James J. Lanahan, Director of Development, Diocese of Camden (reprinted with permission)
Listed are 10 principles that characterize and describe Catholic institutions that embrace the concept of Stewardship. Whether a diocese, a diocesan office, a stewardship or development office, a parish or some other Catholic institution, these are the principles in action that one should readily be able to identify in an organization committed to Stewardship.
From the writing of the Bishop’s pastoral letter Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response in 1992 to the most recent writings that focus on Stewardship from an ecological perspective, our Catholic understanding of the concept of Stewardship has grown significantly, both in depth and breadth.
Stewardship as a Way of Life has had, and continues to have, a significant impact in dioceses and parishes across the United States and across the world. Diocesan offices of Stewardship have increased across the country. More and more parishes have introduced the concept of Stewardship to their parishioners. Even diocesan and parish finance councils are coming to understand the spirituality of fundraising; recognizing that their role is much more than that of volunteer. They are beginning to recognize their work as one of ministry.
Despite the good news, there are many dioceses, parishes, and catholic entities where Stewardship is unknown. Not only is it not practiced, but there is little understanding of Stewardship from a theological perspective, let alone a more practical, implementation perspective. For some, the lack of acceptance may be on intellectual grounds. For others, I would suggest that the implementation of many of the principles described below require significant change. change that is essential; but nonetheless difficult.
Like Byron in Framing the Principles of Catholic Social Thought (199), I would suggest that there is nothing official about the number 10. Some future writers may wish to combine certain of the principles. Others may wish to add more. Regardless, this list is provided for at least three reasons, albeit, slightly different from those noted by Byron. First, to create a reasonably complete list. Second, to create a “standard” frame of reference for observing and evaluating Catholic institutions. Third, to provide a blueprint for bishops, pastors, religious, ministers, and parishioners in planning and strategic development.
The author wishes to acknowledge the impact of the writings of William J. Byron, S.J. and Henri Nouwen. Their work was central to the identification and articulation of several of the characteristics presented.
It may appear to the reader that the characteristics described in this paper are more focused on the Stewardship of Treasure. I would argue otherwise, although not within the limitations of this presentation. While my own office is committed to the broadest concept of Stewardship, which includes Time and Talent, the reality is that as a fundraiser I must be successful. The ministries of my diocese depend on it.
“When there is no Vision the People Perish” (Proverbs 29:18)
“[F]undraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people the opportunity to participate with us in our Mission/Vision.” (Nouwen, 2010, p. viii.)
“Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore” (White and Corcoran, 2013, Rebuilt, p. 38)
The single most important characteristic of a Stewardship organization is that it have a clearly articulated, well communicated mission/vision statement. Everyone in the organization must know it. It is the basis for everyone’s elevator pitch. It is posted on every office wall. No institutional initiative is undertaken unless it is consistent with the mission/vision. It is the basis of the organization’s long-range strategic plan.
The mission/vision statement in conjunction with a strategic plan tells us who we are (Mission), where we are going (Vision), and how we are going to get there (Strategic Plan). Without it, at some time in the future, you will be lost.
Good Stewards contribute their gifts of Time, Talent and Treasure because of their belief in, and commitment to, your mission. Yes, they contribute because they are asked (if you don’t ask; they do not give). Yes, they contribute because of who is asking (people give to people). And yes, they may even contribute because of certain tax deductions. However, if they are not committed to your mission, the other factors become virtually irrelevant.
From a stewardship of treasure perspective, it is Vision that provides new direction and opportunities. It gives us courage. When we have Vision, we can proudly proclaim what we believe in. We no longer ask because we have a need but rather because we believe so strongly in our Vision that we want to offer others the opportunity to participate. It is, in fact, the opposite of begging. (Nouwen, 2010, p. 17)
“Canon 515, §1: A parish is a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor parochus) as its proper pastor (pastor) under the authority of the diocesan bishop.”
