We usually say that “Kick-Off” weekend is the best weekend of the year, but “Stewardship” Weekend is a close second. That’s right, one of our staff’s (and our parishioner’s) favorite weekends of the year is the weekend when we ask for money.
This coming weekend is Stewardship Weekend, the only weekend of the year that we ask our parishioners to evaluate their giving to the parish and commit to a plan for the year ahead.
Here are a few things about stewardship weekends that we’ve learned along the way:
1) Exercise discipline throughout the year.
Hosting a successful “Stewardship Sunday” is tied to the discipline you exercise all year long. Asking for money too often can cause your parishioners to tune out or turn off your message altogether. We host no fundraisers, have no second or special collections, and never sell anything in our lobby. This discipline ensures that our congregation is open to the message when we preach it once and only once a year.
2) Prepare your congregation ahead of time.
When people don’t know an “ask” is coming, they may feel cornered. This discomfort, in turn, leads them to inaction or reluctant commitment.
So that no one is surprised or blindsided, we give plenty of advanced notice that Stewardship Sunday is coming. We actually distribute commitment cards in the weeks leading up to the stewardship weekend to encourage people to take them home and pray about their gift. It’s also beneficial to let your parishioners know that it’s not the best weekend to invite guests.
3) Only ask for money.
When we first started celebrating stewardship weekend, we would also invite people to think about gifts of “time and talent.” In other words, volunteering in ministry. Our stewardship cards even had a place where you could indicate that you were interested in volunteering. It turned out to be a mistake. Many more people were willing to make a commitment to the broad idea of service, than to a specific financial commitment. Typically, their service commitment often went unfilled too. On the other hand, we’ve found that if we can get people to give, it’s easy to get them to serve. They want to serve where they have a financial investment.
4) Make it fun.
Asking for money (and being asked for money) can be uncomfortable. Pastors dread this weekend and parishioners try to avoid it altogether. To bring down our parishioner’s natural defenses, we try to make stewardship weekend a celebration. We always include humor in the homily, because when you get people smiling, they relax. At the end of Mass, we usually include some kind of fun element like a video. Food can also help people relax so we also like to have some treat or snack to give away after Mass.
If you’re looking for even more best practices that we’ve learned over the years to make your Stewardship Weekend the best yet, check out our new book Churchmoney. It even contains a few example homilies from our Stewardship weekends that you can learn from (or steal from). It’s available for purchase at Amazon and Ave Maria Press.