Giving (AKA: What's the Cheer Box and Where's the Offering Plate?)
Why Don't You Pass the Offering Plate During Service?
Let me start by saying the choice we are making here is for our community alone. How and why any other community chooses to operate is their choice. I love the diversity of thought within Christianity and how we operate our local bodies is part of that amazing diversity. As Pastor, I have been asked why I do not pass the offering plate during service? It's a good question. After all giving is a virtue, spiritual gift and a spiritual discipline. It should be encouraged. I believe that the best way to encourage giving was changing the way we did it. We began utilizing Cheer Boxes a few months ago
CHEER BOXES VS OFFERING PLATES
There is nothing wrong with passing the offering plate. However, there can be some wrong thinking surrounding the practice. The thinking is by no means universal but figuring out why we do and think things is the first step to correcting errors with which we may have become accustomed. I'll deal with some off these errors in thought by dividing them into the groups who may struggle with them. For simplicity sake I will group these errors of thought into three groups Pastors/leaders; church goers; and guests. I'll start with the my own errors in thought.
A PASTOR'S ERRORS IN THOUGHT ABOUT GIVING There is a risk as a pastor/leader in the church to see the passing of the plate as a means to measure our success as pastors. For example, if the offering begin going up we begin thinking we must be preaching well. Of course the opposite error is tempting too. We can view a drop in offering as a result of a weak message or presentation. In our clearest moments we know this is not true but it is a trap into which we often fall. Part of the reason for the success of the trap is that there is a nugget of truth to it. There is a segment of folks who do see their act of giving as a response to being "moved" by the sermon. Therefore, if a sermon really is well presented then the pastor sees an increase in the offering. Also, even more cynically we can see that preaching a sermon about giving often results in an increase in offering. Our cheer boxes receive offerings throughout the week and before and after the services as folks come and go out of the sanctuary. By weaking the direct connection between the giving and the presenting of the message, it weakens the temptation of the trap. Its not just leaders but the congregation too that may make errors.
THE CONGREGATION'S ERRORS IN THOUGHT ABOUT GIVING For my purpose, "congregation" applies to those who regularly attend our church and consider this group as their church. Passing the plate is a good reminder for the congregation to give. We all have busy lives and competing things seeking our attention. It is easy for something like giving money to support the church can just fall the the cracks. My concern is that not only is it that but there is a risk of reinforcing some errors in thought. I have talked a little already about linking the message to the giving. For the congregation there is a temptation to see themselves as the consumers of the ministry of the church that they pay for by giving to the church.
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"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you..." MATT 28:19-20a NLT