By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published July 5, 2012
Some 150 parish leaders, priests and deacons gathered at the Chancery recently to discuss ways to help parishes boost offertory contributions and make stewardship a central part of parish life.
Villanova University economics professor Dr. Chuck Zech was the keynote speaker at the offertory workshop sponsored by the archdiocesan Stewardship Office May 30.
Zech said that stewardship should soak into all aspects of parish life.
“Stewardship should be part of every education or formation program that your parish offers,” he said. “You really want to permeate the entire parish.”
Sharing data from recent stewardship studies across many Christian denominations, Zech showed that the level of giving in the Catholic Church is well below that in Protestant denominations. However, he said, there are many ways Catholic parishes can boost giving.
One approach is to make sure parish leaders model good stewardship for the parishioners. For example, if a priest or stewardship leader consistently calls on parishioners to try to give more, but then does not consult the parishioners when major decisions are made on how donations are used, parishioners are less likely to give in the future.
Parishes have to discuss important decisions with parishioners, give them a voice, and model good stewardship, he said.
Zech also discussed the importance of creating a welcoming, friendly environment for both longtime parishioners and newcomers. Increasing the number of welcoming activities and events can boost giving as people feel they are part of the church’s mission.
“Remember stewardship is first and foremost a spiritual activity,” said Zech.
Expanding on this point, he said getting parishioners involved in church ministries also helps to strengthen stewardship. When people feel connected to the church, when they feel they clearly understand the purpose and mission of the church, they are more likely to give to support its goals.
“If you want stewardship to take hold in your parish, it has to permeate the entire parish life,” Zech said.
Steve Siler, executive director of the archdiocesan Stewardship Office, said following the workshop that it was a success as it addressed issues and concerns parish leaders have regarding stewardship.
“We were very pleased with how the day went,” he wrote by email. “With nearly half of our parishes represented by either pastors, parochial vicars, staff, or lay ministers, it showed the desire of many to continue to learn, improve their parishes, and provide the best for their parishioners.”
“They know their parish, its needs, and its people better than we do. What we can provide is resources that a single parish perhaps could not muster with their own efforts,” he continued. “In this instance we knew that parishes could benefit from a day devoted to messaging on stewardship and offertory best practices, and we had the speakers who could educate, inform, and encourage.”