What is stewardship?
It's difficult to teach or practice stewardship, unless we have a clear understanding of exactly what stewardship is. If we wish to embrace stewardship, we must gradually learn to embrace every definition or aspect of stewardship.
- Scripture Based All of the teachings of stewardship come directly from the Gospels, the Old Testament and the letters of the New Testament. Stewardship is not a new fad, or environmental word. Stewardship is the way God has expected His people to live since the beginning of time.
- Dependence on God Stewardship is recognizing that everything we have is a gift from God. We can take credit for nothing. Everything we have and everything we do is a result of some gift that God has placed into our hands.
- Gratitude Stewardship is living a life of gratitude – taking the time every day to recognize the gifts that God has given and to be grateful for them.
- Giving Back Stewardship is returning a portion of our gifts to God. The gifts we return are our time, our talent and our treasure. We return these gifts not because God or our Church needs them but because we feel an overwhelming need to show our love and gratitude to God.
- Transformative Stewardship is transformative. Once we embrace the stewardship message it changes the way we look at every decision we make. Stewardship becomes a total way of life.
- A Love Response Once we allow God to truly take up residence in our hearts we become so overwhelmed by His abundant love for us that we just naturally feel the need to join our lives with Him and dedicate our time, talent and treasure to carrying out God’s work here on earth. Our generosity comes from within and not from any external pressure or reward.
- Proportionate Giving Stewardship calls us to realize that each of us is called to give as God has given to us. We no longer base our giving on what others are giving. We no longer excuse ourselves from giving because we do not see others giving. Rather we give in proportion to all that God has given to us.
- Prayer - Spending Time with God Stewardship involves spending time with God. Recognizing that every day is a gift from God, we strive to spend some of each day with God, through prayer, Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, scripture reading, quiet, meditation and other spiritual activities. During this time we ask God how He wants us to use the gifts He has given to us.
- Participation - Sharing Talent Stewardship involves sharing talent. Recognizing that God has given each individual unique skills and talents so that together we can do the work of Our Lord, we strive to share our own talents and to encourage and welcome others to also use their talents to participate in the mission and ministry of the Church.
- Generosity - Giving Treasure Stewardship involves giving treasure. Giving time and talent does not excuse us from giving treasure. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus challenged us to give as it has been given to us. Aware of our tremendous financial blessings, we strive to give generously to support the building up of God's kingdom. We recognize the 10% tithe as an important sacrificial goal Although this level of giving may not be immediately possible, we are aware of what percentage we are giving back. We regularly strive to increase our generosity, taking small incremental steps toward giving a full tithe.
- Trust in God Stewardship is trusting God. We believe that our generous God will always provide for us. None of us will ever have all that we want, but we will always have all that we need.
- Accountability Stewardship calls us to recognize that just as in the Parable of the Talents, each of us will someday be asked by God to give an accounting of all that we have done with the gifts that have been given to us. Likewise, parish communities that embrace stewardship must be accountable to the community for the way in which the parish uses the gifts entrusted to it.
- Thankfulness Stewardship calls us to be ever grateful for the gifts that God has given. Not only are we called to be grateful to God, but we also must be grateful to one another. Just as we thank God every day, a stewardship parish must also show gratitude, recognition and appreciation to those who have given generously to the support of the parish.
- Counter-Cultural Stewardship is counter-cultural. While society encourages us to continually strive for more and more, stewardship helps us to recognize that we already have more than enough. In fact, we have enough to share.
- Discipleship Stewardship is discipleship. We strive to put God first in all things and to follow where Our Lord might lead.
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.