Most ministers would tell you that there are three high holy days on the calendar when they expect their sanctuaries to be more full than usual: Christmas Eve, Easter and Mother’s Day.
What message do you send to visitors on those days? I have always sat in the congregation hoping just once that the pastor will mention that we’re here all of the other Sundays of the year and we’d love to have them come back again. But that rarely happens. Evangelism opportunity missed.
But are we missing another opportunity? How do you use the unusually large offerings from these special worship services? And more importantly, what message does that convey to the visitors or CEO Christians (Christmas and Easter Only) who are in your pews that day?
I challenge you to use your special offerings in a way that makes it very clear that yours is a church that is outwardly-focused. Think about what we are celebrating on Easter. Is that really an appropriate time for you to be worried about self? I think it is a better time to lift up selflessness as reflected in Holy Week and the miracle of the empty tomb. Using your holiday offering to pay your copier contract doesn’t really seem to follow that does it?
It may be too late for Easter this year, but find a mission project that makes sense for Mother’s Day. Is there a women’s shelter in your community? How about an organization that is going to provide free lunches for school-aged kids during summer vacation? Is there a nursing home or retirement community full of moms that could use a helping hand?
I realize that many of our churches do count on these offerings to help balance the books. If you are in this situation I urge you to make it part of your shared missions or apportionment income. If you can do so with integrity, tell those in attendance that every penny of this offering will support the United Methodist presence around the world, in areas like Chile, Haiti, Liberia, and right here at home.
As you prepare to take the offering refer to the special holiday and the fact that we are called as a church to serve those outside our walls (if your congregation would argue with that statement you may have more work to do) and invite all of those present to support this project. If possible, tell a short (one minute) story about how that organization changes lives and why you believe it is worthy of financial support.
The money you will collect for this organization is a wonderful thing. You might even want to have a representative come to worship in the following weeks and give a two-minute thank you from the pulpit.
Look this offering from the point of view of one of your visitors that day. How many of them have been turned off by churches that are cold, unwelcoming and only concerned about themselves? What message will they receive from this selfless and unexpected display of mission and generosity?
And please, before the benediction, invite them to come back again. You never know, they just might surprise you.