Inspiring Generosity: Is the Offering Plate Relevant? Part 3: You Respond…Not So Much


Is the Offering Plate Relevant? Part 3: You Respond…Not So Much

We are on a journey of sorts – to determine if the offering plate, passed around during worship, is relevant.

In Part 1 of this oh-so-exciting mini-series, I laid out the question... offering plate: relevant, or no? As the drama built, last week in Part 2, the “pro-offering plate” people had their say.
That leaves us with the obvious “con” responses. But who wants to be Debbie Downer? Not me, unless I could play Debbie on SNL…now that would be awesome.
So, instead of using “con”– which from Latin is literally “against” – those of you who wrote are arguing that passing the physical offering plate is not really relevant. That’s a bit softer. Amirite?
Here we go! Like last week, some comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Rev. Jeremy H-P
In my experience, when it comes to passing the plate, the cons definitely outweigh the pros that you list.
We haven't passed the plate for over 3 years, since covid hit... My bigger issue with passing the plate is the time it takes and what happens during that time. Pre-covid we had an offertory during the passing of the plate. Our accompanist would play music or a soloist would sing or some other music would happen. The problem is that too often it sucked all the energy out of the service. It was almost like "dead air" on a radio program. People couldn't focus 100% on the music because of passing the plate. Sometimes the offertory was longer than it took to pass the plate. And, honestly, depending on who was offering the music, well...let's just say it wasn't always the greatest.
So now that we don't pass the plate, we're freed from that dynamic. What we did pre-covid, and continue to do, is tell a story about how our church is engaged in ministry (and show pictures if possible) and then we thank the congregation for all the ways they give to help us do the ministry we've been called to pursue -- their time, prayers, love, donations…
You can read Rev. H-P’s full comments here.
Rev. Jim P
Here is what we decided to do about "passing the plate.” This is a slide [see below] that is shown during our pre-service slide show as well as in a continuous slide show on a big screen TV in our lobby area 24/7. This offering box was made by one of our members. It has a slot in the top of the roofline.
Rev. Lura K-M
This is in response to your question about passing the offering plates. I don't have strong feelings about this, but was surprised at what happened at Albany FUMC. When we first returned to in-person worship during COVID, I asked the ushers to stand at the door at the end of the worship service and hold an offering plate for people to give as they left. Every Sunday at the beginning of the worship service I thank people for their financial support and say they can mail a check to the church, give as they leave the in-person worship service, or donate through the GivePlus mobile app on our website. 
I assumed the ushers would feel awkward doing this and would want to return to the old pattern as soon as possible. Instead, they said they never wanted to back to passing the plate. We have a few people scattered across a large space meant for a much bigger congregation. It is physically challenging to get the plate to each person. When the ushers stand at the sanctuary exit, they greet people and each person who puts something in the plate gets a personal, "thank you." 
I've also realized that passing the plate takes up over five minutes of the worship service. While I'm sure some use this creatively to talk about stewardship, in most churches I've served there is just piano or organ music as a backdrop.
You can read Rev. K-M’s full comments here.
Rev. Don F.
30 years in ministry and I have never talked about giving or pledging from the pulpit.  I have asked at times for money for special funds, like UMCOR, etc. but not money for the “budget.”  I have always believed that if the people believe in what the church is doing in the community, they will support the church, AND THEY HAVE.
Before COVID, we passed the plate. Then after COVID no passing the plate, just a plate in the back of the sanctuary where people can give, if they want, on the way in or the way out.
[Cesie here: I’m including this – even though it’s not about the offering plate – because I found it so fascinating.]  As for budget, ALL churches live on cash flow.  You can only spend what you have been given. So why have a budget? Makes no sense to me. This was difficult to understand, especially for business people, yet I was able to get the point across…The churches I have served have always paid Wider Mission (Apportionments).
And there you have it – the “not so much” side of the offering plate’s relevancy.
Once again, thank you to all of you who responded.

But wait! There’s more! Next week, we’ll finish up our exploration of this conversation. Be sure to tune in for the exciting conclusion of “Is the Offering Plate Relevant?” (Play appropriate music here.)

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a Stewardship Consultant for the OR-ID Annual Conference. She is also a Senior Ministry Strategist with Horizons Stewardship. For 25 years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over three million dollars for numerous churches and non-profit organizations.

The world lost two great musicians in the past week who couldn’t be more different: Tina Turner and George Winston. RIP.

You can reach Cesie at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com, at CesieScheuermann.com, or at cesieds@horizons.net. Want to schedule a meeting? She’s got you covered!
Schedule a meeting now.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
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.