To Give or Not to Give… Is that the Question?

To give or not to give? This is a reasonable question; however, I don’t see it as being ‘the’ question when it comes to our giving.

Why to give is another good question, although I think, still not ‘the’ question…I’ll get to that in a moment. The “why” points us to considering stewardship as part of our reason to give or not to give. We can give because the church or charity needs our gift and that is a good place to start when asking “why” should I give? We can give because we hope our giving will make a difference in the lives of others, be it giving time to God in praying for others, or serving the poor, or giving financial gifts to a cause we feel passionate about. Desiring to make a difference is a noble “why” to give.

Consider for a moment the familiar scripture story of the poor widow and her gift to the temple treasury. She gave just two small coins and Jesus said, “I tell you that this poor woman has put in more than all the others” (Luke 21:3). The ‘others’ of course being the rich people who were tossing their gifts into the treasury. Why did she give? I don’t think she gave because she felt the temple needed her gift. I don’t imagine she gave believing that her gift would have a huge impact. We know why she gave. Her love for God and gratitude inspired her to give all that she had. (Luke 21:4) This poor widow must have experienced much joy in making her gift because when love for God and gratitude are behind the gift joy naturally accompanies the act of giving.

As stewardship leaders, we do well to inspire a need to give in gratitude as the “why” for giving.

Stewardship is all about needed to give,

more than giving to a need.

Still, before we inspire the “why” to give, start with “whose is it” that we give. Stewardship reminds me that anything I can accumulate or accomplish in my life is not of my own doing, is not mine, and not for my glory. It all comes from and belongs to God, and is for his glory.

But why should we be happy that we have given you these gifts? They belong to you, and we have only given back what is already yours.  But we are happy, because everyone has voluntarily given you these things. You know what is in everyone’s heart, and you are pleased when people are honest. 

1 Chronicles 29:14,17

I would suggest that while good stewardship does indeed call us to carefully consider “what” we should give, or “where” we should give, and “why” we should give;

“the” most important question is “whose is it” that we give?

How has this question impacted your giving? Maybe something here to think & pray about this LENT?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Stewardship Reflections March 2017

Joppa Stewardship Leaders

Joseph Daniel Potvin, Ottawa, ON

Bulletin Stewardship Reflections for March 5th to March 26th, 2017

March 5th –  1st Sunday of Lent

In falling to the devil’s temptation Adam and Eve went against God’s divine plan for humankind. Not content with being created in the image of God they sought equality with God. The spirituality of stewardship gives us the strength to resist any temptation to think that our accomplishments, abilities, opportunities, health, relationships, and even our financial blessings, are of our own doing. We can find many rewards in daily life by acknowledging that all of our gifts come from, and belong to, God. Rewards like peace of mind, hope, and confidence are just the tip of the iceberg. Stewardship inspires us to use and share our gifts in a manner that recognizes that God is first in our life. Stewardship is a central part of God’s divine plan for us.

Copyright © 2017, by Joseph Daniel Potvin, Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

 March 12th –  2nd Sunday of Lent

Stewardship is a way of life that has its beginning in a new way of seeing who we are and all that we possess. The disciples were blessed to see Jesus in a new and glorious way in today’s account of our Lord’s Transfiguration. When we are open to seeing God’s glory all around us amongst our daily busyness we can be filled with wonder and awe – life is truly a wondrous gift from God! Our hearts and minds are transformed and we are inspired to be a good steward of it all. Let Jesus reveal himself to you this Lent in a new and wondrous way so that your discipleship and stewardship may be even more joyful and fruitful.

Copyright © 2017, by Joseph Daniel Potvin, Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

 March 19th –  3rd Sunday of Lent

In today’s Gospel, the Samaritan woman allows herself to experience a life-changing encounter with Jesus. As she conversed with Jesus her understanding of who he was grew, and this inspired her to want to bring others to also know Him. The more we come to know Jesus the more we desire to share the joy that we have discovered in knowing and following Him. Prayer and fasting are ways in which we can all deepen our relationship with Jesus. Sacrificial almsgiving closes the gap between what we are comfortable in giving and what God calls us to give and thus strengthens our trust in God because we trust that He will always provide for our needs. And, when we give in gratitude for all that God has given us, and not merely out of a sense of obligation or duty, we grow in our relationship with Him. We do well to invest a generous portion of our time in growing in our faith this Lent by allowing ourselves to truly encounter Christ and accept our mission to be stewards of the Good News.

