As we approach Thanksgiving many parishes undertake their annual stewardship campaign, to invite giving to the parish in the coming year. It’s a good time of year to do it, ahead of the holidays, but close enough to the new year. And it has to be done, as even the most disciplined and dedicated givers can become distracted in their support.
Our program is a three-week effort that unfolds according to a reliable template. Take a look.
Our Stewardship program starts with an announcement from the Altar at the beginning of Mass laying out the whole effort and what is coming. The first week we also make our Stewardship commitment cards available at an information table in the lobby, staffed with members of our Financial Council. They are on hand to answer questions about parish finances, and assist with the completion of the card. This table remains in place and staffed each of the three weeks.
In the second week we send out a mailer to givers. The mailer includes a letter from me detailing some of our accomplishments in the past year made possible by their giving. The letter also looks ahead to projects and programs in the new year. A commitment card and return envelope are also included.
Again, on this second weekend we make another announcement explaining exactly what to expect on Stewardship Weekend. We invite parishioners to take a card (from our host ministers as they leave Mass) and take the card home to pray and reflect on it, then fill it out before coming to church the following week.
Mass begins with a kind of disclaimer, usually something like this:
As previously announced, this is Stewardship Sunday, the one weekend of the year when we talk about giving to the parish. From time to time every family has to attend to family business. If you are a visitor, please understand that for us, today is that time. Please join us again next week for an inspiriting message just for you.
The Stewardship message is the weekend homily, and always includes some discussion of Biblical principles for giving (as in, “giving in your place of worship as an act of worship” and the standard of the tithe). Typically, we offer some testimony from parishioners, in recent years via video, sharing what the parish means to them. And following the message we now distribute commitment cards in pew, leaving some quiet time to reflect on the message and fill out the cards, which we collect at the Offertory. Following Mass, we always include some fun feature, like ice cream or cupcakes as our gift to everyone.
Stewardship Sunday is also the day when we hold our annual “Parish Business Meeting.” This is open to anyone who wants to attend and is scheduled to immediately follow our last weekend Mass. Our CFO Brandon, makes a brief presentation regarding income and expenses for the previous year as well as an overview of the current year’s budget. Then, he opens the meeting up to questions, which he and members of the Financial Council field. I do not attend the meeting, on the theory that my presence might inhibit dialogue.
But here is the important point: it matters not in the least how many people attend the meeting. It matters greatly that the meeting is held, as a sign of our transparency, and everyone knows they can attend, if they want to. Lack of attendance can actually be a sign of trust on the part of the parishioners when it comes to our stewardship of parish finances.
Take some time to consider your approach to a stewardship program this fall or winter. Getting it right can have a huge impact on your parish’s mission and ministry in the coming year.