This time of year brings our annual celebration of Stewardship Sunday when we talk about our stewardship of our local parish church, our investment in this part of Christ’s kingdom movement, here in Timonium, Maryland.
Here are 8 things we do that have helped make our stewardship appeals quite successful in recent years:
#1. We do this once a year…and only once. Otherwise we never talk about giving (we talk about money all the time, because Jesus did, but we don’t talk about giving to the Church). That is a promise we make to our congregation and a discipline we maintain for ourselves.
When the time comes, we approach the entire effort in prayer, beginning with the staff. And, all parish staff and leadership must make their commitment to stewardship first, before we ask anyone for anything.
#2. In approaching our message we do not dwell on our need for money (though we gently remind everyone of our expenses, given how convenient it is to forget). Instead we talk about parishioners need to give.
#3. We challenge everyone to make giving a priority in their living and make giving to Nativity a priority in their giving. We talk about giving in our place of worship as an act of worship. A lot of Catholics play games with giving, making excuses as to why they don’t give in their usual place of worship. There are no excuses, God has commanded us appear before him empty handed (Exodus 23.15).
#4. To make it a priority we need a plan. We use “commitment” cards distributed before Mass, which parishioners fill out during the offertory indicating their commitment for the coming year. The card is the plan and they’re collected near the Altar as a sign of their importance and their relationship to worship.
#5. Whatever people are giving, we encourage them to take their next step. If someone is a member or a regular and isn’t giving anything we invite them to begin giving something. If someone is only giving as an afterthought or on impulse, we challenge them to pick a number and give that instead. If someone has only been coasting in their commitment, we ask them to consider the percentage at which they’re giving. Percentage givers are gently invited to increase their percentage. The Bible consistently commands the “tithe” or ten percent offering, but frankly we think the important part when it comes to raising givers is not the “10” part but the “percentage” part. If you can convince people to become percentage givers they will eventually grow as givers. And whatever you’re giving, we want everyone to give electronically.
#6. As part of this celebration we host our annual business meeting. wherein members of our Financial Council present our financials, including budgets, income and expenses. We do not do this in church because it is boring and confusing to most people and a waste of a Sunday. Doing it separately, for the people that care makes for a better, more complete presentation that can go into the kind of detail that attendees probably want. That the vast majority of the parish does not attend is, in fact, a sign of church health. They’re basically saying “we trust you.”
#7. We have fun with Stewardship Sunday too. This year we have some very funny features that will definitely send people out with a smile. We want them to feel good about their parish and their investment here.
#8. And beyond all the other messages we need to communicate to our givers, there is this message: we say thank you.