Copyright © 2017, by Joseph Daniel Potvin, Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

March 26th –  4th Sunday of Lent

Stewardship is a call to collaborate with God. In baptism we are anointed and called. We are called to be a light, as St. Paul says in today’s second reading, “Live as children of the light”. How is God calling you? What are the gifts He has given you to respond to this call? Spending some quiet time in prayer with God each day is the best way to discern His plan and purpose for our lives. Each of us can be a light in our own unique way. Finding that way in the busyness of life requires that we be good stewards of our time and make time to hear God’s voice. God always provides what we need to be a light, provided we do our part and are good stewards of the gifts He has given us to be that light.

Copyright © 2017, by Joseph Daniel Potvin,  Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

FREE Stewardship Reflections for Parish Bulletins – February 2017

Joppa Stewardship Leaders

Bulletin Stewardship Reflections for February 5th to February 26th, 2017

 February 5th –  5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 “Let your light shine before human beings”

We know that St. Paul was knowledgeable, in fact he was an expert in the law, a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. (Acts 23:6) Yet, we hear in today’s second reading that he preached, not with lofty words and wisdom, he kept his proclaiming simple – “Christ, and him crucified”. This simple proclaiming is good news for us as we strive to share the gift of faith that we have received with those who don’t know Christ. We can let our light shine through simple words and deeds, praise God! Being a light to others begins with acknowledging God as the very source of our lives, our words, our understanding and skills. This humble disposition creates room in our hearts, and minds, for our words and actions to be entirely inspired by the Holy Spirit, and in this way, we are good stewards of the mysteries of God.

Copyright © 2017, by Joseph Daniel Potvin, Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

 February 12th –  6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 “To act faithfully is a matter of your own choice”

             In baptism each of us are called to be disciples of Christ, it is not only for a select few, we are all called to this common vocation. How we respond to this call is our choice. Stewardship, as a way of life, naturally flows out of mature discipleship. However, it still is required that a person chooses to live the stewardship way. Christian stewards choose to live differently, and give differently, and as a result experience the fullness of life that Jesus came to give us. (John 10:10) Every day we are bombarded with images in the advertising media which are all intended to influence our choices and, as a consequence, our lives. Between the images and the consequences is choice. Good stewards choose wisely.

Copyright © 2017, by Joseph Daniel Potvin, Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

 February 19th –  7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”

             Jesus sets out a standard of love for us in today’s gospel that sets the bar very high indeed, encouraging us to give to everyone who begs from you and love your enemies! How are we to live up to such high expectations? It helps to pray for the grace to always, and in every circumstance, be grateful to God. We can’t outdo God in giving and loving, still, Jesus calls us to do our best. God has blessed us with many gifts, and gratitude to God inspires our best because gratitude gives us the confidence and desire to love and give, joyfully and generously.

Copyright © 2017, by Joseph Daniel Potvin, Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

February 26th –  8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 “You cannot serve God and wealth”

             When we put our trust only in the at-risk things of this world, like our bank accounts, or investments, we are extremely vulnerable to worry. Money can master us if we neglect to remember that God’s care for us is beyond any worldly financial limits. In today’s Gospel Jesus places before us a bit of a dilemma. God should be at the center of our lives, yet, we still need money, so how do we deal with this dilemma? The answer is to have our faith and our finances working together, by seeking first God’s Kingdom, putting God first in how we share, save and spend our wealth, and then Trusting God. Living this way frees us from worrying. Trusting in God’s providence is also one way we strengthen our relationship with Him – “all these things will be given to you as well”. (Matthew 6:3)    

 Copyright © 2017, by Joseph Daniel Potvin, Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

Joppa Stewardship Leaders FREE offer – Weekly Stewardship Reflections for Church Bulletins -Let’s Change some Hearts & Minds!

January 1st – Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God

Mary perfectly embodied one of the foundational virtues of stewardship in her life – trust.

She trusted in God’s plan for her, and her new born son. As Mary pondered the words of the shepherds in her heart, I imagine she might have thought, “There must be more to this than I can see at the moment, however, I will trust in the Father’s call of me to be the mother of God”. Where might God be calling you in this new year that may require you to trust Him like you never have before? Maybe you possess, as of yet untapped gifts, that God has given you to respond to this call? Imagine what new and exciting challenges our good and gracious God may have in store for you to be a steward of in 2017? How exciting and hopeful it is to ponder these things in your heart.

