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View Stewardship: Why The Offering

Offering – Why It’s Important
Larry Sherman

Confession:
I didn’t like talking about money.  Most pastors don’t.

Some don’t talk about it because it seems like a conflict of interest – I don’t want to talk about money because it seems self-serving with the congregation paying my salary. 

Others because they don’t want to offend the unchurched – thinking that most think “churches only want my money” and these pastors want to remove that objection.

Other pastors because they don’t give much to the church themselves – thinking that since the church pays my salary, giving to the church is like giving to myself.

I didn’t talk about money early on in my ministry.  We used the “basket by the door” strategy.  We did this for these reasons:

Because we wanted it to be a personal time of worship.  Thinking of the “widow’s mite” in Luke 21:1, we saw her worship as more honorable.  This ignored the fact that this was a public act and that the sacrificial system where people brought offerings to the priest was also a public and experiential act of worship. 
We also thought that this was a better way to fulfill the text “each one should give what they have decided in their heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion…”  II Corinthians 9:7
Because we thought our unchurched guests would be offended by having an offering in worship.

I became convicted that I needed to change this practice.  Here’s why.

Biblical Reasons (for more specifics see “Stewardship Definition”)
Rather than personal act of worship at the end of the service at the basket; I found that we needed to “worship God in tithes and offerings” in our corporate worship and we began to use that language each week.
This helped correct the understanding that giving was to the church or to the pastor.  We were giving to worship God – and to honor Him and His work.

We also began to realize that the “basket by the door” was really playing into the “individualistic” tendencies of Americans.  By giving together, this helped re-shape our thinking that we worship God as a family of faith.
Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters: God and Mammon.  In American culture, money is the primary thing people pursue.  It has become the false god, Mammon, that people worship all week long.  In worship, we help people re-focus on the One, True God when we give to His work.  When we give to God’s work we consecrate the “work of our hands.”

Discipleship Reasons
I recognized that many Christians were burdened with debt and were making bad decisions about their finances.
We found that it was vital to begin teaching about biblical stewardship, investment, budgeting, giving, and debt reduction.  As we did this, we had people come to us and say things like:
I’ve felt called to the mission field, but I could never go because of debt.  Now that my debt is eliminated, I can go.

We’re retired and live on a fixed income – and never thought we could give much to God’s work.  We took your challenge to start giving 1% more until we get to the tithe.  We tried this the first month, and found that we had more money left over than the last month.  So, we increased our giving by another 2% and found we had even more left over – so we went to the full tithe – and we’ve never lacked.  God is so good.

As we taught about stewardship and as people got out of debt:
- People were more free to serve in the church
- Our congregation was able to face financial issues together – with a corporate expectation that God would meet our needs as we sacrificed together.
- Our congregation of middle-class people became one of the highest per-capita giving churches in the Covenant – at over $3000 per capita.

The Unchurched and the Communication Card
We found that the unchurched today were not as uncomfortable with churches talking about money as they were in the past.

The initial survey of Rick Warren was in the early 1980’s, where he reported that people didn’t like churches “because they’re only interested in my money.”

Many unchurched people today figure that churches actually help their communities – so they are not as offended by an offering, especially if they see the church as blessing the community.

People understand that it takes money to run the church.  It’s really more a matter of how you talk about it.

The Communication Card
This is a very helpful tool and helps take any “edge” off when the offering basket is passed.
It’s a helpful tool because what you really want from the first-time guest is their comments, their contact information, and any commitments they made (not just a commitment to Christ, but a commitment to serve or join a small group).

Example of how to do this:
Early in the service, welcome the people and hold up the “Communication Card” and say something like:  One of the best ways to communicate with us is to fill out the Communication Card during the service, and you can put it in the offering bucket later in the service.  We really want to hear your comments and we have team that will pray for your prayer requests.*  By putting down your contact information, that helps us communicate with you about events like… (then give an example of an upcoming event)

Note: *Prayer Requests means that many your “regular attenders” will also fill out a “Comm Card.”

After the message, and before the offering, hold the “Comm Card” up again and let people know that if they made a commitment today, they can mark that on the card, and someone will follow-up with them.  (Some churches will say, “If you’re a first-time guest, bring the card to the Info Table and we have a gift for you… or, if you just made a commitment to Christ we have a “What’s Next” kit with a Bible and other information).

Then, when the offering basket comes, the first-time guest feels like they can put the “Comm card”

Other Strategies
- Teaching about Stewardship
- At the time of Offering
- During our fall stewardship emphasis
- In membership classes
- In special classes like “Financial Peace University” or “Good Sense”
- At the time of the offering
- We always shared “Let us worship God with our tithes and offerings”
- I would offer various comments for the next 30-60 seconds
- Brief biblical teaching on stewardship: e.g. this is our way of remembering that we put God first, that God’s Word calls us to be cheerful givers, that first-fruits = first check of the month as a way of saying thanks to God and a way of trusting God for the rest of the month…
- Reminder of what God is doing with our giving: “Last month we saw 3 people come to Christ… or we impacted the community through this outreach… Thank you for giving to God’s work here at Redeemer.”
- Reminder of what God is doing with our giving in mission impact: “As we give here, it has world-wide impact.  Did you know that as you give here, we help support mission in The Congo… here’s a brief story of what God is doing there… so Thank-you for giving to God’s work.”
- During our fall stewardship emphasis
- We usually had a late-fall emphasis on whole-life stewardship.  We asked each member to consider what their

4-T commitment to following Christ would be for the next year. 
- Time – can you commit to daily devotions, weekly worship (at least ¾ of the time) and having your kids in the church minisries.
- Talent – can you commit to serving God in one area according to your SHAPE (Spiritual gifts, Heart/passion, Abilities, Personality type, Experience)
- Testimony – can you commit to praying for at least two friends to come to Christ.
- Treasure – what is your dollar commitment to giving to God’s work?  If you’re not at a tithe, can you commit to giving at least 1 more % until you can?

We framed this by sharing what would happen if we all tithed.  This was often 3-4 times what our actual corporate giving was.  (see the Tithing document)  And the challenge was to each person/family to do what God was leading them to do.  The encouragement was to trust God by giving 1% more each year until they got to the tithe.  (see the Step chart)

At the end of the series, we had people turn in their 4-T forms.  The financial secretary saw the “treasure” commitment, the various ministry leaders saw the “talents” commitment, and the testimony section went to the evangelism and intercessory team.
And we celebrated what God was doing in our church.

In our membership classes
- We shared the budget as our Church’s Mission Statement with dollars attached as to what we were investing in this year.
- We shared that it was a commitment that we all needed to participate in as members of the church.
- We shared the Biblical definition of stewardship and some of our stewardship practices like the 4-T form.  (This actually became a part of our church’s “Policies and Procedures” manual.)

This is how I changed as a pastor and how we changed as a church regarding stewardship.  You don’t need to copy the specific practices that we developed, but should find ways to implement biblical stewardship practices in your church.  As church leaders, we are charged to “make disciples” and we need to teach “stewardship” as part of that discipleship process.

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