreservedly, your parish will be a changed place – participation and finances will increase because your parishioners will desire to give back to God what He has so generously given to them.
So, even though times are hard and your work as pastors is undoubtedly stressful these days, I challenge you to make a deeper commitment to stewardship. Your lives will never be the same!