Day 7:20 am
In fairness, it might be more accurate to talk about the strategic opportunity to nurture generosity in worship, but MEWT would make a lousy acronym. So L is for Liturgy.
I will begin with what should be obvious, but perhaps isn’t. Worship attendance is the factor that has the greatest impact on giving to the church. The reason is regrettable but no less true: people are more likely to give when they come to church than when they don’t. In spite of automatic methods of giving (our system is called PAR), in spite of the occasional exhortation to make up for missed Sundays, most people’s giving is firmly connected to their participation in worship. If you want to increase giving, increase attendance at worship.
Many of us think of ourselves as belonging to a certain level of weekly giving. When my wife and I first started attending our church we were $10 per week givers. It therefore came as a great shock when our first annual donation receipt was for an amount considerably less than $520. Our first step in more generous giving didn’t involve changing our self-perception, it meant a simple change in behaviour. We could afford $10 a week; the behaviour we had to change was our church attendance.
Worship is also one of our best opportunities to communicate with people. When they come to church, we have them for an hour. They have made a commitment to be there and participate, at least to some degree. What do we do with that opportunity?
Let’s begin with the offering itself.
- Do we say anything before the ushers come forward to begin gathering the gifts? The United Church of Canada website has weekly “offering invitations“.
- Does your congregation use the same offertory prayer week after week? Why not try changing things up from time to time with a “prayer of dedication” from that same United Church site?
- Who passes around the offering plates and brings them forward — is it the same roster of people throughout the year? Ever think of inviting school-aged children and youth to take on this role? What would their participation communicate to the rest of the congregation?
- Are the people’s gifts of money brought to the altar along with God’s gifts of bread and wine? And what happens to the full offering plates after that — do they remain on the altar or are they moved off to the side (or, heaven forbid, right out of the sanctuary to be counted while the service continues)? We honour our gifts to God (and the givers) if we treat them with the same respect as God’s gifts to us.
- The offering is at the geographic and symbolic centre of our liturgy. The tone that is established for the offering may communicate what we really believe about generosity. Is the mood matter-of-fact? solemn? hurried? celebratory?
- Are hymns sung during the offering? Evangelical Lutheran Worship contains dozens of hymns listed under the Topical Index headings of Creation, Offering, Justice, Peace and Stewardship. How many of them does your congregation sing?
In my next post I will take a critical look at the use of pre-authorized giving, for it has both advantages and drawbacks.continue reading