Building a Stewardship team: Not another Committee?!
There is some truth in the observation that “God so loved the world that he sent His Only Son ‐ He did not send a committee.” Although, it can be argued that the first thing His Only Son did was to form a committee (The Twelve Apostles). The Apostles were a vital part of the success of the mission of Jesus Christ. Despite their doubts and denial of Jesus, they were the first to eventually believe in Him and to try to imitate Him. They accepted the responsibility of being good stewards of His mission and His message. Catholic faithful today can do no less.
A parish stewardship committee often functions within or under the Parish Pastoral Council with the general responsibility for stewardship awareness and the annual stewardship program or activities. The committee could consist of five or more members, less with a smaller parish or mission. A smaller parish or mission may even need to add stewardship responsibilities to an existing committee or council. Members could be appointed to serve three years. Always select both a chairperson and vice‐ chairperson to insure the presence of qualified, experienced leadership.
Role of the pastor: If the Pastor does not build the Committee, it is built in vain.
The involvement and example of the pastor is essential to the success of any initiative in a parish. A parish stewardship committee or team is no exception. The pastor is the initiator, leader, cheerleader, teacher, promoter, mentor, protector, and linchpin of a stewardship committee. A stewardship committee can help a pastor be more effective in fulfilling his role as leader, teacher and sanctifier. A well formed and properly directed stewardship committee can be a real asset to the pastor, the parish pastoral council and staff of the parish.
Building a foundation with the Four Pillars of Christian Stewardship
Jesus Christ teaches that whenever we welcome one of the least of our sisters and brothers, we welcome Christ Himself.
“When I was a stranger, you welcomed me.” (Mt. 25:35). Jesus Christ teaches that whenever we welcome one of the least of our sisters and brothers, we welcome Christ Himself. Parishioners of a stewardship parish seek to see the face of Christ in one another. With special vigilance, parishioners must seek out and welcome new members to the parish family. A stewardship parish is a welcoming parish regardless of the parish demographics: large or small – urban, suburban or rural.
We are all prodigal children longing to be welcomed home. In a hospitable parish, parishioners and guests feel they belong and are appreciated. This is especially true if they were ever absent from the church. Hospitality leads to a sense of ownership among parishioners. This ownership and personal involvement fosters a sense of “belonging.” When parishioners experience a warm and sincere welcome, they in turn become open to give themselves to others. God is love. God gives His love to each one of us. As God loves us, He calls us to love one another. This Divine Love flows through the heart of the faithful steward to love others. When we are recipients of such love from others, we are attracted to follow this example. When others welcome us, we are open to welcoming others. This desire to welcome others is yet another gift of God. The most vibrant stewardship parishes are those in which parishioners know they are welcomed, which fosters a sense of ownership and personal involvement in lived stewardship to the parish family.
A stewardship parish strives to nourish the soul through prayer. “Prayer is as necessary to our souls as food is to our bodies.”
A stewardship parish strives to nourish the soul through prayer. “Prayer is as necessary to our souls as food is to our bodies.” (Characteristics of a Christian Steward). Prayer and the sacraments dispose a soul to receive God’s abundant graces, which are necessary to grow in holiness. It is through prayer that we nurture our personal relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
While parishioners find great fulfillment in giving themselves to parish life, prayer purifies and intensifies the intention of the steward. Prayer increases our yearning to receive the source and summit of our Catholic faith, the Eucharist. As a parish family, we gather together to worship and praise God in the Mass. Nourished by the Word of God and the Eucharist, we are strengthened as a parish family to go and to serve the Lord. Stewardship is a lived response of the disciple to follow this command.
There is a deep connection between the Eucharistic celebration and stewardship. In one of the prefaces of the Eucharistic prayers it says, “Lord, our desire to thank you is itself your gift.” The Third Eucharistic Prayer states, “All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit… And so, Father, we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit, that they may become the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose command we celebrate this Eucharist.”