“Leadership is like beauty: difficult to define, but most people will recognize it when they see it…. leaders are clearly recognizable as those who affect the direction a person or a group (e.g. parish) will take. (Cieslak, Parish Management Handbook, p. 114)
Authors of many qualitative studies (Patrick McNamara, “More Than Money: Portraits of Transformative Stewardship” (1999), Paul Wilkes, “Excellent Catholic Parishes: The Guide to Best Places and Practices (2001), or Justin Clemens, “Stewardship: A Parish Handbook (2000)) have clearly identified the importance of solid pastoral leadership as a key and essential characteristic of a stewardship parish. The same is true for a diocese, university, or other catholic institution.
The research has shown that leadership comes in many different styles; and it is always strong in successful organizations. Successful pastoral leaders may use one of many styles of leadership. What is important is that they ARE leaders and their communities follow them. Cieslak in The Consequences of Pastoral Leadership suggests (2003, p. 115) that there are five (5) characteristics of good leadership: a guiding vision, passion, integrity, trust, and curiosity and daring.
Good leadership is essential, whether in a diocese, a diocesan department, a diocesan entity, a high school, a nursing home, or any other catholic entity.
“We will never be able to ask for money if we do not know how we ourselves relate to money.” (Nouwen, 2010, p. 27)
“People give to People” (famous fundraiser)
“When fundraising as ministry calls us together in communion with God and with another, it must hold out the real possibility of friendship and community.” (Nouwen, 2010, p. 49)
It is all about relationships: the relationship of the Bishop to his priests and people, the relationship of the Pastor to his people and the relationship of the people to one another. That is why “church happens” in the parish, not the diocese.
It is in the parish that we come together in celebration at liturgy. It is in the parish that we welcome new members through the sacraments of initiation. It is in the parish that we ask for forgiveness and forgive one another. Moreover, it is in the parish that we say goodbye to our loved ones.
Relationships begin in the parish. That is where teaching moments occur. That is where relationships begin and where they grow. Pastors are the key.
Relationships are essential to successful fundraising. First, we must have a healthy understanding of our relationship to money. What is the place of money in our lives? Is money ever the subject of family conversations? Are those conversations anxious? How do we spend our money? Are we more interested in the tax deduction than the gift?
“Money is a primary reality of family relationships. It is also a central reality in our relationships with people, institutions and causes beyond family life.” (Nouwen, 2010, p. 28)
The concept of our relationship to money extends even further to our relationship to those who have money. As Nouwen (2010, p 36) points out, “sometimes our concern for the poor may carry with it a prejudice against the rich.” We must come to recognize that the rich have all of the same problems that the poor experience (loneliness, problems of health, spiritual crises, etc.). The one problem they do not have is wealth. They also have the same needs as the poor have, including the need to make a difference.
We must become more comfortable with money and with those who have it.
“Stewardship involves a lifelong process. To make stewardship a way of life for individuals, families, parishes and dioceses requires a change of heart.” (Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, 2002, p. 2
“Fundraising is also always a call to conversion. And this call comes to both those who seek funds and those who have funds…we are drawn together by God who is about to do a new thing through our collaboration” (Nouwen, 2010, p. 17)
“A conversion from giving to a need to needing to give. Or “Fundraising raises funds. We should be raising givers” (White, 2013, p. 178)
Stewardship is a way of life. It is not a program. It involves a lifelong process of study, reflection, prayer, and practice. It is not about a change in intellect; it is about a change in heart.
By definition, conversion takes time; years of time. Conversion is about movement. It does not end.
Likewise, the stewardship message provided by our bishops in their pastoral letter on stewardship continues to grow and evolve. Our focus on the concepts of time, talent, and treasure has expanded into the areas of social justice, community and global stewardship, and ecological stewardship.
The conversion will continue – and we must continue to grow with it.
As White, in Rebuilt points out, (2013, p. 68) “Christianity is not a monument or a museum. It’s a movement. It’s got to move.” That movement is often painful.
