The Need for Lay Witnesses
An important part of stewardship education is the testimonies presented to the congregation by individuals whose lives have changed as a result of stewardship. These lay witnesses are necessary to the success of the parish effort. There are many reasons for this. Stewardship is a part of the internal change of heart or conversion process that we know so well from the Scriptures. The Old and the New Testaments are full of stories of real people who became aware of the need to put their faith into action.
Lay witnesses send a strong message to their fellow parishioners about giving of oneself and one's possessions and time in gratitude for what God has given them. People who hear that stewardship is working for other people are motivated to bring stewardship into their own lives. Christians throughout history have been raised to a new level of awareness by learning how a deeper sense of spirituality has taken over the lives of people just like them.
Selecting Lay Witnesses
The lay witnesses should be individuals from the parish who match the demographics of your parish. They should believe and practice stewardship - giving of their time, talent and treasure in an intentional, planned and sacrificial way. They should also be individuals who can relate well to other parishioners, feel comfortable speaking to a group about their personal experiences, and be enthusiastic about their mission.
A potential lay witness may say, "Yes, I believe in giving back to God in gratitude, but I don't want to stand up and tell everyone what I am doing because it sounds like I'm bragging about myself." The response to that person could be, "You are not bragging because you are unselfish in your giving. By sharing with us how you arrived at your decision for stewardship, you will be testifying about the Lord and reaching out and touching individuals like yourself."
Preparing for a Lay Witness
The lay witness needs to meet with the pastor about how to present the concept of stewardship and to discuss the pastor's expectations of the stewardship effort. It would also be helpful for them to read scriptural passages about stewardship. We also recommend that they read material about stewardship included in this manual.
Prepare your personal remarks so you are comfortable with them. Use your own style, wording and delivery. Write out your talk word-forword. If you feel comfortable with the approach, use notes or key words to guide you through the presentation so it is more natural.
The pastor, or a person designated by the pastor, should approve the lay witness talk in advance. Rehearse your talk aloud. It is preferred that you practice in the Church using the sound system. Be comfortable enough with your material so that you can look up from your notes and make eye contact. In a large church, remember to turn to the sides occasionally and include everyone.
Above all, be sincere, enthusiastic and friendly.
Lay Witness Talk - Time in Prayer, Talent and Treasure: Helpful Hints and Sample
When planning your talk:
- Introduce yourself.
- Be personal - share your testimony - your personal faith journey to stewardship and the deepened faith and joy that has resulted.
- Explain how stewardship means giving the first fruits, not the leftovers, e.g., when making your gift to the Church. ("First fruits" is a term from the Hebrew Scriptures, wherein the people brought the first share of their gifts, e.g., livestock, harvest, etc., to be shared with the community.) Returning the "first fruits" to God means placing the Church ahead of other interests.
- Include examples of how you balance your busy schedule - job, family and parish.
- Motivate people to become good stewards of time, talent and treasure, and show the many opportunities for this kind of stewardship that exist.
- Show people that their work, at home and/or in the office, is a genuine exercise of stewardship.
- Do not be afraid to share your failings as well as you accomplishments in managing your time.
- Challenge people to reflect on their values and the importance of the Catholic faith in their lives as evidenced by how they use their gifts from God. Question whether we really use these gifts to do the work of our Lord.
- Challenge them with practical questions. As they receive increases do they, in turn, increase their gift to the Lord? This increase enables the ministries to continue to grow.
- Stress the role of the commitment form and emphasize that its return is a sign of participation and commitment.
Include the following explanation in regard to completing the commitment form in your talk:
- Soon you will receive a commitment form in the mail. The commitment form will include opportunities for commitments of time in prayer (to pray and attend Mass regularly), service (volunteer your gift of talent), and financial giving to our parish.
- Everyone is important and everyone has something to give back to our parish and diocesan communities, whether it be visiting the sick or reading at Mass. [YOUR PARISH] belongs to you, and the growth and vitality of this parish depends on you. Don't limit your parish involvement to attendance at Sunday liturgy.
- Review the Parish Talent Opportunities portion on the back side of the commitment form and find your niche. Complete the gifts of Time in Prayer, Talent and Treasure portion of your commitment form and place it in the collection on Stewardship Commitment Weekend. Even if you are currently involved in a ministry, renew that commitment by completing the form.
- The commitment form is confidential and is not legally binding. What the commitment form will do is help our parish to plan for the future. The Parish understands you have multiple philanthropic priorities. When you decide on a percentage you intend to give, allow half of this for our parish and half for other charitable causes, such as the Annual Catholic Appeal.
- Please complete the form and return it in the offering. Thank you.