The Parish Stewardship Program: An Overview, Part III

The Parish Stewardship Program: An Overview, Part III

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MAIL ALONE IS NOT EFFECTIVE STEWARDSHIP MINISTRY

Mailed communication should be considered only a small component of a comprehensive and effective parish stewardship ministry. In a parish where stewardship is soundly established and understood, a mail-only stewardship campaign is likely to only maintain current giving levels, and does not adequately engage members in the life of the parish.

STEWARDSHIP IS NOT ABOUT PAYING THE BILLS.

In our efforts to inform and inspire members to become generous stewards, we should not reduce our responsibilities as members of the Body of Christ to paying the bills. Stewardship is not a program or an appeal. It is a way of life.

AVOID CONSTANT SPECIAL REQUESTS FOR DONATIONS, FUNDRAISERS, JOURNAL ADS, ETC.

In order for stewardship to reach its full potential in the parish, the members need to trust that they will not be inundated with additional requests for donations to special causes throughout the year.

An example from a parish newsletter:

“The journal is one of our major fundraisers for the year. An undertaking of this magnitude is not something that can be put together by a mere few. Its success is only as great as the number of people who are behind it. As we did so successfully with our Raffle during this year’s festival, we would like to ask all of our parish families and friends to help us not simply by purchasing ads, but also by soliciting a few.” (bold added)

FOCUS ON CARING FOR MEMBERS, NOT SOLICITING THEM.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Find out how you can pray for your members, and do it—over the phone, in person, and in staff meetings. See your efforts as a ministry to your parishioners, and watch the Holy Spirit work through these relationships.

ENCOURAGE ACTIVE STEWARDS TO SPREAD THE WORD

Launch a deliberate effort to specifically ask people for an ongoing commitment to pray, give, and tell others about your parish ministries. Those who commit are with you, so emphasize appreciation and updates with them instead of the usual appeals that everyone else gets.

LOOK BEYOND YOUR CURRENT NEEDS

Don’t make the mistake of spending all your time chasing the next gift. Design your stewardship program in such a way that nurtures relationships with your parish members that are strong during and even after their life times. Incorporate Planned Giving into your stewardship materials. Contact the Department of Stewardship, Outreach & Evangelism for information and resources on Planned Giving.

STEP UP YOUR PERSONAL CONTACT STRATEGY.

Ask your parish leaders to help you thank donors—as many and as often as possible. Make stewardship more visible through one-on-one and group meetings.

LET THEM SEE WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

Highlight your successful ongoing ministries and share a vision for future ministries.

REENERGIZE YOUR MEMBER LIST.

Make a concerted, intentional effort to encourage inactive members to get involved.

FIND REASONS TO COMMUNICATE MORE OFTEN.

In addition to the normal thank-you note or letter, receipts, and donor updates, find creative ways to stay in touch with your members with parish council and ministry updates, new plans, other ministry news, etc. Use good-quality photos.

PARISHES MUST ALSO BE GOOD STEWARDS.

Take a hard look at your expenses and see if any could be cut or delayed. Share this budget tightening with members so that they know that parish leaders are also being good stewards of the funds entrusted to them.

STEWARDSHIP IS ABOUT THE JOY OF GIVING FREELY

Avoid using fear of judgment in the afterlife and emphasize the concept of theosis, which puts the emphasis on experiencing heaven now. Stewardship is a practice that can help shape our world and ourselves in such a way that we can experience God’s grace, love and communion in the present. This puts the emphasis more on stewardship being about what is possible for us as humans now rather than later. It also shifts the tone from fear to the potential for experiencing joy. Remind parish members that they are not giving to the parish for any specific purpose. They are giving to God. They are returning to God in thanksgiving for what He has done for them. God is never out done in generosity. A steward is a manager, someone who looks after someone else’s property. That is what we are. We are all managers in God’s kingdom, and we have a responsibility to protect and grow God’s gifts.

A BROADER PERSPECTIVE: Stewardship as Creation Care (Fr.JohnChryssavgis)

If we turn to the Church Fathers, we see that they attribute the highest importance to oikonomia (stewardship or economy), which in their eyes implied a broader and more inclusive concept of revelation and salvation, identified with God’s vision and desire to save the whole world. For our great theological teachers and spiritual masters, economy in fact refers to our very salvation by the all-embracing love of God for all humankind and to the universal compassion of the Creator for all creation. Somewhere along the line, we unfortunately shrunk the theme of “stewardship” to purely monetary terms that primarily include making contributions to philanthropic organizations – probably as a result of a narrow interpretation of scripture, and possibly as a result of the rigid focus of modern society.

All of this invariably affects not just our understanding of the moral obligation that we have toward one another as human beings, but also inevitably distorts the worldview that shapes our moral responsibility toward creation. By limiting our attention to divine commandments for human compassion, we have invariably excised from scripture the clear mandate to creation care. Yet, these two dimensions of Christian life are integrally interrelated; one cannot envisage human progress without ecological preservation. The way we treat God’s creation in nature essentially reflects the way we respect human beings created “in the image and likeness of God.” The reality is that we should respond to nature with the same tenderness that we are called to respond to people. All of our spiritual activities are ultimately measured by their impact on the natural creation; just as all of our ecological choices are finally evaluated by their effect on the poor.

Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Stewardship Resources Handbook for 2017; for more information also see Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Stewardship Ministries.

As part of an on-going series on stewardship, OCN is pleased to share excerpts from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Stewardship Resources Handbook for 2017.  This series hopes to assist your parish Stewardship team in getting started and planning a full year of Stewardship Ministry. The handbook contains guidelines for preparation of a parish Stewardship Program, updated letters, a sample commitment card and new member card, various campaign formats and ideas for parish stewardship ministry.

 

Funding for news from this department is provided through the support of OCN viewers and by Leadership 100. 

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