The fact that our church is about movement should not surprise us. Prusack (2004) in Church Unfinished reminds us “Like human life, the church is lived forward but understood backward. The church came from the “community of unexpected persons” whom Jesus gathered around himself…. the church was then shaped, over the course of centuries, by human decisions made in the Spirit…. linking the understanding of the complex development of the Church in the past with an eschatological openness (leads) to the future in which God may be calling the Church to new possibilities.” (Prusak, 2004)
“[A]s a form of ministry, fundraising is as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry.” (Nouwen, 2010, p. 21)
“Fundraising from the point of view of the Gospel says to people, ‘I will take your money and invest it in this vision only if it is good for your spiritual health.’ In other words, we are calling them to an experience of conversion.” (Nouwen, p. 20)
“[W]hen parishioners believe they are engaged in a parish ministry, they know that their activity is vital to the success of the parish…Through our baptism, we share in the priesthood of the laity. We are all called to ministry.” (Zech, 2006, p. 131.)
Because stewardship is about mission and vision, about relationship building, and about conversion – it is also spiritual. Do we treat it as spiritual?
If we believe that stewardship of treasure, especially, is spiritual, then how do we distinguish ourselves from secular fundraisers? Are we sure that our approach to the donor is more “proactive” rather than minimalist from an ethical point of view? Does our “ask” provide a spiritual component? How about our “thank you?” Are we promote the tax deduction more than the mission?
As you learn about best practices utilized in secular fundraising, are they appropriate for Christian fundraisers? Jeavons and Basinger in Growing Giver’s Hearts (2000) raise many of these questions, and more; as well as quite a few answers.
“Canon 1260: The Church has an innate right to require from the Christian faithful those things which are necessary for the purposes proper to it.”
“Canon 1261:§1: The Christian faithful are free to give temporal goods for the benefit of the Church.”
“Each person has a right to participate in society. Each person has a right not to be shut out from participating in those institutions that are necessary for human fulfillment” (Byron, 1999, p. 9)
“God calls. We respond. This fundamental essential pattern in the life of every believer appears throughout salvation history. The Father calls a chosen people, patriarchs, and prophets. Jesus calls his apostles and disciples. The Risen Lord calls everyone.” (USCCB, 2002, P. 7)
Even in our current world, when the issue of immigration reform is such a strongly debated and controversial issue, I find a general acceptance of William Byron’s fourth principle of catholic social thought; namely, the principle of participation. We all believe that everyone has a right to participate in our economy in a productive, dignified, and fair manner, to attend the church of their choice, and to participate in the other important institutions in our society.
Yet participation is a principle that we “may need to turn on its head,” if in fact, it is to be a stewardship principle in action. A few examples may be instructive.
When a parish conducts a capital campaign, the most common reason that non-donors give for not contributing is “no one asked me.” And, very often they are correct. We do not have the right, in any fundraising effort, to NOT ask everyone to give. To not ask is to deny them the opportunity to participate.
The same holds true of “the ministry fair,” where a parishioner volunteers to serve in the hall on Sunday, but no one ever calls to follow-up.
A student of Canon Law is not surprised by the apparent contradiction found between Canons 1260 and 1261. For every freedom that Canon asserts, there seems to be a corresponding obligation. As God calls, Jesus calls, and the Risen Lord calls, we are obligated to respond to that call.
At the same time, our Church is required to provide the opportunity, education and training so all believers can respond to their particular call. The church is required to provide its co-workers in the vineyard with the formational opportunities to answer their call.
“One who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love with all, and returns them with increase to the Lord”
“[C]hurches insist on “doing church” rather than “being” Church: that is, building a congregation of dedicated and energized members who are growing spiritually and, at the same time, are reaching out in concern and service to the world.” (Winseman, 2006, Growing an Engaged Church)
“The normal human response toward someone who freely shares his or her property with us is a feeling of gratitude. To be sure, God doesn’t need our thanks. However, as human beings, as people of faith, and as disciples of Jesus Christ, we need to express our gratefulness for the many gifts and blessings we have received.” (Clemens, Stewardship: A Parish Handbook)
As Catholics, we all believe that God loves us abundantly (although this point is not without debate), gives us gifts of abundant grace, and offers His forgiveness without limit. We recognize God’s gifts of time, talent, and treasure. We recognize that “all that we are” is a gift from God – gifts that we are called to give back with increase because those gifts are not “owned by us” – they belong to God.