Copyright © 2017, by Joseph Daniel Potvin, Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

January 8th – Epiphany of the Lord

Today we celebrate the Epiphany – the revelation of Christ to all peoples. The Magi came to pay Jesus homage. The two essential elements of ‘paying homage’ are adoration and service. It’s not good enough to simply adore our Lord. Being intimately close to Him, as the Magi were that night, naturally inspires in us a desire to also serve Him. God has given us all awesome gifts. What treasure chest of gifts will you open up this year in the service of our Lord and His Church? We have been given an incredible gift in Jesus. How are you stewarding the gift of our Saviour? Why not share that gift in a way that brings even just one person who does not know Christ into the Church this year – now that’s a New Year’s Resolution!

Copyright © 2017, by Joseph Daniel Potvin, Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

January 15th – 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings all in some way speak of our purpose or calling. St. Paul tells us that we are “called to be saints”; John the Baptist was clear about his calling; and, the Psalmist invites us to respond, “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will”. To be a saint is to be set apart by God. This call comes from God the Father. What purpose or calling have you been set apart for? What unique gifts has God provided to enable you to live a life of purpose? Following God’s will may not always be easy, however God always provides…provided we do our part! Being a good steward of our individual calling is doing our part.

Copyright © 2017, by Joseph Daniel Potvin, Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

January 22nd – 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Twice in today’s reading we are given the image of people being in darkness having seen a great light! As stewards of the Good News we have an opportunity to bring love and hope into a people’s lives where only darkness exists. We do this by freely, and generously sharing our gifts. To cling to our wealth and our time too tightly leaves no space to receive God’s blessings. In gratitude to God, good stewards joyfully share their gifts to brighten someone else’s life! When gratitude is behind our giving, JOY naturally accompanies the gift.

Copyright © 2017, by Joseph Daniel Potvin, Joppa Stewardship Leaders, Ottawa

January 29th – 4rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

The stewardship virtue of humility is encouraged in all the readings today. Stewardship proclaims that my gifts are not mine and they are not for my glory. All spiritual and temporal gifts belong to God and are to be used and shared in a manner that gives God glory. Christian stewards accept and acknowledge that all we are ever able to accomplish or accumulate in our lives, is only because our good and gracious God has enabled it. This belief inspires us to embrace a humble disposition. Humility does not mean we deny that we have a gift, it simply means we know the true and only source of all our gifts.

Simplicity – Less Really is More! Dump the Debt & Stress

I never imagined how good it would feel to shake off some of the excess, slow down, and live simply. When I finally recognized God as the only source of all the blessings that I enjoy, it was easier for me to swim against the tide, embrace the simpler life, and find a healthy balance in all of the consumerism, materialism, and busyness of modern life.

For some people the fast lane is a place they can thrive in. However, too much time spent there often manifests itself in unwanted consequences, like stress. Personally, I do find short trips in the fast lane rather exhilarating, so long as I do not spend extended periods of time there. Life tends to pass me by when I don’t steward my time wisely. Thankfully, over the years I have learned to be very intentional in my efforts to be a good steward of my time. This means learning when to say no to those activities that, although good, will only distract me from my God given purpose in life & my personal top five priorities (I have only five, simply because any more is too stressful!). Keeping it simple allows for clarity in my thinking which helps in discerning God’s will. Enjoying some simplicity in our daily schedule is all about focus. In addition, having the discipline to focus on a short list of priorities creates some space in my life to grow in my appreciation of what an abundant gift life really is.

When I am grateful, I find contentment, and I am happy with all that I have and who I am. Simplicity opens the door to so much more of what life has to offer. You discover more time to invest in personal growth and more time to nurture more loving and fruitful relationships. There is more money in your savings account as a result of less spending and no debt, and, as a result, more to share with those in need. Finally, with simplicity comes its greatest reward, more peace of mind and joy.

Simplicity is the virtue that allows us to be able to walk confidently and freely in and around the consumerism and materialism that grips our culture today. I do not wish to give the impression that I am some sort of anti-consumerist because I acknowledge that consumerism is what drives the standard of living that we all enjoy. I am simply an advocate for a kind of consumerism that is balanced and sensible. How then does a person resist the temptation to buy more? The best habit to ensure we keep our spending habits simple is to always preface every spending decision with the question, “Is this a need or a want?” This is a stewardship of finances question, and a great way to cultivate the virtue of simplicity in our daily choices as consumers, and eliminate debt!

