One New Way to Expand the Offering Plate
Last Sunday I had the good fortune to speak at Westside United Methodist Church in Beaverton, Oregon. It was a great experience and I must say two things stuck out for me. As I walked into church I noticed a sign telling me what to expect: “Be prepared for 90-minutes of worship.” Yep, you read that right, 9-0 minutes. Isn’t there something about time limits in the Book of Discipline? But guess what? No one freaked out (even I held it together) and the time flew by – not a dull moment. Let’s hear it for all-day church!
The second thing that surprised me was something that happened during the offering. As we were singing, I suddenly saw Rev. Brian Shimer being approached by two people who looked like Millennials (roughly in their 20s to mid 30s). Brian took their credit cards and swiped it on the Square attached to his iPhone. Low and behold, they made an offering with a card, phone, and a little piece of plastic in the shape of a square. It was amazing to watch – I felt like I had just seen the future.
Here’s what I learned:
- With fewer and fewer folks carrying cash or checks, it’s important to find avenues for them to give in a way that’s meaningful to them. The Square might not be your cup of tea, but who’s to say it’s any less holy?
- Some people are not secretive about who sees what they give. This is the era, after all, of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They don’t come thinking that the offering is only between “me and God” – goodness it’s between me, God, and the whole world. People who give this way are OK with others seeing what they are contributing.
- This congregation was willing to try something completely different. And, it seems to be working. Someone other than Brian is usually in charge of the Square. This was their third week using it and every week people have been swiping credit cards.
Perhaps, most importantly, people are being given the opportunity to be faithful as they return to God what is rightfully God’s. What a testament it is that some churches are making it possible for people to hear God’s voice and respond in a way that’s authentic for them. Suddenly, being “Square” doesn’t sound so bad.
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 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Frequent flyer miles while making an offering? Yes, please! Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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.