What is Stewardship?

by Thom Hiatt

Stewardship refers to the responsible management and care of resources, both material and spiritual, that have been entrusted to a person or group. In other words, Stewardship is simply “taking care.” While this article focuses on parish stewardship, it is valuable to note that the same information can easily apply to a private school, a similar nonprofit organization, and even to your own personal experiences at home and at work.

Often times, the word ‘stewardship’ instantly brings thoughts of money and fundraising and appeals, which can be scary for some people to discuss! Fortunately, the full spectrum of Stewardship involves an interesting and very wide range of helpful focus areas, including:

  • Environmental stewardship: This involves taking care of the natural environment and using resources responsibly, both inside and outside of the parish grounds. When you pick up a piece of litter, or drive fewer errands with less gasoline, you are being a good Environmental Steward.
  • Time stewardship: This involves using one’s time to serve the parish and contribute to its mission, and to look for areas where time may be improperly spent, so that it can be used more efficiently. When you give some of your time to help paint the parish hall, you are being a good Time Steward.
  • Talent stewardship: This involves using one’s unique, God-given skills and abilities to serve the parish. When you share your golden voice at the ambo so that others might here the daily readings clearly, you are being a good Talent Steward.
  • Spiritual stewardship: This involves actively participating in the spiritual life of the parish and supporting the growth and development of one’s own faith (and possibly also helping others to grow in their faith at the same time). When you attend a gathering to pray the Rosary, or invite a new friend to Mass, you are being a great Spiritual Steward.
  • Financial stewardship: This involves managing the financial resources of the parish, including the collection and use of funds for the maintenance of the parish, and the financial support of its various programs and ministries. When you make a sacrificial monetary gift to the parish, you are being a wonderful Financial Steward.

You see, only 1 of the 5 focus areas above even mentions money! So do not be afraid of Stewardship.

Overall, Stewardship involves using the resources entrusted to us by God, in a responsible and accountable manner, in service of the Church and the wider community. Just like athletes regularly practice various drills to improve their performance, it is valuable for organizations to regularly practice different areas of Stewardship. Some of these areas include:

  • Engagement: This refers to actively involving church members in the stewardship of the church’s resources, including time, talent, and treasure. This can involve creating opportunities for members to get involved in different areas of the church, such as volunteering for ministry teams, participating in community service projects, or contributing financially to the church’s mission and goals.
  • Leadership Training: This involves providing education and training for church leaders, including pastors, deacons, and other lay leaders, to help them understand the principles of stewardship and how to effectively manage the church’s resources. This can involve offering workshops, seminars, or other educational opportunities to help leaders learn about financial management, planning and budgeting, fundraising, and other related topics.
  • Welcoming / Hospitality: This refers to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment in the church, where all members feel valued, welcomed and appreciated. This can involve offering hospitality to new members, reaching out to visitors and guests with a personal message, and creating a welcoming atmosphere in the parish’s worship and fellowship gatherings.
  • Communications: This involves using various forms of communication, such as newsletters, mailers to homes, social media, websites, videos and other platforms, to inform and engage church members about the church’s stewardship efforts. This can include updates on the church’s financial status, upcoming events and projects, and opportunities for members to get involved in stewardship initiatives.
  • E-Giving: This refers to using electronic platforms, such as online giving portals or mobile apps, to allow church members to make financial electronic contributions to the church. This can provide a convenient and secure way for members to support the church’s mission and goals, while also smoothing out the weekly volume of incoming gifts.
  • Annual Renewal: This involves conducting an annual review of the church’s stewardship efforts, including a review of the church’s financial health, an assessment of the church’s ministry goals and objectives, and a plan for the coming year. This can help the church stay focused on its mission and ensure that its resources are being used effectively. On an individual level, an Annual Renewal may be used to encourage parishioners to re-commit themselves to the life of the parish.
  • Forming Stewardship Committees: This involves establishing committees or task forces to oversee different aspects of the church’s stewardship efforts. These committees can include finance committees, stewardship committees, fundraising committees, and other groups that are responsible for managing the church’s resources and ensuring that they are being collected and used effectively, and in a transparent manner.
  • Spirituality of Stewardship: This refers to the spiritual aspects of managing the church’s resources, including understanding that everything we have is a gift from God and seeking to use these gifts wisely and generously in service to others. This can involve prayer, reflection, and discernment about how we can use our time, talent, and treasure to further God’s kingdom.
  • Pastoral Letter: The publication “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response” promotes the spiritual practice of sharing and being a follower of Jesus Christ. It emphasizes the importance of giving time, talent, and treasure to the church and states that the Eucharist is the central and primary source of strength for this way of life. The letter suggests that the Eucharist, through the work of the Holy Spirit, transforms believers into more devoted disciples and stewards.
  • Development: This refers to the process of identifying and cultivating resources for the church, including financial resources, new members, and other assets that can help the church fulfill its mission. This can involve fundraising, identifying transformative gifts, outreach and evangelism, and other efforts to grow the parish’s resources.
  • Strengths as a tool to Recognize Talent: This involves using an individual’s strengths and skills to identify areas where they can be most effective in serving the church. Not everybody enjoys public speaking, and not everyone enjoys accounting. By identifying our talents, we can each be put to good use for the church, in a way that helps us get along with those around us. This can involve assessing an individual’s natural talents and abilities, and then finding ways for them to use these gifts in areas of ministry or leadership within the church.
  • Planned Giving: Often referred to as Legacy Giving, this refers to long-term financial planning that helps individuals and families make charitable gifts to the church or other organizations upon their death or during a time of significant change. This can include strategies such as charitable trusts, bequests, or other planned gifts that allow individuals to make a meaningful impact on the church’s mission and goals while also meeting their own financial planning objectives.

So friends, thanks to Stewardship, you really can take care of yourself, your faith, your family, school, parish, community, and even the entire world.