In our parish communities, we ask people to give of themselves more and more. We use St. Paul’s image of the Body of Christ to illustrate how we all play a part in God’s Kingdom, each with a unique charim. We express that the need is great and that the only way for us to succeed is to pull together. Then, we express our frustrations behind the scenes because most people still don’t step forward. One reason why is that many seated in our pews do not have an answer to the question, “What do I have to give?”
- People aren’t sure what they have to give. With the average parish in the U.S. only having about 7% engagement, let’s assume that the number is pretty high. Let’s begin with the fact that most Catholics have a poor sense of stewardship when it comes to their finances. This is about more than what they put in the collection basket each Sunday. This is about how they view all of their financial resources. Anemic offertory totals are not the problem; it is a symptom of the problem.
- Most people have no real sense of time. Everyone seems to be equally busy, but that is impossible. In fact, most of us suffer from mismanagement of time and procrastination. Time is a precious gift, so stewardship of that time should be crucial for any mature disciple.
- Too many people have no sense of their uniqueness and talents. We are good at analyzing everyone else, but often not ourselves. I have encountered too many people to count over the years who said they would give of themselves to a parish, a charity, or a civic organization, but they have nothing specific to give.
What is the answer? Helping intentional disciples to lead a stewardship way of life. Stewardship is about more than a formal campaign and ministry fair. It is about daily living as generous beings answering the call of Jesus Christ no matter the cost.
It is a parish community’s responsibility to help people understand this life. Parishes need to offer programs on financial planning and stewardship. All treasure is sacred, not just what ends up in the offertory. We need to teach about time management and the benefits of a prayer life. Walking with God more closely will not only refocus our time, but it will actually provide us with seemingly more time as we slow down and hand over our days to God.
Then, we need to offer programs on discernment of talents and charisms. The Called & Gifted program from the Siena Institute and the Clifton StrengthsFinder© implementation and coaching from places like Catholic Life and Faith and LPi can help people see the unique beings they are and all the gifts God has given them to share. People can even find themselves liberated from a false vision of who they thought they should be, embracing the real person that God created and shaped in the Spirit.
If those in the pews can’t turn to the Church for assistance in living a stewardship way of life, where else will they go? Begin changing your parish one person at a time and soon your community will no longer see symptoms of a larger problem, but instead, fruits of a stewardship community. It will become a community of disciples that answers the question, “What do I have to give?” with “Everything.”