Parish Stewardship: Planning and Preparation
Vibrant parishes have a shared vision and goals that support that vision.
Role of the Pastor
Critical to the success of a parish stewardship effort is the visual and real commitment of the Pastor to Stewardship as a way of living in his own life and for those of his parish. This commitment should be expressed in the following ways:
- Personal formation to gain a better understanding of the concept of Christian stewardship as an important element to our call to discipleship.
- Commissioning and formation of the Parish Stewardship Committee. Insuring the Stewardship Committee is represented on the Parish Council.
- Attendance at the Parish Stewardship Committee Meetings.
- Serving as the chief spokesperson for stewardship in the parish - including during awareness weekend to introduce the stewardship effort, as well as during commitment weekend to invite parishioner's participation.
Role of the Parish Stewardship Committee
An active, practicing Stewardship Committee is critical to a parish for the ongoing education and commitment of parishioners to the stewardship of time, talent, and treasure.
Forming a Stewardship Committee
Ideally, the Stewardship Committee functions as a freestanding committee having the general responsibility for stewardship formation and the annual renewal of stewardship. The Stewardship Committee functions best when it is not under the auspices of the Finance Council, as that group tends to focus on the financial needs of the Church rather than an individual’s need to give. It also tends to favor treasure over giving equal emphasis to time, talent and treasure.
The committee should consist of five or more members, depending on the size of the parish.
Members of a Stewardship Committee
When recruiting parishioners to serve on a Stewardship Committee, look for people who:
Are spiritually motivated
It is important that members be people of prayer who are concerned about parishioners' relationship with God, not solely about the needs of the Church. Look also for people who are "Eucharistic," who have a deep relationship with Jesus, are grateful for that relationship and act out that gratitude.
Exemplify and live out stewardship
Look for members who are already personally committed to stewardship as a way of living. They may not call it stewardship but they live it. Those committed to stewardship already give their time in various parish and community activities. They will also be regular and generous givers to the offertory collection, the Annual Catholic Appeal and other community organizations.
Envision where stewardship can take the parish
It is important that members of a Stewardship Committee are formed in stewardship and are willing to learn as much as they can to be able to convey the message to fellow parishioners. Initially, some may see stewardship only as giving money. Others may see stewardship only as recycling paper or volunteering time to Church organizations. Developing a working definition of stewardship which references the U.S. Bisops' Pastoral on Stewardship, yet is particular and personal to the parish, will be part of the committee's challenge. It will help consolidate the diverse viewpoints of the committee.
- Are comfortable talking about money and its relationship to our faith.
Responsibilities of a Stewardship Committee
Renew the stewardship process on an annual basis.
This "process" usually runs four weekends every year. The first three weekends are "awareness weekends" and include: a homily by the pastor on stewardship; an accountability/stewardship report provided by a lay person on the ministries made possible by the parishioners support; a personal testimony (lay witness) on how stewardship is lived out in their life or lives.
The final weekend would always be a Stewardship Commitment Weekend, where parishioners, along with the pastor, would bring their commitment forms of time, talent and treasure to Mass and place them in the offertory.
Typically, annual communication activities include: a mailing containing information on stewardship sent to each household in the parish; General Intercessions; Mass announcements; and messages in the bulletin and on the website.
Recruit individuals and/or couples to share their personal testimonies about stewardship with the parishioners.
The lay witness testimonies are probably the most educational and motivational part of the stewardship process. This is the most personal and inspiring method of communicating the joy found in the returning of God's gifts.
The lay witnesses should be individuals who believe and practice stewardship - those who give of their time, talent and treasure from a thankful heart.
Prepare and regularly update a time and talent list or catalog of parish activities and organizations.
A time and talent list or catalog gives parishioners the chance to connect with opportunities available in the parish. They may range from altar server to youth group counselor. Some parishes develop an actual catalog which describes each group. Other parishes may simply list each ministry. While the emphasis is on existing groups or activities, it is recommended to include one-time volunteer opportunities, as well (e.g., crab feed cleanup crew).
Ensure that those who respond are contacted and invited to become involved.
