The Future of the Offering Plate Part 1: The New Altar Call
I asked – and you answered! Thanks to so many of you who wrote in with some great ideas about the Future of the Offering Plate (capitalized so that it shouts out its self-proclaimed importance) aka “FOP” (and yes, I do believe FOP will catch on.).
Anyhoo – your FOP responses fell into three camps:
- Elevate and expand the offering plate experience (this week’s blog)
- Have clear expectations about tithing (next week’s blog)
- Embrace new technology (and, yes, you guessed it…the blog after that)
“Is giving to God an act of worship that is transformational? [Or] is giving to God a transaction, like taking the attendance in worship?” asked Rev. Dr. Clayton Smith, author of Propel: Good Stewardship, Greater Generosity.
A number of you wrote about wanting to keep the offering plate in its current incarnation while at the same time enriching the experience. Many of you whole-heartedly think that that the offering is indeed transformational. Dare I say the time of “giving of our tithes and offerings” could actually become the mainline version of the altar call?
As Rev. Jeremy Hajdu-Paulen (Tigard UMC) said, “I would be sad to see the ‘offering time’ – whatever it becomes – go away. It is one of the few times in worship that people are actually asked to respond, to do something, to give, rather than passively ‘consume’ the worship experience.”
Rev. Clay Andrew of Hillsboro UMC replied, “…I could see using the offering plate primarily as an opportunity to invite folks to make time/talent/prayer commitments for ministries – maybe a small card or tear-off from the bulletin that says something like “I commit to serving the _________ ministry for _____ hours this week.”
Way out in Nashville, Director of Stewardship and Connectional Ministries for Discipleship Ministries of the UMC, Rev. Dr. Ken Sloan (how does he fit that on a business card?!) asked, “Will a practice such as asking persons to complete a card that reflects that they have given of their money, but are committing to give prayers and service in the coming week become the new use for the offering plate?... Personally, I hope that worship will always include a time to respond to not only the word read and preached, but the remembrance of all God's blessings, even when my money moves to the church via Holy Spirit-empowered electrons!”
Layperson Greg Peterson from Milwaukie, OR responded, “Giving is an act of worship, not an interruption to the worship service to do the church’s business. For those of us that give electronically, there still needs to be something to replace the physical act of placing our tithes and offerings in a plate. This might take the form of a statement from the pulpit, an alternative piece of paper to put in the offering plate, or something entirely different.”
And finally layperson Sally Cowell from Salem, OR suggests, “The offering plate might become a symbol – i.e., at some point in the service being held up as a representation of giving and an acknowledgement made as well as thank for the gifts and a presentation to God.”
These fine folks don’t want to see the offering experience disappear. In fact, they want to see it elevated. That means reminding people that giving of their financial resources is a critical part of their faith journey. It also means a call for more sacrificial giving of time and talent. Passing the plate can become a tangible expression of how God is calling your congregation to respond to the Word – both written and spoken. You may find yourself making it a more important part of your worship experience.
The offering plate can hold so much more than just a few checks and loose change – it can be that altar call signaling a changed life. Now that’s the transformational Future of the Offering Plate that we can all get behind.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She is considering trademarking F.O.P. and making a boat-load of money on merchandising items. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.