Living simply expands our capacity to help those in the world, who are less fortunate than we are, which is one of the rewards of this virtue that my wife and I enjoy the most. It is so gratifying to know that those who struggle just to live, can be the beneficiaries of our simplicity. By sharing the fruits of the sacrifices we make in living a simpler life, we are able to offer hope to those who have nothing.

 “Live simply so that others may simply live!”

St. Teresa of Calcutta

Without a doubt, simplicity means giving up some things. However, it is what we gain that makes this virtue so appealing. In what ways have you cultivated this virtue in your life, and what have been some of the rewards? I’d love to hear from you.

Over-extending ourselves, and our pocket books, are the greatest obstacles to enjoying the rewards of the stewardship lifestyle.  If we are too busy being busy, peace of mind eludes us, and stress then easily overpowers us! In addition, excessive busyness leaves little or no room for God in our life. How am I supposed to hear the voice of God with all of the noise?

Simplicity creates some space in our lives to be even better stewards. We all have life leadership roles, be it as a parent, spouse, a friend, at work, at church, or in the community. Any time we try to help someone get to heaven we are acting as a leader. As stewardship leaders we will give those we lead a wonderful gift by encouraging them to live simply.

The Power of Changed Thinking

What motivates people to be the best stewards they can be? Certainly a sense of obligation or duty can be a factor for many. What about gratitude? I have witnessed the power of gratitude in inspiring a more generous, and most importantly, sustainable commitment to the Christian call to stewardship.

I have been training church stewardship team leaders for sixteen years, and I have always encouraged leaders to see themselves as agents of change. Job one for any stewardship leader is to create the conditions for people to change the way they think about who they are, and all they are able to accomplish or accumulate in their life. Stewardship leaders do this by regularly reminding people that…

“All temporal and spiritual goods are created by and come from God. That is true of everything human beings have: spiritual gifts like faith, hope, and love; talents of body and brain; cherished relationships with family and friends; material goods; the achievements of human genius and skill; the world itself.”[1]

Once the above reality is accepted, a person no longer sees their accomplishments, and the fruit of their accomplishments as being of their own doing. This new view of life will naturally lead them to experience an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for all that is good about their life. Seeing all of life through the lens of gratitude will open their eyes to the abundance around them, and liberate them from any feelings of envy, want, or dissatisfaction. Most critically, from a Christian stewardship perspective, it is this heightened sense of ‘vertical gratitude’ that will inspire in them the desire and the confidence to make stewardship a way of life.

I have a vision for cultivating a more joyful, generous, and sustainable response to Christian Stewardship. It is founded in gratitude, and then formed in nine accompanying virtues. Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others”.  There are many virtues that are inextricably linked to discipleship and stewardship, and they are all born out of a gratitude. Virtues like, generosity, humility, simplicity, trust, patience, perseverance, discipline, mercy, and prayer have become my primary focus in stewardship. Cultivating these virtues will change the way people see stewardship and thus change the way they live, and even change the world.

In 2010, while serving as the Director of Stewardship at the Archdiocese of Winnipeg I faced a challenge. The challenge was to get more parishes involved in the stewardship movement. I believed some creative thinking would lead to better results. It was then that I developed this renewed vision for stewardship education and formation. Led by the Holy Spirit, I was convinced that these ten virtues could be the game changer that would transform the way people see stewardship; and, after just one year of promoting this new path to stewardship eleven new parish stewardship teams were established that had not existed in the previous ten years under the time, talent, & treasure model. Creative thinking did indeed change the order of things.

I would be very interested to hear about what sort of creative thinking you have applied to inspire a greater commitment to stewardship among those whom you are leading. In addition, I’m curious to learn about any experience you have had in the relationship between these ten virtues and forming better stewards, and more intentional disciples? I look forward to the dialogue in the coming weeks.

[1] United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s – 1992 Pastoral Letter, Stewardship – A Disciple’s Response

Why Stewardship?

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Why Stewardship?

Good Question!

