Do income and expenses in the bulletin really help?

A pastor in our Diocese asked me about the practice of publishing parish weekly income and expenses in the bulletin along with the actual weekly need to keep the plant and ministry running. 

Conventional wisdom is to publish this information for transparency purposes and to show parishioners what is needed to keep the operation running. In plain terms the following is at play:

1. We can see the parish administration is stewarding resources well. No secrets. 

2. If the income falls near or below expenses we may say "holy smokes, we are running in the red, time to up my weekly gift".

Not satisfied with my own ideas I asked my colleagues in the Region IX (Nebrask, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri) what they thought about the question. Here are a few responses.

We encourage parishes to report it for accountability and transparency.  We ask parishioners to be good stewards of their money, the parish needs to also.

Also, over the past year, trying to get parishes to give updates on more than money, trying to fight the claim that stewardship is only about money.

So, my home parish developed the attached page in the bulletin – The Steward’s Corner.  We give weekly updates on Time (Prayer), Talent (Participation) and Treasure (Generosity).   Plus provide other stewardship formation articles.  

All the information on the left side is updated weekly.  The information on the right side is various articles we have that rotate in and out of the bulletin on a monthly basis.

Left side – we list things the offertory was used for – this ties ministry and offertory together – people see what they are giving to.  We include how much on offertory subsidizes the parish school – this is very important to our parishioners.  (Most parishes in St. Louis don’t realize that 30 – 60 % of their offertory subsidizes their parish school.  We tell everyone that Catholic education is our parish’s largest ministry.)

Also, include scripture quotes on stewardship that shows stewardship comes from the Bible and that it isn’t something the Church just made up to get people to give more money. 

Bottomline – we have seen a very positive reaction to this page and more of our parishes. Click to view sample.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In addition to reporting on financial giving, it would be helpful if the parish found other points of data to include regularly in the bulletin, e.g. number of people at Mass, number of kids in religious ed, and once per year, the sacramental records of the parish should be reported in the bulletin.  I’m always surprised when I do strategic planning for a parish and suggest they look at this data and so many people – even those on parish and finance councils – have not even seen it.  Dan Ebener Diocese of Davenport, Director of Stewardship and Parish Planning

I would add that whether the bulletin gets read depends on the quality of the bulletin.  If it is the same old information week to week then it probably won’t make a difference if you post the financials. It does need to be easy to understand.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Coordinator of Stewardship, Diocese of Wichita 

Parishes should publish financial information weekly as well as publish occasional thank you notices recognizing the benefits derived from the various gifts to the parish and/or school including weekly offertory, legacy gifts, special events, etc. The benefits of this practice are many: The regular reports affirm the parish’s accountability; motivate and acknowledge the generosity of the parish community; and praise God for the many gifts received (time, talent and treasure) in the form of intentional stewardship of the parish and school operations.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Executive Director Office of Stewardship & Development, Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

As you can see, my colleagues collective wisdom shines bright. Not only should we report weekly income and expenses, but also, spotlight other areas of stewardship. As well as take opportunities to give thanks and form parishioners about stewardship. 

If you have any questions for the contributors, click their name for an email address. In the mean time, leave a comment and tell me what you think. Should we or shouldn't post the weekly financial statement?

Eric

 

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