When I was pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita, I tried something different and decided to ask the parishioners what their needs were. Once we found out their needs, I found volunteers to help fill those needs to capacity. After I left St. Francis, there were 76 ministries, and they all were all fulfilling a special need for the parishioners.
So often in the past, parishioners have been told what their needs were, whereas in reality, maybe what parishes give parishioners in terms of ministries have nothing to do with what parishioners really want.
As you may know, one of the main pillars of stewardship is hospitality. About 20 years ago, there was a survey taken by a group of sociologists led by the head sociologist at Catholic University at the time. He used five other sociology professors from around the country, and what they set out to do was conduct a survey of five denominations (including Catholics) to discover why they didn’t go to church on Sunday. The second question they hoped to answer was why these people choose not to support a church they attend.
Very interesting results revealed that the number one reason people don’t attend each Sunday is because they don’t feel welcomed. This is surprising because many argue that Catholics leave their faith due to Doctrine, not hospitality. The second reason that people left their church is because their needs were not being met.
This is why it is so important to discover the real needs of your parish community. Is it the elderly or the youth or couples who have the most need? The only way you can serve your parishioners is if you know what it is they need.
Editor’s note: The passing of our friend and longtime advisor Msgr. Thomas McGread in April was a tremendous loss to all who came to know him and work with him in developing stewardship as a way of life. But Msgr. McGread’s legacy will continue to live on through our work, through the Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference in Wichita, Kan., and through this blog. We are fortunate to have in our archives many of his writings and teachings. The Catholic Steward will continue to share these with our followers as we continue to live Msgr. McGread’s vision for stewardship and evangelization in the Church.