As the summer ends, there will be increased talk regarding stewardship across our diocese. What will be our campaign for 2018?
More often than not, pastors and stewardship committees are trying to find the right program that will produce the right “bang for the buck.” From a pragmatic perspective, this means that pledges made will enable the parish to cover the expenses for the ministries of the parish.
The process is repeated year after year in congregations large and small, rural and suburban. Each year the pastor and parish leaders look to discover the “magic bullet” that will solve all the stewardship challenges the parish faces.
The truth is, there is no “silver bullet,” no publication or program that will turn reluctant givers into cheerful faithful stewards. This is not to say that an organized, well-thought-out program is not needed. What will result from an organized, well-planned program will be technical changes like charts and thermometers that measure progress. These technical changes can be helpful and lead to more dollars in the offering plates, but in reality what is needed is changed hearts.
It is impossible to calculate the value derived from a changed heart, but the changed heart of a steward sees their giving and service as a response to God’s generosity rather than just giving more and serving more because they like the priest or want to fulfill an obligation to keep the parish going. Teaching stewardship from the position of obligation may bring about some results, but they will be grudging results. Stewardship that flows from thanksgiving to God will produce heartfelt change.
The challenge for the priest and the stewardship leader is to foster change at the heart level of individual stewards. The difficulty is that no one can see the heart and measure its movement.
The reality is that only the Holy Spirit can change our hearts and lead us to be faithful Christian stewards. Such an approach makes stewardship a heartfelt response based on thanksgiving to the radical generosity of God, the owner and giver of all things.
Charts and thermometers may be useful tools that lead some people to give more, but they are only mechanics. If our stewardship programs do not endeavor to change hearts, our efforts will ultimately fade and fall short of the Church’s mission and ministry.
John Kaloudis is director of the Diocese of Salt Lake City Office of Stewardship and Diocesan Development Drive.