I have been visiting and consulting with churches and church leaders for over 25 years. Do you know what that means? Mostly, it means that I'm old. But it also means I have seen a lot of what takes place in congregations in a variety of settings.
Because of the number of times I have been in different churches, I can come pretty close to determining how healthy the financial stewardship of a congregation is just by listening and watching the time of offertory in a worship service. In most churches, that time has little meaning. Some people come to the front with offering plates, and someone prays. About half the time the prayer includes a request to "bless the gift and the giver." It's mostly tradition and ritual.
But in churches with very healthy giving relative to their demographics, something different takes place in the offertory. It is meaningful. It is engaging. And it makes a difference.
Here are five ways I have seen it done well in a number of churches:
1. The offertory time is led by a key leader. Many times that person is the pastor. On other occasions it is a staff member or layperson who speaks well and is respected in the congregation.
2. There is clear communication that the offertory time is a time of worship. It is not a parentheses in or postscript to the worship service. It is a vital part of the worship service. The leader always communicates that reality each service.
3. The offertory is tied to the vision or mission of the church. Of course, that presumes the vision or mission is well known by the members. And it is often repeated for newer members or guests, or it is communicated to reinforce what the members already know. The leader speaks clearly to demonstrate how the financial gifts carry out the vision.
4. There is a practical example given of how the financial gifts are used in the church. There may only be one such example or, perhaps, a few examples. The congregants hear every week how God is specifically using these gifts in the ministries of the church.
5. The leader is not reticent to emphasize the importance of each member's gifts. It is thus readily apparent to the congregants that financial stewardship is part of the process of growing as a disciple. It is not just what the church does with the money; the act of giving is an act of obedience of the believer.
My pastor, Mike Glenn of Brentwood Baptist Church, leads the offertory time as well as anyone I know. Here is a brief video clip of the offertory time during a worship service at Brentwood.
Thom Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.
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