Imagine you are at your Parish Pastoral Council meeting and you are rather passionately encouraging the leadership and the Pastor to get involved in promoting better stewardship in the parish. They ask you why…the parish meets its financial commitments every month and there are a sufficient number of ‘volunteers’ (many volunteering in more than one ministry or service), why do we need more stewardship? You respond by describing the amazing transformation that you have witnessed in another faith community, and believe that the same conversion can take place here with a greater commitment to stewardship! The Pastor and others are quite comfortable; they say “The parish is doing just fine.  We already do stewardship”, on to the next agenda item. “Why don’t they get it?” you wonder… “Stewardship is more than meeting budgets and getting volunteers.”

Or maybe your congregation has a pressing financial need, and the leadership might view ‘stewardship’ as a quick fix to their problem, only to discover that stewardship requires a patient, persistent, and long term vision to be fruitful. The best solution to an urgent financial need is a well coordinated capital campaign. Why would stewardship help in a capital campaign?

You would be surprised by the impact of infusing the spirituality of stewardship into a capital campaign. A few years ago, I co-chaired a $500,000 parish campaign. Half way through the campaign, I convinced the leadership that some stewardship teaching and language would be helpful. In the second half of the campaign we focused on cultivating a greater understanding of stewardship and giving back to God in gratitude for what God has given us…gifts in the second half of the campaign increased by 160%.

Is stewardship just an ecclesiastical term for fundraising then? Stewardship and fundraising are not the same thing. Fundraising is about giving to a need…stewardship is about the people in the pews needing to give, because they recognize how much God has given to them. Stewardship has the power to transform the hearts and minds of the people who sit in church Sunday after Sunday, that’s why we should work to advance the sprituality of stewardship. As people grow in their understanding of stewardship, they come to see all of life through a different lens. They look upon every possession, talent or ability, each opportunity, their monthly income, and every relationship as a gift from God. They grow in gratitude to God for their gifts, and that gratitude inspires in them, the desire to share their gifts generously. Moreover, gratitude deepens their relationship with God.

To be sure, a well executed stewardship education and formation plan does have a dramatic impact on the vitality of a church community, I have witnessed it personally in over 15 years of leading church stewardship initiatives. We only need to look at the incredible journey and example of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wichita Kansas, http://www.stfranciswichita.com/ as witness to the power of making stewardship a way of life. St. Francis of Assisi Parish began their stewardship journey in 1968, and the fruits have been beyond their wildest expectations. However, stewardship is personal as well as communal. When church leaders look beyond the needs of the church, as they did in Wichita, and focus their stewardship education efforts on the need for the individual person to grow in his or her discipleship, then they discover the power and the beauty of this spirituality.  Encouraging people to embrace stewardship in their day-to-day walk as a disciple of Jesus helps them to grow in holiness. Only in this way are we then being faithful to the stewardship we find in the Gospel.  Growing in holiness, this is my ‘white hot’ why! I love what stewardship has done for me as I strive to be the best disciple I can be, and that is why I am so passionate about sharing this way of life with others. All of this should remind us that stewardship is not a program, it is a response to our call to be disciples.

Stewardship is not a new program, but is Continuous and Permanent. Stewardship is a way of life, not a program. We regularly experience spiritual programs and movements that come, flourish, diminish, and disappear, only to be replaced by others. These programs and movements do great good, and we will always have them, but there is a problematic instability in going from program to program, a kind of a boom and bust pattern. Stewardship, however, is so deeply rooted in the foundational themes of the Gospel that it involves a permanent and continuous reorientation of our approach to discipleship, and so provides a stable base for the life of faith in our communities. Stewardship calls for nothing less than both individual and communal conversion, rooted in faith and fruitful in action. Stewardship is not a new program, or some magic solution to the challenges we face. It means a change of heart for each of us, a spirit of gratitude that permeates the whole of our life as disciples. That is its greatest benefit.

Thomas Cardinal Collins

2004 Pastoral Letter – Stewardship: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

http://caedm.ca/Portals/0/documents/stewardship/2015_06_30_CollinsLetter.pdf

 As stewardship leaders, we must be steadfast in our commitment to not permit stewardship to slide down that slippery slope to becoming a church ‘program’ designed merely to get more volunteers or money in the offering. How then do we consistently raise stewardship to its rightful place in the life of the authentic Christian Disciple? This is an important question and I’d be grateful to hear about your experience in dealing with it. I will share some of my experience in coming posts.

Always grateful and hopeful in our good and gracious God,

Joseph Daniel