The Offering as Worship

“Who then will offer willingly, consecrating themselves today to the Lord?” (1 Chronicles 29:5)

In this scripture King David is inviting the people to bring precious metals and jewels to contribute to the building of the temple. To David, the brining of these gifts was not just about the building up of the temple or the impact the temple would have on future generations, rather he wanted to make it clear that by offering these gifts the people were offering themselves to God. The people, not their gifts, were the true offering.

Grace Pomroy recently shared an experience she had when she was working at a Bible camp during college. At the camp the campers and counselors were divided into villages, and the counselors were tasked with creating multiple worship services for their campers. Each service had to include all the portions of the liturgy – including the offering.

Initially, Grace found herself a little perplexed by this idea since it was camp policy that no camper was allowed to bring money with them to camp. How do you do the offering with no money? This question forced the counseling staff to understand the original purpose of the offering as a way to tangibly respond to God’s love for us. So, they came up with lots of creative offering ideas for the campers to consider.

What were the talents they had to offer? How can you offer them to one another during the camp week? Campers were encouraged to give specific affirmations to other campers to remind them they are children of God. Grace said it was during these moments of offering that she felt that both the counselors and the campers experienced offering as an act of worship that tangibly allowed everyone to express their love for God and for their neighbors.

Now let’s fast forward a few years. As a Millennial churchgoer, Grace found that the offering time in worship had lost its significance. She gives exclusively online and doesn’t ever carry cash with her. The offering became an uncomfortable experience. Having the offering plates come by her and not putting anything into them was awkward because she knew people noticed and thought she wasn’t giving at all.

Over the past year and a half this issue has been compounded by the addition of online worship. Church leaders have struggled to translate “the offering” into an online worship setting, some opting to leave it out of the service. The majority of those who did choose to include the offering in the worship service, did so for the sake of church sustainability. It became a sort of “infomercial” 1) invite people to give; 2) share a list of the many ways to give; and 3) tell a heartwarming story about how these gifts are making in impact.

What if we made “offering as worship” the main goal and saw giving to the church as just one way to respond?

 The offering should provide all of us with a way to tangibly respond to God’s love for us. Our finances offer us one way to do this, but it’s certainly not the only way. Here are some other ideas:

  • Stories: Invite people to share a story of a time when they have felt God’s peace or seen God at work. They can write them down or, better yet, share them in the chat during online worship or with a neighbor sitting next to them during in-person worship. Especially as we emerge from this time of communal trauma, these can be really uplifting reminders of how God is present.
  • Vocations: Invite people to bring something to worship that represents their vocation(s) and bring it out during the offering to invite God into this work and consider how they might use these skills in response to God’s love.
  • Time: Invite people to consider how they might use one hour this coming week to love their neighbor. This might be through a pre-existing volunteer commitment, helping a neighbor rake their leaves, praying for those who are sick, calling a loved one who is lonely, etc. Share tangible daily life examples, not just church volunteer opportunities.
  • Privilege: Invite people to name any privilege they have. This could be due to their gender, race, ethnicity, employment status, socioeconomic status, etc. Invite them to consider ways they might work to dismantle these systems of oppression and live in solidarity with neighbors in need.

Some might wonder if people won’t begin to think that giving money to the church isn’t necessary if there are so many other ways to respond. In fact, what Grace has found is that people are delighted to see that God (and the church) wants to use all of them, not just their wallets. Restoring the offering to its original position as an act of worship increases our responsibility to tell the story of the church’s mission and vision.

As our congregations begin to find a “new normal” this fall, there’s no better time to experiment with breathing new life into this important part of the worship liturgy. How has your church creatively approached the offering, and how will you continue some of these new practices in the coming months? What are some of the most inspiring ways you have observed the offering as an expression of giving our “whole” selves to the act of worship?

Deborah Rexrode
POJ Associate for Stewardship

Belonging, Behaving, and Believing

Recently I participated in a “Teach-In” with Diana Butler Bass. Over the course of three seminars, we revisited Diana’s seminal work entitled, “Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and The Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening.” This book was first published in 2012 so we are approaching its tenth anniversary. Some of the statistics have changed but overall, the foundation of this book has propelled Diana to write three additional books delving deeper into some of the key themes she explores in the original book.

