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STEWARDSHIP | Share the good news

Parishes and parishioners should be ready to give witness to the breadth and scope of parish ministry and outreach

Whether at the smallest parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis (St. Catherine of Alexandria in Coffman — 29 families), the largest parish (St. Joseph in Cottleville — 5,325 families) or somewhere in between, good works occur at all parishes on a daily basis. But too many parishioners aren’t aware of the breadth and scope of their parish ministry and community outreach.

What if they were?

Think about when you have heard a fellow parishioner give witness about how the stewardship of their gifts has transformed their life. It’s usually powerful, inspiring and encouraging.

What if we expanded this concept to the parish level? What if we told our parish community about all the good works that occur and we did it on a regular basis — perhaps monthly? This would have the power to transform not only individual lives, but the vibrancy of the entire parish and community.

Imagine if pastors, priests, parish staff and ministry leaders routinely shared with parishioners highlights of activities for the previous month and publicly thanked parishioners for their generosity of prayer, ministry participation and financial support.

It might appear something like this:

“Thank you for your continued generosity of prayer, ministry participation and financial support. Last month 1,050 people celebrated Mass each Sunday, 135 people celebrated weekday Mass, 75 people participated in Eucharistic Adoration, 45 people prayed the Rosary each week and 20 people took Holy Communion to homebound parishioners. Eighty-five men and women participated in our weekly Bible study and prayer group, 37 families were provided food and 13 families received rent and utility assistance. We have 30 young adults active in our weekly Life Teen ministry, 245 children attend the parish grade school each week and 138 children attend the Parish School of Religion. During basketball season, we host games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons welcoming almost 225 visitors to our parish each weekend. Each month more than 450 parishioners take part in one of the 42 parish ministries. Additionally, we had 10 youth and five adults participate in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. Finally, 775 parishioners contributed to the weekly offertory and averaged $13,942 of giving each week — slightly less than the $14,100 weekly budget. Thirty percent of our parishioners use the electronic offertory system. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing all your gifts! Your active engagement truly keeps our parish Alive in Christ!”

Too many parishioners don’t have any idea how many lives are touched and impacted by their parish each month. If parishioners are not receiving this information on a regular basis, they should ask for it. This is part of the good news we should be sharing with family, friends, and neighbors inside and outside of our parishes.

We hear about the big marketing budgets of companies. The company I used to work for had an annual marketing budget of more than $1 billion. But, the best marketing is still word of mouth because when someone we trust tells us something good or bad about a product or service, we believe them.

We should strive for word-of-mouth marketing in our parishes. We want our fellow parishioners to joyfully share the good news. Providing monthly updates on parish prayer life, parish ministry and generous giving will do just that, and you don’t need a big marketing budget to do it.

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.

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