It is important that the Stewardship Committee work with the appropriate parish ministries to ensure that those who commit their time and talent are personally invited to become involved. This activity of the committee is its most challenging and ongoing task. It takes planning before the stewardship commitment process and follow-up afterwards to make sure people are connected to the ministry to which they have committed. If people just have their names on a list without personal contact, they will not respond to future stewardship renewals. They may also start to believe that all the parish wanted was their money.
Evaluate parish stewardship and communication.
The stewardship process in the parish needs to be evaluated annually. Review comments, criticisms and questions received with commitment forms. Evaluate the written materials used throughout the year - letters, Reflection Guides, bulletin announcements, newsletters, articles, etc. Discuss the verbal presentations. For example, are the homilies and lay witness testimonies getting across the message we want expressed? What more could we be doing to get stewardship information out to people? What kind of results are we getting from the stewardship process?
Enhance parish hospitality.
Work with the appropriate parish ministries to help enhance the process for welcoming new parishioners. Be sure to include a discussion of, and materials about, stewardship in the presentation and/or the packet. In addition, review the current state of how the parish welcomes and demonstrates gratitude for all members of the community during Mass and all parish functions.
Establish parish goals.
Vibrant parishes have a shared vision and goals that support that 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 parish. The parish and its ministries also need to report on the progress made toward reaching their goals.
Develop a Parish Stewardship Accountability Report.
The purpose of this report is to help parishioners understand the priorities, goals and accomplishments of their parish. Key themes for this report include: thanking, informing and inviting participation.
Publicize stewardship reflections throughout the year in the weekly parish bulletin and General Intercession.
It is easy to remind people about stewardship on a regular basis. Reflections in the bulletin can include Scripture quotes from the Old and New Testaments. You may also find a few sentences from books, magazines and newspapers, or you may jot down ideas that you think of as you go about your stewardship work in your parish. The committee can develop General Intercessions with a stewardship message that can be prayed every other week throughout the year.
Publicize stewardship reflections on the parish website.
Stewardship reflections could include profiles of individuals or couples in the parish who are examples of good stewards, questions and answers on stewardship, thoughts or commentaries on stewardship. You may also want to consider producing a special web page that focuses only on your stewardship.
Incorporate comments about stewardship in Sunday homilies.
The Parish Stewardship Committee could suggest that the priest(s) incorporate comments about stewardship in Sunday homilies on a monthly basis. In looking at the three-year cycle of Gospel readings, there is at least one Gospel with a stewardship related message, in whole or in part, for all 36 months. In some instances, the whole homily could be on stewardship. In others, a few sentences can be incorporated into the context of the entire homily.
Expand your focus beyond the parish.
Invite the parish as whole and individual parishioners to consider the needs facing others in our local communities, our diocese, and the universal Church.
Parish Materials and Print/Mail Services
Excellent communications are essential to a successful parish stewardship effort. This can be accomplished by providing your parishioners with informative, personalized, visually appealing and easy to understand communications. Download your parish materials here.
To assist parishes with their printing and mailing needs, the Office of Stewardship and Development has arranged with a few local printers/mail houses to provide your parish with your printing and mailing services. Your parish would contract directly with the printer. Services offered will include:
- Data Preparation: Updating your household data and preparing for mailing - sorting by zip code; proper salutations.
- Personalization, customization and printing of all parish print materials: Your letter from the pastor and commitment forms will be customized to your parish and personalized to your parish households.
- Prepare and send mailing: The printer/mail house will prepare and send the personalized and customized mailing (letter from pastor, Reflection Guide, commitment form and reply envelope) to each household. Posters and prayer cards will be sent directly to the parish.
Steps for parish material and data preparation
- Selection of Reflection Guide for parish mailing
- Selection of parish time and talent ministries
- Determination of plan for printing and mailing - selection of printer/mail house
- Selection and recruitment of lay witness presenters
- Selection and recruitment of lay witness presenters
- Preparation of time and talent catalog
- Customization of Mass announcements, General Intercessions and bulletin reflections
- Preparation of Parish Stewardship Accountability Report
- Coordination of Parish Ministry Volunteers