Parishes continue to reap benefits of stewardship toolkit

| Kristi Anderson for The Catholic Spirit | October 24, 2012 | 0 Comments

In the Oct. 11 issue of The Catholic Spirit, St. Bernard parish in Cologne illustrated how the archdiocesan stewardship toolkit has helped in promoting stewardship efforts in the parish. The last of this three-part series on stewardship digs deeper into this key resource available to all parishes across the archdiocese.

Meeting individual needs

For more than 15 years, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bloomington has had a committee dedicated to ongoing stewardship education and promotion. Two years ago, the parish incorporated the use of the stewardship toolkit created by the archdiocesan Office of Development and Stewardship.

“This tool has given us a guideline to follow,” said James Kelzer, parish administrator, “but also allows some flexibility in the program to tailor it to our parish needs.”

One of the ways Nativity modified the plan was by adjusting the timing of lay witnesses to meet individual needs. From this process, the parish community has turned this effort into an annual renewal process that Kelzer says will “hopefully continue into the future.”

Discovering gifts

Lumen Christi in St. Paul began using the stewardship toolkit as its key resource as soon as it became available.

“Previously, I had been going online to find resources from other dioceses or parishes, and now everything that we need is right here,” said Joan Gecik, parish business administrator.

The planner has many practical things Lumen Christi incorporated right away such as logos, suggestions for talks, messages to connect with the liturgy, bulletin announcements and best practices.

“In short, it has saved us time because we didn’t have to create everything from scratch,” Gecik said. “We had something to work from, to give us a jumping off point for how to begin and build the whole process from year to year.”

Gecik said there are challenges to get people to understand the stewardship message.

“People often hear the word ‘stewardship’ and immediately think of money,” she said. “We have been equating the word ‘stewardship’ with ‘discipleship’ and the call to live the life of a disciple. That seems to appeal on many levels to people’s experience of the Gospels.”

Though the parish experienced a few growing pains in utilizing the toolkit, the overall effects outweigh the challenges, she said.

“This practical tool has been one of the best helps that has ever come out of our archdiocese,” Gecik said. “It has been a great support for all we need to do in keeping stewardship an essential element of parish life.”

“It isn’t just the pastor getting up and asking people to give money,” she said. “It involves catechesis. It needs to be well thought out. There needs to be consistent messages. It needs more than a few weeks of planning. It involves the whole person following Christ with all the talent and strengths they have and the responsibility we have in helping people to discover their gifts.”

Lifelong journey

Pax Christi in Eden Prairie has long held the value of stewardship as a way of life as one of its leading principles, said Mary Kennedy, director of stewardship for the parish  and chair of the Archdiocesan Stewardship Committee.

“Stewardship is much more than opening your wallet and tossing a few bucks in the collection basket,” she said. “Living the life of a steward is making the commitment to use all of your gifts to the best of your ability, looking at all the ways you live your life and how you form your response to God.”

Pax Christi uses the stewardship toolkit to assist in setting annual goals.

“From my perspective, it was helpful to step back and put some of our practices in writing using the toolkit,” Kennedy said. “Our committee had much discussion over best practices and that review helps us move forward and do a better job of communicating.”

In addition, Kennedy said the beauty of the toolkit is that it is easy to mold to the identity of an individual parish.

“All of the documents are downloadable in Microsoft Word and can be specifically tailored to fit the needs of the parish,” she said. “If you like to make personal calls during your Annual Renewal, there’s a script for that. If that doesn’t work for your parish, perhaps you will like the thank you card or pastor and lay witness speaker tips.”

“Stewardship is not a program,” Kennedy continued. “It is a lifelong journey. It is the individual conversion of heart where a person decides that he or she will take the step of living as a steward, accepting the gifts God has given them, building those gifts, sharing those gifts with others, and in the end, returning those gifts to God. Because of this factor, patience is an absolute. One doesn’t just snap your fingers and, ‘voila’ you are a stewardship parish. There has to be lots of communication, formation and plenty of patience.”

The toolkit is available online.

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