"The promotion of the practice of stewardship is important for the mission of the Church and for the spiritual well-being of each individual Christian. Everyone benefits from the sacrificial gift one makes of his time, talent and treasure. Therefore, please accept my encouragement for your efforts and my prayers that your upcoming conference will be a stimulus to the practice of stewardship in the Church." His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI (From the letter of His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then Cardinal Prefect, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican City, dated 20 June 1997, to His Excellency, The Most Reverend James Patrick Keleher, S.T.D., Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas and Episcopal Moderator of the National Catholic Stewardship Council.)
Stewardship is becoming a word more commonly heard in parishes. Yet, there is nothing new about Stewardship. I believe if you are already living a good Christian life, you are already being a good Christian Steward.
To be a good steward is to be a good caretaker of the gifts God has given us. When we here someone speak of sharing our gifts, we often assume they are asking for money. Don't rush to make assumptions. To be frank, stewardship does include what we do with our money but it involves more than that. Even when stewardship refers to money, it is not solely about the amount we give but the attitude we have give with.
God gives each of us different gifts and calls us to use them in different ways. As stewards, we are to use our gifts not for personal gain but for the good of all. This can include our career or how we use our free time. Stewardship commonly is looked at in three areas
Time - Do we use some of our time for the betterment of our community? One may respond that I don't have any free time. What are you doing with your time? We have our commitments and we can't rearrange our lives overnight but that doesn't mean we can't change our commitments at all. I would also suggest to examine how you might be using your time already to serve your community. Do you volunteer anywhere? Such as a soup kitchen, tutoring, shelters, or of course your parish?
Talent - We each have things we are good at. These are our talents and are given to us by God. Think about how you can use your talents to help. For instance, a doctor could volunteer at a clinic. A mathematician couldvolunteer to tutor. Is sports your talent? Perhaps you could volunteer at a camp.
Treasure - This is where money is part of stewardship. It is simply not a matter of writing a check or putting a few dollars in the collection. It is the attitude we give with. God is creator and everything has its origin in him. God does not expect us to give our whole paycheck to the church. God does ask that we live with an attitude of gratitude showing our thanks for all (not just the money) God has given us. We share our thanks by sharing it with others.
Stewardship thus is a way of life. While the Old Testament does speak of tithing (10%), stewardship isn't about giving a set percentage. It is concerned with the attitude we give with. 10% is a good rule of thumb, some of it to your church and some to other charities. The Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12 tells us to treat others as we wish to be treated and Jesus tells us the Greatest Commandment is to love God and after that to love your neighbor (Matthew 22:34-39). We show our love by sharing what we have.
We are only beginning to understand what it means to be a steward in our Christian faith. To help us understand Stewardship, the International Catholic Stewardship Council was formed. Many dioceses are starting offices just for stewardship. The rewards of living stewardship for a parish are there. Parishes who have been successful have been able to increase both the number of ministries and the collection in their parish. One of the results in a few parishes has been free Catholic education for all parishioners.
Part of what a good stewardship effort needs to do is help us discern what gifts we have and how we are called to use them. The first step in any stewardship effort is to first determine what resources a parish has available for the team. My own Diocese of Rochester held its first annual Diocesan Stewardship Conference in 2005. I found it helpful as I just begin to enter into my own personal understanding of stewardship. It included a bishop who spoke on the spirituality of stewardship, representatives from a parish in Florida who have had success in stewardship, and representatives from St. Rita's parish in our own diocese who talked about how they got their stewardship efforts started.
Since stewardship is an emerging idea we need to educate people. As I said before, many people think stewardship is just another way of asking for money. Whenever we introduce something new in the parish we need to communicate to the people. A model of communication presented by St. Rita's parish at our Diocesan Stewardship Conference describes the steps we need to first lead ourselves through and then the people of our parish. We need to move through the following steps:
We do this by:
Only then can we have a successful stewardship effort.
In living stewardship, check out my presentation "Attitude of Gratitude".
Renewal of Faith
"A clean heart create for him, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit." Psalm 51:12
"His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.'"