Every year, around Thanksgiving, we celebrate stewardship here at Nativity. Here’s the basic blueprint for what we do and why we do it.
What Is It?
Stewardship Weekend is an extended reflection and celebration of giving in our parish. Stewardship, when it comes to discipleship, also includes gifts of time and talent, but we talk about them at other times of the year so that, in this season, the focus on financial giving remains clear and strong.
We like to take the time immediately preceding Thanksgiving because it just seems to fit. It comes at the front end of the holiday season, before people get even busier, but after the rush of back-to-school. Thanksgiving is also a time for giving and that fits well with stewardship.
First off, while we do designate a specific “Stewardship Sunday” (this year it’s November 21) we actually refer to a whole stewardship season, typically extending over a 3-week period. My preaching the first two weekends of the season begins to plant the seeds of my Stewardship Sunday message. Our announcements all three weeks prominently feature information about giving.
The centerpiece of our stewardship program is a commitment to giving to Nativity in the coming year. This can take the form of filling out a paper or electronic commitment card which we design in-house. The card is available online throughout the season and in church at special stewardship tables we set up in our lobby. Hosts are available online and in the lobby to assist with filling out the cards and answering questions. On the second weekend of the season, we actively hand out the cards to parishioners as they are leaving church, with an encouragement to take them home, fill them out, and bring them back for Stewardship Sunday. On the final weekend, we take it a step further and actually hand the cards out in Mass, leaving time for people to fill them out in-pew. Though few people actually do, it sends a message of how much we value this exercise. We will have a brief follow-up announcement the following weekend.
What Else Is Involved?
For us, since we have the capacity: e-mail alerts to parishioners, “giving videos” describing what parishioners giving makes possible, video “testimony” of what giving has meant to current givers, and electronic acknowledgment of completed commitment cards.
What Is the Message?
Growing disciples give in their place of worship as an act of worship.
They do so remembering the 4 “P’s” of giving: planned, priority, percentage, progressive. First, disciples plan their giving to the parish, it’s not an after-thought, it’s not spare change in the collection basket. In their overall financial planning giving is a priority at, or at least near, the top of their list. Disciples give a percentage of their income, keeping in mind the biblical standard of the tithe (10%), while striving to progress toward that goal.
What our message is not: a plea for more money, a catalog of how much the parish needs more money, a nag out of need.
One other thing about stewardship season, and Stewardship Sunday itself: it should be a celebration, people should come out of it feeling good about their parish and enthusiastic for their support of the parish.