Despite our “beliefs,” how often do we encounter parishes that can’t find volunteers (that is what they call them), especially when it comes to helping out with the diocesan annual appeal. Or, perhaps it is the finance council that after 5 years of cutting the budget, has to cut it once again because there is just no way that they can ask anyone to give any more than they currently are. And maybe, the pastor who says, “there is just no way we can raise money to pay off the debt that is stopping use from creating the ministries that our people so desperately need.
As suggested by Jeavons and Basinger in Growing Giver’s Hearts (2000, p. 75), we need to recognize the importance of appropriate goal setting in fundraising efforts (appropriate can mean higher). We need to recognize the cumulative negative effect of crisis driven appeals. Finally, we need to recognize the power of positive thinking, most especially the power of spiritually driven positive thinking.
Finally, we must be grateful for the gifts that God gives us. As both a church and as individuals we must demonstrate our gratefulness for the gifts that God has given us. Pastors and other church leaders must demonstrate that gratitude to their ministers, and, beyond that, as fundraisers, we must show our gratitude, especially from a spiritual perspective, to our donors.
“Canon 1273: By virtue of the primacy of governance, the Roman Pontiff is the supreme administrator and steward of all ecclesiastical goods.’
“Canon 1276: It is for the ordinary to exercise careful vigilance over the administration of all the goods which belong to public juridic persons subject to him.”
Canon law is clear as to who is the administrator of the temporal goods of the church. It is also clear that the ordinary can delegate temporal responsibilities to the diocesan finance officer, and the local pastor. Canon 1284 — §2, 7° — indicates they are to keep well organized books of receipts and expenditures; 8° — draw up a report of the administration at the end of each year; — §3 It is strongly recommended that administrators prepare budgets of incomes and expenditures each year; it is left to particular law, however, to require them and to determine more precisely the ways in which they are to be presented. Nor does it address the role of the members of diocesan and parish finance and pastoral councils.
What may be less clear is that the concept of accountability extends far beyond just temporal affairs. It extends to physical, human resource (personnel policies, compensation, human capital, etc.) and pastoral activities of the diocese or parish.
“Success in stewardship and development efforts of a parish or diocese requires a visible commitment to accountability… from the way decisions are made and carried out by diocesan or parish personnel to the way money is collected, managed, and used.” (USCCB, 2002, p. 61)
“A visible commitment to accountability will be reflected in the leadership style and attitudes of the bishop, pastor and all who have responsibilities.” (USCCB, 2002, p. 61)
While Canon 1284 encourages financial reporting of income and expenditures as well as the preparation of budgets of the same, it does not require them. That is left to the particular law of the diocese.
While the USCCB in Disciple’s on the Journey does not address the issue of transparency directly, the need for transparency is implied in the discussion of accountability and the role of communication.
The importance of transparency becomes evident however in the work of Zech in Best Practices in Parish Stewardship, p. 123. Among his eight (8) best practices is the reminder that good stewardship begins in the parish house. “If we want our parishioners to be good stewards, we need to model this behavior for them. The parish administration must be careful that its spending decisions reflect good stewardship, that it has in place effective internal financial controls, and that it is accountable and transparent in all its financial dealings.”
Zech in Why CATHOLICS DON’T GIVE…And what can be done about it, (2006, p. 129), even draws out the implications for us. He lists seven (7) things that our church must do. The second most important involves the fact that parishioners want and expect to have direct input into decision-making. They expect accountability and transparency.
Remember two (2) things. First, Catholics can be good stewards by supporting any number of institutions or organizations. No one can require donors to support US, and second, accountability and transparency are intimately linked.
