Stewardship: A Business Manager’s Perspective

September 18, 2009

Stewardship, The Pilot

By Gina Lewis

Perhaps more than any other role existing for the laity in the archdiocese today, the role of the Parish Business Manager most closely resembles that of the biblical steward.  The challenge facing many of our Parish Business Managers is that they have assumed responsibility for long-neglected estates with severely limited financial, human and clerical resources.  It is only with a great deal of managerial skill and finesse that these dedicated stewards are able to sustain the parish’s day-to-day operations.  With so much energy focused on getting through today, it is understandable that the more important work of cultivating a sustainable pool of resources is frequently overlooked.

Business managers, pastors, and archdiocesan leaders only command the resources of time, talent, and money, intellect, vision, and passion that our parishioners have committed willingly to our care. These resources are not ours, but only in our care.  It is this attitude of stewardship that we must model for our parishioners.  As leaders, we must inspire confidence by practicing accomplished stewardship on the personal and parish level; engender trust by being fully accountable; and encourage a greater sense of ownership in the pews by articulating our successes and struggles, hopes and dreams.  Above all, we must promote stewardship in all its fullness so that we may raise up mature disciples, and enable our parishioners to fulfill their baptismal call.

There are some who would suggest that the current recession is hardly the time to promote stewardship, but that is not my experience.  Personal Christian stewardship is born from an understanding that all we possess is not really ours, and very little is truly within our control.   It it is precisely in times of great crisis that human delusions of self-sufficiency are shattered, leaving fertile ground for all manner of spiritual growth.

Let me illustrate this idea with a personal anecdote.  In 1993, I heard a witness talk on stewardship and sacrificial giving for the first time within the context of my Catholic faith.  The economic environment at that time was very similar to this one, especially for those of us financially dependent on the residential housing market.  Before hearing this witness, my husband and I had exhausted unemployment benefits three times, brought two children into the world, and had an upside-down mortgage.  We were confronting many challenges, struggling with medical bills from chronic childhood illness, and negotiating alternative payment plans with the mortgage company before we got behind on the payments.   We were consigning our children’s clothing for cash, shopping only sale items at 3 grocery stores, taking meals at our parents’ houses and allowing them to buy diapers for the children just to scrape by.  My offering was one dollar per basket on a good week.  I was a woman in full-crisis mode.

Conventional wisdom says that the desperate, sleepless mom fishing the 18-month-old out from under the pew for umpteenth time in anticipation of the final blessing is the least likely parishioner to accept an end-of-Mass stewardship message.  Yet somehow the words of that speaker reached me.  I returned home contemplating the message and searching for answers in Scripture.  By the following Sunday, I had committed $5/wk to the Lord, and my stewardship journey had begun.  Within two years, we had achieved a true tithe, but more importantly, a sense of serenity and financial security that had previously been elusive. 

My stewardship journey, which began with sacrificial giving, has matured to encompass the many facets of my life, and continues to evolve as I grow in faith.  Adopting a stewardship way of life has ultimately called me into service as a Parish Business Manager.

Every day, somewhere in our pews, God has prepared the heart of someone like me to hear the message of stewardship.  All we have to do is keep sowing the seeds in order to grow the harvest.  The sustenance of our parishes depends upon it.

Gina Lewis is the Buiness Manager of Sacred Heart Parish in Middleborough, a multiple worship site parish with a cemetery.  She is a wife and mother of 3 and owns a small business.  For more information on her parish, please visit www.SacredHeartStRose.org.

This article originally appeared in a special “Parish Stewardship & Fundraising” section of The Pilot on September 18, 2009

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