The following list of best practices has been developed from extensive research done with Catholic parishes on a national-level.
- Be a welcoming parish that takes community building seriously. Parishes need to warmly welcome all members. Everyone has something to contribute. Everyone is needed. Communities known for their hospitality to all members, for the vitality of their faith, and for the depth of their service to people in need invariably inspire others to participate in ministry and to be generous in their financial support.
- Appoint a stewardship committee. Parishes that have an active and involved stewardship committee are more successful because the parishioners take an active role in planning and implementing a stewardship program. They do more than focus on the renewal and commitment season; they help to plan a yearlong effort of communications and accountability.
- Be accountable to your parishioners. Those parishes that focus their efforts on being accountable to their parishioners have more successful stewardship programs. Showing parishioners where their treasure gifts are used and how their time and talents are being managed can lead to a broader understanding of stewardship and a greater sense of fulfillment. One way to share this message is by developing and communicating a Parish Stewardship Accountability Report.
- Seek annual commitments. Stewardship requires a commitment on the part of parishioners. The annual commitment/renewal process should encourage parishioners to: prayerfully discern how God has uniquely gifted them (time, talents and treasure); reflect on what priority God and His Church play in their lives; decide how they plan to share these gifts with God and His Church; and make an intentional, planned and proportionate gift to God and His Church.
- Set goals. Vibrant parishes have a shared vision and goals that support that vision. Goals should be set for all ministries. They should be challenging, yet realistic and, when possible, measurable. It is important to note that goals should be communicated clearly to the parish. The parish also needs to report on the progress made toward reaching their goals.
- Communicate with parishioners. The message of stewardship should be communicated many times over the course of the year – utilizing many media sources. Parishes that have been successful in the past have a comprehensive and informational stewardship presence on the parish website, print updates in the bulletin and parish newsletter on a regular basis; include stewardship messages in the liturgy (General Intercessions), and provide parishioners with a Quarterly Report and Annual Parish Stewardship Accountability Report. Most communications should thank, inform and invite continued involvement.
- Identify lay witnesses. An important part of stewardship education is the testimonies presented to parishioners by individuals whose lives have changed as a result of stewardship. These lay witnesses are necessary to the success of the parish effort. There are many reasons for this. Stewardship is a part of the internal change of heart or conversion process we know so well from the Scriptures – stories of men and women who became compelled to put their faith into action.
- Be grounded in prayer. Several parishes have their own stewardship prayer and they invite all households to pray the stewardship prayer during the renewal season and at periodic times throughout the year. In addition, parishes open and close every meeting with a stewardship prayer.
- Ask for help from the Office of Development and Stewardship. Most strong stewardship parishes have not done it alone. They have worked together with the leadership of the diocese to create a plan that works for the parish. No single method works for everyone. Our Office of Development and Stewardship can be a great help to a parish throughout its stewardship journey. The office can be reached by calling 651.290.1610.
Source: Stewardship Toolkit, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Find it online at http://www.archspm.org/_uls/resources/BestPractices.doc