Planned and Purposeful
“A capital campaign is a carefully planned, well-organized, needs-based program to raise a substantial amount of money within a specific time frame.” (USCCB, 2002, p. 55)
I would suggest to you that each of the ten (10) characteristics or principles of catholic stewardship and development involve activities, tasks, or processes that are planned and purposeful. Mission/vision statements, for example, are by their very definition planned and purposeful.
Further, each of the three-fold aspects of time, talent, and treasure involve extremely well researched, planned, and purposeful components. For example, the work of the Gallup organization in the development of their Strength Finders tool and their work on growing engaged church communities are particularly well-planned and purposeful programs.
The most planned and purposeful aspects of stewardship however, involve those related to the stewardship of treasure. Whether it be your Bishop’s Appeal, offertory improvement programs, capital campaigns, major gift fundraising or planned giving, each of you will be spending some of your time learning about best practices and how they can be best applied in your particular diocese, parish or church entity.
From a pastoral perspective, even the casual reader of Rebuilt and Tools for Rebuilding (White and Corcoran, 2013) will recognize that the authors have presented a well thought out plan to help a church get from point A to point B. You may not agree with that plan, or even like it. Regardless, it took many years to develop the plan as it is articulated on paper and it is a well-planned, purposeful, and thought out methodology.
Community Building/Kingdom of God
“The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well.” (Gaudium et Spes, 1988, opening paragraph)
“Indeed, if we raise funds for the creation of a community of love, we are helping God build the kingdom. We are doing exactly what we are supposed to do as Christians.” (Nouwen, 2010, p 23)
The opening paragraph of Gaudium et Spes sets the tone for the rest of this Vatican II document in that it focuses on the church in the context of the modern world. It calls us to a new eschatological view where we recognize, as followers of Christ, that we have a responsibility to bring about the Kingdom of God here and now, while recognizing that we will not experience its fullness until eternity.
This sense of man’s role in bringing about the kingdom of God and its relationship to the concept of stewardship is evident in the research of McNamara (More Than Money: Portraits of Transformative Stewardship, 1999). For him there are three prerequisites or ingredients of successful stewardship. The first was a solid, convinced pastoral leadership. The second was a welcoming ministry but one that had clear, new membership expectations. The third was a clear focus on ministries and programs that all members are expected to participate in. Many of these programs are directed externally, or outside the congregation. Many are directed in service to the poor.
Stewardship communities are about building the kingdom.
From the viewpoint of stewardship of treasure, Nouwen’s (p. 49) perspective is that when fundraising calls us together in communion with God is builds friendship and community. It has been said that “money follows mission”, but is also true that Mission follows money. When donors give, they are even more committed to our mission. If we are good Christian fundraisers, our givers grow spiritually from their giving.
Successful fundraising efforts that are, well-planned well-organized, and well-executed always result in stronger communities.
Some Conclusions, Concerns, Best Practices and Beyond.
- Have I captured the ten (10) +/- major characteristics of organizations committed to stewardship? If so, on a scale from A to F, how would you grade your diocese, parish, school, or other institution?
- I live in a diocese that has gone through a major consolidation/merger process. I live in a parish and a diocese where Mass attendance has been steadily decreasing. Does this sound familiar? What are you doing about it? What would IBM do?
- What is the percentage of parishioners in your diocese or parish who makes their offertory contributions electronically? Ask your local banker if he or she thinks checks will still be in existence in ten (10) years? Is your diocese or parish prepared to make the transition?
- Is there a parish in your diocese that maintains an “off grid” bank account? Are their parishes that still use cash from the collection for their rectory “petty cash” account? Do all of your parishes get a financial review every year? How often do they get an audit? Are the members of your parish councils aware of the “financial crisis” that may be coming?
- When was the last time your Bishop was evaluated? When was the last time he asked staff to evaluate him? How about your pastors? Do you have a merit pay increase
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