People often ask, “What is a stewardship parish?” The answers to that question can be varied and subject to endless debate. The following represents eight key areas where parishes need to ask themselves how they are doing.
Prayer: The authentic steward must be rooted in the sanctifying presence of Christ through prayer and sacraments that give spiritual nourishment and a bond of unity. The steward needs to be sustained, above all, with prayer and constant contact with the Christian community.
Hospitality: Parishes need to warmly welcome all members and all visitors. Everyone has something to contribute. Everyone is needed. Communities known for their hospitality to all members and to all visitors, for the vitality of their faith, and for the depth of their service to people in need invariably inspire others to participate in ministry and to be generous in financial support.
Accountability: Consistent accountability is fundamental to good stewardship. Parish stewardship efforts require a visible commitment to accountability for the full range of parish activities – from the way decisions are made and carried out by parish personnel to the way resources are collected, managed, and used to change lives.
Outreach: The parish as a whole needs to set aside a portion of its resources (both financial and human) to serve persons in need in the parish, the community, the diocese, and the Universal Church by creating opportunities for human interaction.
Lay Witnesses: A key ingredient is the personal witness of lay individuals who have experienced a change of heart as a result of their commitment to stewardship. Personal witness is essential to building a solid foundation for parish stewardship.
Goal Setting/Planning: Vibrant parishes have a shared vision and goals that support the vision. Goals should be set for all ministries. They should be challenging yet realistic and, when possible, measurable. It is important to note that goals should be communicated clearly to the people of the parish. The parish also needs to report on the progress made toward reaching the various goals.
Re-commitment and Renewal: Stewardship is expressed not in a single process, but in a constant reminder and invitation to commit one’s very self to the Lord. Annual re-commitments help to transform individual lives and the life of the parish.
Stewardship Committee: Parishes need a systematic way of infusing the theology and practice of stewardship into the life of the parish – identifying opportunities for members of the parish to share their time, talent, treasure, and prayer and to establish an ongoing process to recruit, recognize, form, retain, and thank volunteers in all parish ministries.
While this certainly is not an exhaustive list, these eight characteristics all are vital for any parish looking to take a holistic approach to developing stewardship as a way of life. If you and your parish are looking to take the next step toward becoming a stewardship parish, assessing where you stand in each of these eight areas is a great place to start.