Saturday, July 20, 2013

Liturgy Series Part VIII: The Offering

Denver,  2012.  A. Hanson. 
My congregation here in St Paul, Humble Walk Lutheran Church, has a really healthy attitude towards the offering.  In our worship bulletin it simply states, "We were created with a need to give."  There are no apologies about asking for money.  We are simply provided with the opportunity to give.  And we do.

The offering is one of the most awkward parts of the liturgy for many people.  As a culture, we are afraid to talk about money.  To ask for money.  Especially in church.  Because if we do, we are afraid that we are going to alienate someone.  So much of our attitude around stewardship (financial giving that provides for ministry) in the church is fear based.  Fear that we will not have enough.  Fear that if we ask we are going to offend someone.  Fear that if we ask and don't receive we are going to look foolish.  Fear, fear, fear.

In my previous career, in non-profit organizations, we talked a lot about giving.  There are a few basic premises surrounding healthy giving attitudes.  First, people give because they are asked.  They very rarely intuit what you want from them.  Next, people want to give  out of abundance towards something that is abundant.  People do not give out of desperation or to a "sinking ship."  They want to know that their contributions are going to towards something that makes an impact.  They aren't necessarily giving to keep the organization from going under.  Third, giving is not all about money.  Time is just as valuable if not more valuable than money.  Finally, people give to causes and people they care about.  Very few people will give to a church or organization just because of some intrinsic, altruistic responsibility to do so.  They will give because they are about what your church or organization is doing. So tell them about it.

Giving out of a sense of abundance is what inspired the photo above.  An overflowing sense of gratitude for the blessings that one has received.  Many people in the church tithe for their offerings.  Tithing is a biblical concept in which you give 10% of your income to the church.  My pastor in Denver describes tithing as, "I give 10% of what wasn't mine to start with back.  It's a great deal, because I get to keep 90%!"  Getting into a giving routine is a bit scary.  What if I don't have enough?  What if I can't buy that thing that I want when I want it?  I am on a fixed income? Or worse yet, I am on an UNFIXED income and have no idea what I can afford.  I think starting somewhere with giving, any kind of giving at all, is the place to start.  Because when you start giving away money, it feels good.  You get to support people and organizations and ministries and causes that you care about. And when you start giving, you are swept up in it like a stream of water and you are buoyed along.

What if we stopped being apologetic about asking for money and started thinking about it as a way of providing an opportunity for people to do what is important to them?  What if we stopped operating out of fear and operated out of abundance instead?  What if we stopped worrying about what we CANNOT give and focused instead on what we CAN?  And we all said thank you and celebrated how good it feels to give.

Part IX: The Eucharist (otherwise known as communion)

No comments: