Dear Fr. Zagloba,
I've been working on the plan for the "Annual Stewardship Campaign" that we've discussed. Since this is our first year, I think we should keep it fairly simple. We can add more elements in future years, but doing it well this year will open the door for us improve it in the future.
So I suggest that we hold it over three weekends, one focusing on "Time," one on "Talent," and the last on "Tithe". During each weekend, you'll preach on that weekend's focus using the scriptures of the day. Hopefully, you won't have to stretch it too much. Then at the end of Mass, we'll have a speaker talk about the same topic, but using their own personal testimony. On the third weekend, we'll put the pledge cards and pencils in the pew and ask everyone to make a commitment for the upcoming year. We should definitely direct people to make their gift through online recurring monthly giving.
Here's the approach I think we should take for each weekend:
First things first
When we talk about "Time", we should focus on prayer. Specifically, intercessory prayer for the parish and the people in the parish. Putting this on the first weekend is extremely important. We need to point to the fact… THE FACT… that the most powerful thing anyone can do for our Church is to pray for it.
It's the kind of thing that is so obvious that you might not realize it unless someone points it out. It's so basic. Nothing they can personally do will be more effective or have bigger results than asking God to do something for the Parish. We should suggest that they think about what in our parish life is most important to them: evangelical outreach, ministry to the poor, youth ministry, elder care, liturgy and music, whatever it might be. And then we will ask them to commit to pray with that focus for the next year on a regular (daily) basis.
Everyone can do it, from the oldest to the youngest. Doesn't cost anything. You don't need any special skills. And in a years time, God will start answering prayers. People will be amazed!
Also, highlighting that this is the most important and powerful thing people can do will go a long ways to helping people see that our Annual Stewardship Campaign isn't simply another fundraiser. It's about helping people to live the Gospel more fully.
Get people involved
The second week will focus on "Talents", the abilities that people have that can be put to use for the good of the Church and the world. Every gift and talent that we have finds its most perfect fulfillment and highest purpose when it is put at God's disposal. A singer's vocal talent can find no greater expression in worship. A carpenter's handiwork has no greater destiny than to beautify the House of God. A love of serving has no better outlet than ministering to the needs of others in the name of Jesus.
We should plan to do our ministry fair during this weekend, and ask people to find a new way to get involved. We can even direct them to ministries outside of our four walls. I know we have a team of people who serve at the soup kitchen on a regular basis, I bet they could use some extra hands. If people don't find a ministry in the parish that excites them, we should encourage them to look at some of the other parishes around town. If they still can't find a good match, maybe that means they need to start something new.
Now, I know that not everybody is going to jump up and say, "YES, I need another extracurricular activity!" But getting involved is a great way to build relationships and feel more connected to the rest of the community. Let's face it. You just don't get to know somebody very well if the only time you see them is sitting next to them in a pew for an hour each Sunday. It's just better to get your hands dirty working on some project together.
The conversion of the wallet
The third weekend will focus on "Tithe". You'll notice that I am not using the word 'Treasure,' which is kind of the standard slogan for stewardship campaigns. I think I've mentioned that I don't think that money is a treasure. It's just something we use to buy stuff. The word 'treasure' evokes the wrong kind of response in people, one that suggests that they should hide it away and keep it safe from grasping hands.
Jesus told the rich young man to give all of his stuff away. Only then would he have TREASURE… heavenly treasure that thieves cannot steal or moths devour or rust corrupt to nothing. When we talk about treasure, this is the kind we want people to think about.
Tithes are different. A tithe is a thanksgiving offering. It is a gift that you give to God to say thank you for all of the things that He has given us. And God makes promises to those who tithe. In the book of Malachi, God challenges His people to begin to bring their tithes and offerings into the temple. He tells them that He will pour out a river of blessings and abundance in response.
The speaker on this Sunday should be someone who is already tithing - I know that there must be a few in the parish. We'll find them by looking at our donor record. They'll be obvious. They should speak about how God moved them to give the full 10%, and how He's really blessed them in response to their joyful generosity. The speaker should thank everyone who is already tithing, encourage everyone who is giving at a lower level to consider increasing their monthly gift, and gently challenge those who are not giving to committing to give something. Remembering always that a small gift out of someone's poverty is more pleasing to God than a large gift out of someone's surplus.
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also
I can tell what's important to you by looking at two things… your checkbook and your calendar. You invest your time and your money into those things that you value. The whole point of this stewardship campaign is to help people to take a look at their own checkbooks and calendars so they can have a moment of self-discovery. Even more importantly, a moment of conversion.
If more of our people can live a life of prayer, service, and generosity, our parish will be transformed. I can't tell you how excited this makes me.
P.S. One other thing I like about changing it to 'Time, Talent, and Tithe' is that it isn't exactly what people are used to. They're so used to hearing "Time, Talent, and Treasure," that I think they end up tuning it out. Remember that tithing is virtuous and pleasing to God. You should feel confident when you're preaching about tithing, because you're asking them to do something that is good!
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