Offering Tips

Standard

One of the sites I check regularly is Alan Wildes, who goes by the name of Generosity CoaOffering platech. In four brief video clips this past month, he has given tips for the offering which resonate with what I have been teaching, as well.

Two clips deal with the importance of language, which shapes both our thinking and others’ expectations. We do not “take” the offering; we “receive” it. We’re not “taking” it to use in church ministries. People give to God through the church. The offering is a worshipful act where we help all of us give back to God in response to what God has done for us.

The second message about offering language relates to worship visitors and giving. Personally, it sets my teeth on edge when a church leader says, “We do not expect visitors to give.” Who are we to deny someone the opportunity to participate in God’s work in the world? But Wildes make a great point even before that. By calling people “visitors,” we imply that they’re just here to visit and then will leave. But when we call them “newcomers,” we say they have recently joined us and we hope they will continue to be part of the community. What a difference that makes!

The other two offering tips speak of all-important connections. “Connect the dots,” he says, by connecting our constituents’ giving to people’s life changes – changes for the better in who they are and how they live. And connect your church’s vision to (you guessed it) people’s real life changes. “Vision increases generosity,” he states. Surely we can celebrate the transformation we see going on in people’s lives, both inside the church and in our wider community.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Advertisements

Offerings

Standard

This Sunday in worship, we received a special offering for Human Relations Day as well as our ongoing offerings for God’s work through the local and connectional (worldwide) church. This act reminded me of a conversation I had this week with a worship staff colleague about the role of the offering in our lives.

The words that we use about our offerings are important because they imply different worlds of understanding.

First, we “receive” offerings; we don’t “collect” them. “Collect” implies a billing approach and a contractual agreement for services rendered. It focuses on taking in money, not on receiving it in order to use it for others.

Second, we “give” our offerings; we don’t “present” them. The verb “to present” is part of the Old Testament language for sacrifices. That’s the whole point of Jesus’ gift of himself for us in his life, death, and Resurrection: thanks to Jesus Christ, no more sacrifices are needed or wanted by God. Jesus’ sacrifice was done once for all people and for all time. (See the Book of Hebrews about this.)

And third, we give “to God through the church,” not “to the church” as an end in itself. By being mindful about our language, we help shape our deeper understandings.

So our offerings are not three things: They are not our sacrifices for God. They are not a way to earn our place with God. (God already loves us as children of God.) And offerings are not just symbolic. Our offerings are meant to be substantial and to come from the substance of our lives: our time and energies, money from our work, our lived-out values, priorities and commitments, all given in gratitude for God’s love already given to us. Our offerings are substantial in another way, as well: they can make a substantial difference in the lives of human beings in this world.

Language is important, but ultimately it is what we do that counts. So when we give back to God some of the resources God has entrusted to us, we come with grateful hearts to participate in God’s substantial work all around us, by giving from the substance of our lives. May your offerings this week of your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness embody the substance of God’s love!

Your partner in ministry,
Betsy Schwarzentraub

Written 1/18/2011 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church