Whether you are happy or concerned about the latest CDC guidelines, this means that in-person worship, for many of us who are in mainline churches, may be on the horizon. Hooray! Hooray?
While it may seem as clear as mud as to what you should be doing for your congregation and how you should be doing it, let’s assume that you’re already planning for the return of in-person worship.
What about the offering? The offering has been a staple of worship services for decades. Now that COVID seems to be waning, the question is: what should you do with the offering time once we get together again, face-to-face or mask-to-mask?
Here are three options:
- Go back to what you always did.
From all indications, the coronavirus is primarily not transmitted by touching items. It’s the aerosol spray from doing things we love about church: laughing, singing, and saying “The peace of the Lord be with you” super loud and at close range. However, there is some evidence that passing the offering plate may also pass along the virus. Even if it's a slight possibility, it is possible. So at this point, it's probably best practice to hold off on passing the plate. Just because you can, doesn’t always mean that you should. Like mask wearing, people’s comfort level will vary. Some will shy away from touching what may be perceived (and may rightly be) a germy surface. And, if anything, COVID has taught us that the old ways were not necessarily the best ways.
2. Have an offering box.
The box can be at the back of the church and as people leave, they can put in an offering. You can mention the box during worship, but there’s no formal offering time. The box can be in the front of the church. During the offering time, people can come forward, as an act of worship, and put in an offering or a “I give/tithe electronically” card in the box.
If you’re leaning toward having an offering box, plan now on who will make such a box, how it will be managed, and how you will keep it and the contents secure.
3. Emphasize on-line giving and recurring gifts.
According to the Lake Institute, 94% of churches with more than 100 people take online donations. “By contrast, more than half (54%) of churches with fewer than 50 people in attendance said they had no online giving options.” Most on-line giving companies give a choice to make one-time or recurring gifts. Take time to reinforce the importance of recurring gifts. Still haven’t gone to on-line giving? Maybe it’s time.
For smaller churches, emphasize the benefits of monthly automatic withdrawals that will go directly to the church.
Whatever you do, make the offering a time to remember that all we own ultimately belongs to the One who gives us our life and our breath. Giving is an act of worship, of sacrifice, and of generosity…no matter how it’s done. Now that's worth a hearty "Hallelujah!"
Cesie Delve Scheuermann, consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing, Oregon-Idaho AC, Click here to subscribe to her blog: "Inspiring Generosity."
United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ. To read stories about the generosity of United Methodists click here.