by Ron Will, C.PP.S., Leadersip Council and Pastor, St. Francis Xavier Parish, Saint Joseph, Missouri
At St. Francis Xavier Parish we strive to inspire people to discover and live their God-given potential. This fall our Parish Stewardship Committee provided three Growth Plans for our parishioners that flowed from the book Life’s Greatest Lesson by Allen Hunt. On different weekends we provided: “A Guide to Plan your Prayer and Study,” “A Guide to Plan Your Time & Talent Growth,” and “A Guide to Plan Your Financial Giving Growth.” God wants us to grow and become the best versions of ourselves. In order to grow, we must set “Growth Goals” for ourselves. Anyone who has been on a sports team knows this.
Measurement creates awareness, awareness leads to intentionality, and intentionality drives behavior. If you want to change something, start measuring it. Measurement causes us to live more intentionally. If you can’t measure it, you can’t change it. Measurement is key to personal growth and also essential to parish growth. Goals must be realistic and attainable. We imagined that we as a parish would increase the sharing of our Time, Talent, and Treasure by just 1% this year. What a dramatic difference we would make in our city if all our parishioners increased by just 1%!
When Jesus says “I am the vine, you are the branches; remain in me” (John 15:5), he uses agriculture to explain to us that the grape understands that it cannot develop apart from its connection to the branch through the vine, because the power for growing in life is not in itself. Maybe the modern-day translation might be, “I am the outlet.” If you are an iPhone or iPad, you don’t have the power within yourself. You have to be connected to an outlet. That’s the only way you survive. Many of us get the idea that as soon as we see fruit in our life, we possess that power ourselves. When you unplug from the outlet, over time the battery drains. You have less power to do what God has planned for you. You discover you can’t do anything that lasts.
A hummingbird flew back and forth dropping tiny droplets of water from its beak onto a raging fire. It was mocked and scorned by the other larger animals that were standing by in presumed helplessness. When asked why it continued to do something so small and obviously futile, the hummingbird’s response was, “I am doing what I can.” To see a need and stand by because we think we have nothing to offer is to deny that we are stewards; we are all in this together and we have been gifted in some way, no matter how small. What a different world this would be if we were more mindful of the world around us and attentive to other people and just decided to do what we could. If we each increase by 1% what we are presently doing, just imagine the huge impact on our city.
By saying we love God, it also means that we desire to spend time with God in prayer. Isn’t that what we do when we love someone? We want to spend time with that person. If you remember when you first fell in love, you simply could not spend enough time with your beloved. So it is with God. That’s why saints through the ages have devoted so much of their life to prayer.
We are not meant to be a storehouse of God’s love and grace, but a conduit of God’s love and grace flowing into us so it might flow out to those around us. To be a conduit of God’s grace to your children, grandchildren, and friends you must be connected to God through times of prayer. You can’t give what you don’t have.
God has an intense desire to break into our lives to let us know how much he loves us and cares about us. Are we willing to let him break in? Are we willing to give him the time so that he can break in? By increasing our time in prayer and study by just 1% it will make a difference in our life and in the lives of those around us.
The challenge we gave to our parish is the same challenge I give to our Community.