Stewardship sometimes gets confused with the word “fundraising.” But, the two are very different.
Stewardship is living a grateful and generous lifestyle in gratitude for all that God has given us. Fundraising is a very specific set of activities designed to support diocesan, parish or other Church-related organizations.
Stewardship is a way of life; fundraising is an activity to raise money.
Fundraising in the stewardship sense should:
• Strengthen relationships — our relationship with God and with each other;
• Be other-centered — help those in our local, national, and international communities;
• Not take the place of our weekly offertory/charitable giving;
fundraising should be “in addition” to and not “instead of” our weekly offertory/charitable giving;
One of the key concepts of stewardship is giving without expecting anything in return. This means giving should be:
• From our “first fruits” — giving our first and best of everything, not simply what we have “leftover”;
• Sacrificial — trusting that God will provide all that we need (not what we want);
• Proportionate to everything God has given us — those with more are called to give more;
• Nurturing and developing our gifts — generously giving with an increase, not just giving the minimum required;
Unfortunately, in some cases, parish “fundraisers” have taken on a self-centered (what’s in it for me) and consumerist (I pay for something, I receive something) mentality. Fund-raisers in this sense have no spiritual component and actually discourage discipleship/stewardship because people become cynical, experience donor fatigue, and feel like they are being manipulated. This is the opposite of a stewardship way of life — trust in God, joyful giving, transparency, and accountability.
If your parish is using fundraisers as a financial crutch with no spiritual component, it’s time to stop! If we are truly interested in moving our parish environment from maintenance to mission mode, we have to be intentional in formation of what it means to be a disciple and to be a good steward of everything we have been given. This includes talking about the spirituality of giving money and using our financial resources in a way that brings us closer to God and each other.
Each week at Sunday Mass, we receive the greatest gift of all — the Holy Eucharist. The translation for the word “Eucharist” is thanksgiving. When we give our weekly offertory, are we truly thankful for everything that we’ve been given? Or, is our weekly offertory just a financial transaction with God, and we expect something in return for our contribution?
Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen has a great perspective on giving, “Never measure generosity by what you give, but rather, by what you have left.”
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County. He can be reached at (314) 792-7215 or [email protected].