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Lessons for Tithing: Is the Offering Plate Outdated?

lessons for tithing

If you’ve attended church weekend worship services, you’re likely familiar with the segment where ushers step forward and pass around a container of sorts (such as a plate, basket, bucket, or bag). During this time, attendees are invited to contribute money in the form of cash or checks. Additionally, you’ve probably encountered numerous sermons on the topic of tithing.

Different traditions refer to this practice in various ways. Some label it as the “offering,” while others term it as “tithes and offerings.” Your specific ministry might employ different terminology. Despite these variations, this practice is widespread and ingrained, whether you’re part of the Catholic or Protestant tradition.

Yet, we’re witnessing a growing number of accounts about churches discontinuing this practice. This trend leads us to ponder whether it might be time to altogether reconsider this practice. Before dismissing this idea, we urge you to contemplate the following factors that influence our question:

Lessons for Tithing in Church: People Want to Give

First and foremost, it might come as a surprise, but individuals who are part of your church genuinely desire to contribute to its causes. Truly, they do. Regrettably, fewer and fewer of them carry physical cash and checks, and they often tend to forget to give during service. Those who currently contribute via cash and check could potentially increase their annual giving by an average of 43% if they transition to recurring digital contributions.

This growth isn’t due to any manipulation or coercion; it’s rooted in people’s innate willingness to give. When they have the convenience of budgeting and contributing outside of the Sunday service, it becomes a smoother process for them. Therefore, the issue doesn’t lie in their lack of desire to give, but in the imposition of an added requirement for practicing faithful Christianity. In essence, it’s asking them to uphold the principles of Christ while also carrying cash and checks. Is this an obligation we wish to place on our church members?

Secondly, hosting a designated giving time during the weekend service while simultaneously providing alternative giving methods (digital, text, online, etc.) could potentially confuse your contributors. Bewildered givers are likely to give less. They genuinely want to give in the manner you prefer, but the array of options might inadvertently complicate matters.

With the general population unlikely to revert to cash and checks, it seems counterintuitive for a church to emphasize in-service giving as the primary avenue. If anything, the ministry should promote digital and recurring auto-debit options for contributions. This benefits both the church’s finance team and the giver. Furthermore, it has the potential to bolster the available resources for the ministry without necessitating the addition of new contributors to the roster.

Avoid Guilt, Change Things Up

Thirdly, you unintentionally evoke guilt among givers—a substantial concern. During my tenure on a large church’s staff, which offered both digital and in-service giving, an usher once remarked about my wife during the giving moment. The comment went, “Oh, don’t pass it to them, they don’t give.” Unbeknownst to the usher, we faithfully contributed to our church and had automated monthly deductions from our checking account. This remark left my wife in tears.

Is this the desired outcome during giving? We don’t believe so. Moreover, this isn’t an isolated incident; it’s a recurring experience I’ve encountered from multiple givers. If you persist with passing a receptacle during weekend services, consider introducing an additional element, like a connection or prayer request card. This approach ensures inclusivity, regardless of whether attendees give online, in person, or not at all. Nobody favors being singled out or feeling guilty during a weekend service. The question remains: Do you wish to promote the value of giving overall or solely during the weekend service?

Fourthly, contrary to prevailing belief, the tradition of passing the plate is relatively recent and thus open to reconsideration. Historians specializing in church history reveal that the practice of “passing the plate” emerged in the late 1800s within United States ministries. In essence, this tradition was crafted to fulfill the church’s needs (acquire funds for operation and outreach). Given the evolving habits of givers, you possess the discretion to gauge the tradition’s significance.

Listen to The Word

Opting to retain a weekly giving session during your weekend services could potentially signify an inclination to uphold tradition rather than foster spiritual growth. In fact, Jesus addressed those who prioritized such practices, stating, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” While we can remain committed to the commands of being faithful and generous givers, it’s prudent to relinquish traditions that no longer serve their intended purpose from the past.

Granted, we acknowledge that relinquishing a weekly giving practice during worship services might be a significant leap for your church at its current juncture, and that’s perfectly acceptable. If nothing else, take into account the aforementioned dynamics when structuring the church’s giving moment. This ensures you’re not “tying up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and laying them on people’s shoulders,” as the saying goes.

A final lesson on tithing…

Years back, I attended a church that chose to dispense with the customary weekly giving session. Instead, they allocated that time for extended teaching and music segments (without extending the overall service duration). Nevertheless, discussions about giving persisted every week. At the conclusion of each service, the congregation heard this announcement, “If you wish to offer support for our church’s endeavors, you can find joy boxes online and at the back.”

Indeed, they termed them “joy boxes.” This subtle alteration to the practice brought an infusion of delight into the act of giving. The response was audible – people in the congregation cheered, audibly, every Sunday.

When was the last instance you heard individuals cheering at the prospect of giving during your weekend worship services? So, what is our stance? Abandon the collection plate and instead concentrate on alternative methods to engage with your contributors.

P.S. This article provides a glimpse into the kind of insights and concepts that churches explore and address within our DonorWerx Framework. Combat the “Church Giving Epidemic”! Prioritize mission impact and decrease emphasis on raising operational funds. Schedule a Discovery Call with us today!

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