Churches in Africa do things a bit differently. From what I understand the offering is a time for great joy, as congregants celebrate that they have something to contribute. In remote areas where food and water are a daily struggle, having a li’l something extra to share is truly something special.
We don’t really do it that way, do we? Usually we have stern-faced ushers pass a plate through the pews. We put our offering envelopes in face down and pass it along, usually without eye contact with the people next to us. Next week in the bulletin we read how much less the church took in than was “needed” when the annual budget is divided by 52.
Woo hoo. Sure makes you want to give more, doesn’t it?
What if we did things a bit differently? I’m not suggesting that your congregation dance down the aisle and enthusiastically place their gift on the altar (but boy wouldn’t that be fun to watch?). But what if as part of consecrating the offering you remind your people that in today’s offering is money to make sure that a widow at Wesleyan Senior Living in Elyria will be able to keep her modest apartment even though she has outlived her financial resources?
That may not be dance-worthy (I mean c’mon, we’re Methodists for cryin’ out loud) but it may be put some pep, energy and enthusiasm into the middle of your worship service.
And how can you translate this into your pledge process this fall? Putting the card in the plate is good. Placing the card on the altar is better. What’s the music at this time? How is the altar decorated? Is the pastor’s message immediately before one of celebration or is it as dry as a jar of Tang with basic instructions “to proceed down the center aisle and return by way of the side aisle.” Any chance the pastor could smile at this point?
Is the organist playing “Here I am Lord” in her best dirge style? How about “Lord of the Dance” or something from the contemporary worship side that actually inspires people to move a bit. Heck, they might even clap once or twice.
Have you ever watched kids on the playground when their parents are around? How does a skinned knee victim respond to an overprotective mother who is instantly worried and whips out a bottle of Bactine and a Band Aid big enough to hermetically seal the entire leg? There are fewer tears when a dad beams with pride and congratulates the child on “an awesome wipe out” and encourages another trip up the sliding board.
If we treat money in the church with great enthusiasm and joy, this is how people will give. If it’s closer to facing a firing squad, they will give that way as well.
Put away the Bactine and Band Aids. Make giving to the church something your members actually enjoy.