Stewardship program achieves results

Progressively bigger stacks of coins grow plant shoots.
 on September 1, 2016

For many parishes in our diocese, autumn is the time of year when activity flourishes as congregants return after their summer vacation. It is also a time of angst for many a treasurer, churchwarden and incumbent as they grapple with ways of balancing the ledger. Often they are forced into making a desperate plea for funds in hopes of avoiding a deficit.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In 2013, the diocese’s Stewardship Development office launched a pilot program to assess whether a year-round focus on stewardship education could succeed. Anchored in the belief that parishes have the capacity to become centres of joyful giving, missional outreach, enthusiastic volunteerism and innovative ministry, this new initiative twins parish leaders with an experienced stewardship coach and moves them through a year-long calendar of results-oriented programming. Three years in, Growing Healthy Stewards is helping parishes support ministry, honour volunteer commitment and educate their congregations about what it means to be generous.

To date, 26 parishes have completed the orientation process and are continuing with the program under their own steam. What began as a fledgling group of stewardship coaches serving seven parishes has now grown to a robust roster of 15 committed stewardship volunteers. Each coach connects with an assigned parish team every couple of months to assist in their planning, help them stay focused and troubleshoot any challenge that they encounter.

This unique feature of the Growing Health Stewards program sets it apart from any other stewardship education initiative and has helped generate interest not only in other Canadian dioceses but with the Episcopal Network for Stewardship in the United States.

In addition to bringing a disciplined approach to stewardship education, “a spirit of gratitude abounds in the program,” says Jim Finlay, past stewardship chair at All Saints, Whitby. All Saints has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance since a fire destroyed the church in 2009. With the help of Stewardship coach Joycelyn Williams, lay leadership in the parish began the program in January 2014. Since then, their offertory has grown 19 per cent, volunteers are honored weekly, newcomers are welcomed graciously, the number of donors has increased and participation in Pre-Authorized Remittance (PAR) is close to 50 per cent.

These results are not the exception. St. Timothy, North Toronto has experienced a similar outcome. Chosen as one of seven parishes invited to participate in a pilot program in 2013, the parish has been an model of implementation. Working with long-time stewardship volunteer and coach Gordon Longman, the committee focuses on all aspects of stewardship, including joyful giving, time and talent, volunteer development and legacy giving. In 2015, St. Timothy balanced its books for the first time in several years and now boasts a thriving FaithWorks campaign, PAR participation nearing 55 per cent and givings well above the diocesan average. The chair of the church’s stewardship committee, Mary Pember, has coached two other parishes in the diocese.

Growing Healthy Stewards has also helped small parishes reap the benefits of stewardship education. St. James, Sharon has experienced a remarkable commitment to giving from the congregation. PAR enrollment has rocketed from a handful of givers to over 75 per cent. The Rev. Erin Martin, incumbent, credits the program and an enthusiastic team of volunteers for their success. With the neighborhood around them growing exponentially, the parish is planning how to accommodate this growth, and Growing Healthy Stewards is helping lay the proper foundation.

One of the pleasant outcomes of the Growing Healthy Stewards process is the emphasis on recruiting new coaches from existing participants. Over half of our coaches have successfully implemented the program in their own parish and are now sharing that experience with others. This mentoring of other parish leaders is one way we can evangelize one another – introducing Anglicans to a better understanding of discipleship and what it means to be a good steward. Together, we have identified best practices that really work for parishes in the Diocese of Toronto. Growing Healthy Stewards is helping our parishes model healthy stewardship education.


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