Grief, Gratitude, and Giving

Changing the calendar to a new year looked somewhat different this time. It did not feel the same as it has in the past where the excitement of a new year brings resolutions and goals for what we hope to accomplish. It is hard to think about planning for what we might do this year when we are limited in our ability to be together as we have been in the past. Some days it is hard to think about what we can do at this moment let alone think about next month or the month after.

Holy Currencies

Eric Law is an Episcopal priest and the founder and executive director of the Kaleidoscope Institute in Los Angeles. Eric has an understanding of what it means to lead an organization and struggle with money issues. In his ministry, he has found that congregations who talk about sustainability spend a lot of time focused on money. How can we make our ministry sustainable? Where do we find the money to finance our ministries? How can we raise the money to start a needed ministry?

Congregations who talk about being missional tend not to talk about sustainability. Eric found at the Kaleidoscope Institute that what made it sustainable was not just about the money. They increased their annual budget entirely from contributions in exchange for the leadership-training programs and resources they provide. They were serving, resourcing, and building networks of relationships. Serving, resourcing, building relationships, and giving! Isn’t that what we are called to do?

After more than a year of research, Eric concluded that there are at least six currencies that flow through a sustainable missional ministry. In addition to money, these currencies are time and place, gracious leadership, relationship, truth, and wellness. These currencies “flow” through your ministry, exchanging themselves for other currencies, forming what Eric calls the “Cycle of Blessings.” The sequence rejuvenates what is spent initially, recirculates resources, and regenerates more currencies, thereby growing and expanding the ministry.

In his book, “Holy Currencies: Six Blessings for Sustainable Ministries,” Eric Law discusses each of the following types of currency and assists congregations in assessing the currencies that are often overlooked and under-utilized. Here is a brief definition of these six currencies:

Currency of Time and Place – This currency includes the paid and volunteer time that leaders and members offer to the church or ministry. It also includes any properties from which a congregation operates, and other property which can be accessed by the congregation. Imagine the volunteer hours that people give to the ministries of your church. Imagine your facility being used to its fullest capacity!

Currency of Gracious Leadership – This is the ability to use skills, tools, models, and processes to create gracious environments within which mutually respectful “relationships” and the discernment of “truth” across differences can be built among members and with non-members. Differences can be racial/ethnic, age, class, political or simply day-to-day relationships with one another.

Currency of Relationship – This is the internal and external networks of mutually respectful connections that leaders and members of a church have such as relationships among members in small groups and classes, workshops and seminars. It might also be connections with organizations outside the congregation to build relationships and partnerships to meet the needs of the community.

Currency of Truth – This type of currency is the ability to articulate the stories of your congregation, the beliefs of our denomination, and the experiences of our ministries. We often fail to use this currency to show the community, the neighborhood, the city or town what makes us unique and inviting and transformational.

Currency of Wellness – Wellness is the state of being healthy physically, socially, economically, ecologically, and spiritually within our congregations, within our neighborhoods, and within our country and the world. Congregations in a state of wellness have energy, intelligence, imagination and love enough to share with others.

Currency of Money – Money is the medium of exchange, a measure of value or a means of payment. It is often the only currency we can envision.

Consider these important facts:

  1. It is the flowing of these currencies that gives them value. If you have a beautiful church building, but it’s only used on Sunday, the currencies of time and place are not being maximized.
  2. The flowing of these currencies needs to include all six in order for ministry to be sustainable and missional. If a church uses the time of volunteers to provide wellness to the members only, there is no energy flowing outward to build new relationships.
  3. The flowing of these currencies must recirculate back to replenish what was spent to ministries can be regenerative. People experience the mission and ministry and respond with their giving.

Over the next few months, I will be sharing with you more about each of these currencies and how you might incorporate them into your stewardship efforts.

Please contact me at Deborah@presbyteryofthejames.org or 434-996-6032 if I can assist you in your fall Stewardship planning.

Deborah Rexrode
Associate for Stewardship for the Presbytery of the James

*Excerpts taken from “Holy Currencies: Six Blessings for Sustainable Ministries” by Eric H. F. Law.

Stewardship of Time

Adam Copeland has recently edited a book entitled, “Beyond the Offering Plate: A Holistic Approach to Stewardship.” In this book, he has brought together writings from various scholars and theologians on the topic of Stewardship. These authors help us to expand our understanding of what Stewardship really means and broaden that definition beyond the usual interpretation of time, talents, and treasures.