A Hole in the Basket

With Sunday Collections, You Get What You Give

Whenever I’m with a group of fellow priests, especially pastors, the conversation usually gets around to the Sunday collection. A tough economy, high unemployment, and a general decline in Mass attendance have resulted in lower collections at many parishes. Finance committees and pastors are struggling to pay the bills, let alone expand ministries. But when my colleagues trade hardship stories and debate the merits of hiring a professional revenue-raising company, I tend to keep quiet or leave the room to check my cell phone. You see, our parish collection has been increasing dramatically for the past several years. If I try to explain why this has happened, my colleagues eye me with suspicion, as though I’ve just disclosed that we started baptizing pets as a fundraiser. Nobody seems to believe me, but in my experience the secret to increasing the parish collection is a simple one: Start giving the money away.

I know my strategy doesn’t seem logical, and there are a million reasons why it shouldn’t work. This “tip” wasn’t whispered in my ear by a Carmelite statue or revealed to me in a road-to-Damascus Moment. As I think about it, I was primed to consider it by two experiences that are separated by thirty years. The first was a parish assignment while I was still in the seminary. It was a poor, inner-city church staffed by truly joyful men and women. They worked hard, laughed a lot, and worried about a lot of things—but never about money. “God will figure it out,”...

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About the Author

Fr. Nonomen (a pseudonym) is the pastor of a suburban parish. He has been a priest for more than twenty years.