The Notre Dame Institute for Church Life released a very important study entitled, "Unleashing Catholic Generosity". 

Major findings include:

  • Catholics are less likely than Protestants to "tithe" to their parish or give to religious causes;

 

  • Catholics are less "engaged" and show lower levels of "ownership" of their parishes;

 

  • Catholics are less likely to think of giving money as a "spiritual" exercise.

 

The study basically provides empirical support for what the US Bishops have been teaching in the classic pastoral letter, Stewardship: A Diciple's Response (2002).  Catholics will give more generously when they see giving as a part of their faithful journey.  Too often, we make the fundraising case for the latest need, instead of tying fundraising to discipleship, as it is expressed in the pastoral.  Stewards give out of a need to give, instead of giving to the latest need.  Those who give to a need stop giving at some point, i,.e. once that need has been met or once they realize that need might never be met. 

 

If we want Catholics to give generously to our parishes, schools and other Catholic causes, we need to change the way we lead.  Yes, there is a direct connection between leadership and stewardship.  The right type of leadership - that which invites and inspires and empowers - will enhance stewardship in a parish.  (My first book, Servant Leadership Models for Your Parish, explains and provides empirical support for that statement.) 

 

As the Notre Dame study suggests, when parishioners are involved in the mission and vision of the parish, when they fully participate in the planning and implementation, they have a sense of shared vision about their future.  That sense of ownership enhances generous giving.  When leaders command, control and coerce - instead of invite, inspire and influence - they are leading like the scribes, Pharisees and Romans - not like Jesus modeled.  How we lead makes all the difference.   

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