Year-round stewardship education emphasizes a proper theology about giving and encourage a greater commitment to sharing gifts of time, talent and treasure.
Parishes across the Diocese have participated in a year-round stewardship education and development program. They follow a model called “A Plan for Stewardship Education and Development through the Year,” developed by the Rev. David Gordon with the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
There are three key components:
- Developing a consciousness about stewardship that’s celebrated week after week.
- Creating a parish narrative budget on an annual basis.
- Introducing proportionate giving as a means of ensuring ongoing and new creative ministry opportunities in the parish.
Experiences vary, but these outcomes are typical:
- clarity in parish vision
- higher volunteer participation
- an enhanced sense of ownership in the ministries of the parish
- development of a volunteer databank
- 40% participation rate in a pledging campaign, with an average 15% increase in givings
As part of its mandate, the Stewardship Development department encourages stewardship education Diocese-wide. It’s important that all parishes have access to programs and resources that help them work through their challenges and build vibrant faith communities.
A parish’s vestry and stewardship committee need an effective tool to show church members how their giving supports mission. Too often, they have only the line-item budget, which keeps track of income and expenses but reveals little about how a congregation’s mission is funded.
A narrative budget focuses attention on mission and ministry. It shows:
- the congregation’s purposes and goals
- what ministries were supported by the previous year’s offerings
- how the vestry is budgeting resources to carry out the congregation’s mission
This helps the vestry demonstrate its accountability to the rest of the membership and inspire trust, which in turn inspires commitment.
Many parishes are already producing narrative budgets on an annual basis because they see the difference between a line-item budget and one that brings the ministry of the church community to life. When church members see that the ministries they make possible are continuing Christ’s work in the world, offerings increase.
A good narrative budget should include information that reflects:
- the parish mission statement and vestry stewardship statement
- the big picture
- the parish’s mission priorities: worship, outreach, in-reach and Christian education
It should also tell the story about how lives have been changed.
The narrative budget reminds the congregation that the church’s leaders manage the ministry resources. Sometimes, a congregation sees “fixed” expenditures in the line-item budget (like salaries and utilities) as overhead expenses, identifying “real” ministries with expenditures for Sunday School supplies and social programs. The narrative budget clarifies that every budget expenditure affects ministry, and that each ministry carries out the overall ministry of the church.
Three great benefits stem from a narrative budget:
- It demonstrates that most congregations are very cost effective.
- It identifies not just contributions of treasure, but also those of time and talent.
- It heightens awareness in the congregation of the diversity of ministry taking place.
Some people may make the connection between their giving and the needs of the church on their own and increase their support. But without presenting their gifts in the context of a sacrificial giving campaign, the true potential to increase giving may be lost.