I think one of the very real stumbling blocks for many parishes is that although financial issues are the #1 challenge in the minds of most pastors, a parish can’t address financial challenges head-on. Why? Because the work of the Church isn’t just another fundraising cause. Of course parishes can and do implement very successful fundraising campaigns, but I don’t think this is the long-term, sustainable solution.
In most cases the underlying factors that contribute to financial issues are spiritual in nature. Those who’ve been taught the spiritual practices of discipleship, those who give sacrificially as a spiritual offering, etc. do so because of a commitment that flows from being evangelized and discipled. It’s usually through the process of spiritual mentorship or discipling that giving as a spiritual discipline (sometimes called “tithing”) is learned.
So to address issue #1 takes efforts in other categories.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it again, because it’s quite true–99% of what I learned about spiritual giving (tithing) came from non-Catholic churches. We lag in this area because we are also less likely to consider individual discipling/mentorship as a priority in parish life. Ministries like FOCUS do make this a priority–but it hasn’t yet taken hold in parishes. Major applause for parishes like Church of the Nativity (Timonium, MD) that are highly transparent about why they intentionally do not “fundraise.”
Addressing financial issues takes a commitment among those present to give sacrificially as a spiritual discipline and effective evangelization work that brings in more disciples (future givers). It pains me sometimes when I see parishes spend lots of money on development/stewardship consultants who are great at raising money for the parish (or project) like it was any other charitable cause–but do nothing to address how giving is important to one’s walk with Jesus.
Want to learn more? Check out these reports from the Institute for Church Life called “Unleashing Catholic Generosity” — great data and food for though for parish councils, pastors, business managers, and finance councils 🙂