Do Numbers Matter in Ministry?

by Shannan Brommer, Office of Stewardship and Development

In my world, numbers are important. We track numbers in dollars raised for the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal; number of people who participate in the Appeal; number of parishes over goal; numbers in the amount received for the Ignite the Faith campaign; number of teachers who received Ignite the Faith scholarships; number of students in our schools and parishioners in our pews; and the numbers that compare these data points from year to year.

In my world, numbers are important. And as I pronounce these numbers to offer signs of success, opportunity or challenge, I can see some people responding with a bit of distress. For some, numbers don’t equate to ministry. Yet, it is ministry if we see every dollar and percentage point as the person who prayerfully considered and responded to the invitation to give to the archdiocese or his or her parish and school; who chose to say yes to Catholic education or to participating in parish life; who sacrificed as stewards knowing that all they have is a gift from God.

Fr. Henri Nouwen, in his book A Spirituality of Fundraising says that he, like many, once considered fundraising “a necessary but unpleasant activity to support spiritual things.” But he came to see that the activities were indeed “first and foremost a form of ministry.” When fundraising is at its best it is evangelization. We are not talking about selling candy bars and magazines. We are talking about fundraising as proclamation and invitation into the ministry and mission of the Church.

When I was hired as the director of the Stewardship and Development Office in 2011, I met with Archbishop Lucas to discuss his plans and my role. “What is your vision for this archdiocese?”, I asked. His response was, “to get everyone to heaven.” There was no mention of fundraising goals or participation percentages or quantifiable challenges. The panicking voice in my head was asking, “How am I going to hold myself accountable to that one?”

We might not be able to count the number of souls in heaven, but we can count the number of people we invite and accompany on this pilgrimage to heaven. May we be intentional about ensuring our development programs are another way to invite people into mission and a closer relationship with Jesus.

To learn more about the ministry of stewardship and development, watch for programming from our office provided through our Education and Networking Series or reach out to a member of the Stewardship and Development Office.

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