All we are and seek to become is strengthened and becomes more perfect through the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist where we again recognize our total dependence upon God for everything. All that is good is a gift from Him. It is not that we have loved Him, but that He first has loved us by giving His Son.
In both our personal and communal prayer, we turn toward God to discern properly our talents and gifts. In a steward’s response, we place those gifts at the service of God and one another. At the heart of the steward’s prayer is the petition, “Thy Will be done.”
As the steward grows in the life of prayer, God reveals Himself more intimately in this personal relationship.
As the steward grows in the life of prayer, God reveals Himself more intimately in this personal relationship. The steward also sees that the gifts received from God are to be shared and not buried. The steward remains deeply rooted in humility, recognizing that the gifts one has been given come not from self, but from God. Those gifts are to be shared with others. Here lies the heart of the steward’s personal response as a disciple – to share what one has received and to share with a generous, grateful and loving heart.
This formation of each individual becomes part of the formation of the parish community. As members of the Body of Christ, the parish recognizes that it has a call from God to give. Inherent within each individual is the need to give – to move from selfishness to selflessness. This formation is a life-long journey of conversion. The stewardship parish journeys constantly in this formation of conversion As one grows more deeply in this formation to a life of stewardship, the more deeply one loves as God loves us. This is true for the individual steward and for the stewardship parish.
Such formation is a formidable task, involving education of the mind and conversion of the heart. To know the “stewardship way of life”, does not make one live a “stewardship way of life.” Formation includes quality education, but the knowledge itself is not enough. Ongoing Catholic education, (for children and adults), is important if we are to grow in our lives as stewards. This formation should include a proper knowledge and understanding of stewardship since it is a primary means to lead the faithful to holiness. Catholic schools, Parish Schools of Religion, youth ministry programs, adult education offerings and parish stewardship committees are wonderful and essential places where this faith formation begins. Yet, it is foolish to think that these are the only parish organizations responsible for this faith formation of parishioners to grow. Every parish organization has a role to play in nurturing the faith formation of the parishioners. It is in this collective parish effort and the grace of God at work through our sincere efforts that faith formation thrives. The meaning of faithful stewardship and how to live this way of life is at the core of the disciple’s response to the gift of faith we freely receive from our loving God.
Members of a stewardship parish are ready to minister to varied needs of their own parish family as well as the needs of the wider community and Church.
Members of a stewardship parish are ready to minister to varied needs of their own parish family as well as the needs of the wider community and Church. Just as the members of a family come together to help one of their own, a stewardship parish family serves those who are hurting or in need, doubting or seeking salvation. The parish family also comes together to celebrate, thank and to return God’s gifts—all are needs of parishioners.
Like a blood family, the parish family stands ready and eager collectively to wrap their arms around their brothers and sisters when they suffer in trial and/or celebrate special events in their lives. “God so constructed the body, that there may be no dissension in the body, but that all the members may be concerned for one another. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members share its joy.” (1 Cor. 12: 24b, 25-26)
Parishioners seek the parish family as a primary community to serve and to be served—to give and to receive. If a parishioner finds they can serve and be ministered to, they have little need to search elsewhere for this fulfillment. Likewise, they have recognized a place where their service is appreciated and utilized for the good of the Church.
But the members of a stewardship parish recognize that they also have a need to give beyond their own members only. They have a need to serve and to give in the diocese, the community and the Universal Church. Failure to have this understanding leads to a selfish parochialism, which is life draining to a parish stewardship way of life. This is a challenge to some parishioners, who are willing to serve their own, but not outsiders. Interestingly, if this is the mindset of a particular parish, chances also exist that such a parish does not embrace fully the first pillar of a stewardship parish – namely, hospitality.
The pillar of service is an opportunity for the parish to put into concrete practice the other three pillars mentioned earlier in this document: hospitality, prayer and formation. To say one is a stewardship parish is not enough to make one a stewardship parish. True stewardship parishes practice all four of these pillars, with Jesus Christ as the model and the foundation from which the pillars arise.
More on practical ideas for building the foundation of stewardship in your parish.