Why do we need to teach stewardship in our parishes?
Every parish decides to embark upon the stewardship journey for a different reason. Yet, basically, all of the reasons fall into one of five categories. These are:
- It is what God calls us to do.
- It is what built our Church.
- It increases parishioners’ generosity to the parish.
- It increases participation and vitality in parish ministries.
- It enriches parishioners’ prayer lives, faith and spirituality.
Here is a closer look at each of these reasons.
God calls us to stewardship
Throughout sacred scripture God calls us to be a giving people. The concepts of giving God our “first fruits” and of tithing a fair percent were first mentioned in the Old Testament. About half of Our Lord’s parables address the proper use of our recourses and Jesus talks about money five times more than He talks about prayer. Generous giving is fundamental to our faith tradition. Any parish that truly wants to follow the teachings of Our Lord must teach and embrace stewardship. As the US Catholic Bishops' write in their Pastoral Letter on Stewardship, Stewardship: A Disciple's Response, "Once one chooses to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, stewardship is not an option."
Stewardship built our Church
From the awe-inspiring European basilicas to the smallest rural churches in our own country, all of the churches, schools, hospitals and other Catholic agencies which we take for granted today have been built by previous generations giving generously of their time, talents and treasure. Auctions, raffles and golf tournaments did not build up the Church and they cannot maintain it. The Church today was built up because our ancestors in faith understood their responsibility to support the establishment of God's kingdom here on earth. They made God a priority in their lives and they generously shared no matter how much or how little they had.
Good stewards are generous
Once parishioners begin to understand the concepts of stewardship and to realize that God calls them to share a fair percent of their financial blessings, parishes often see an increase in giving. Depending on the demographics and financial situation within the parish, a parish may see a 10-20% increase in giving when parishioners are asked to make a stewardship commitment. Over time, parishes that regularly teach and practice stewardship tend to have 5% greater giving than parishes that ignore this important spiritual teaching.
Stewardship increases participation and vitality in parish ministries
Without a stewardship perspective, many parishes find themselves using all of their time and talent to raise treasure. Instead of doing ministry to the poor, the needy or the spiritually hungry, parishes just do endless fundraising. In contrast, when a parish embraces stewardship, parishioners are invited to share their unique talents in many different forms of ministry. Parishes often see new forms of ministry develop when parishioners are asked to prayerfully discern what special skills and talents God might be calling them to share with their parish community.
Stewardship enriches prayer life, faith and spirituality
Ultimately, before we give any time to any other activity, stewardship calls us to give time to God. Those who hear and understand that message begin to spend more time in Mass attendance, Eucharistic adoration, scripture reflection, private prayer and faith enrichment activities. If we are not spending time with God, we may be good volunteers or good donors, but we are not good stewards. We are not doing what God asks us to do because we have not taken the time to be with Him and ask for His guidance. By establishing a closer relationship with God, parishioners are able to truly change their lives. As they grow closer to God, they can more clearly hear how God is calling them to give more fully of their time, their talent and their treasure. They give out of deep love for God and find joy in that giving.