“I met with a few pastor friends of mine, and none of them are going back to passing an offering plate.” That was a comment a pastor made to me recently over lunch. My first question was, why? The answer most pastors would give would be because of Covid. Can we be honest and stop blaming Covid for your desire to deep-six the offering? I dealt with this back in Issue 19 of the Coach. Let me remind you that the CDC, in April of 2021, stated that the virus doesn’t spread through surface contact. The problem most pastors have with the offering isn’t related to Covid but their misplaced understanding of the offering.
Today’s Coach, entitled The Real Reason Offerings Are Declining, will address this issue. When it comes to the offering, here are the principal reasons I have found why pastors push back on offerings.
- Pastors have been historically offering adverse. I have written extensively about this. Here is a quote from my 2009 book, Stewardship Myths:
“Studies have shown that the frequency of sermons or teaching on stewardship in churches is far less than people think. Dean Hodge, in 1993, conducted a study of church giving among several major denominations. They found that most churches reported emphasizing stewardship “only occasionally.” Passing the Plate quotes a study by Robert Wuthnow that found only 32 percent of American church members reported that they had heard a sermon on the relationship between faith and personal finances in that previous year. Wuthnow concluded, “clergy often tiptoe around the topic of money as if they were taking a walk through a minefield.”1”
These studies were over twenty years ago but I find the same results today.
- The rise of the Contemporary Church Movement resulted in a devaluation of the offering. I wrote about this in a blog post back in 2018 entitled How the Right Question, Interpreted the Wrong Way, Led to a Demise in Giving. Here is part of what I wrote:
“Many of the pioneering large megachurches today tell a similar story of canvassing neighborhoods basically asking, “What don’t you like about church?” Surprise, surprise, the answer was, “All churches talk about is money.”
So, the founders and leaders of the Contemporary Church Movement, put any talk of money, finances, and especially giving, way, way on the back burner of importance. Many stopped passing offering plates altogether. Giving was seldom, if ever, mentioned.
I then discussed how the question was perhaps misinterpreted by writing…
“What if we misinterpreted the answer to the church question? We assumed that ANY talk of money or giving was what they meant. But what if they meant something different? Consider that study after study shows that the vast majority of churches talk about money infrequently, if at all. So, how is it that unchurched people thought churches talked too much about money if very few churches are talking about money?
What if it was HOW we talked about money and giving? Or, that we never helped those attending realize the power of generosity through a local church. Both lead to a demise in giving.
- Most pastors are crowd centric rather than discipleship-oriented in their approach to worship. What I see pastors talking about are attendance and engagement. Few, if any, talk about making disciples. We have turned our weekend services into outreach events for the lost and unchurched. One result is a crowd a mile wide and a half-inch deep theologically. Another result is a steep decline in giving. The Church never wins when pastors water down the message to attract guests. One reason our attendance and giving is still behind pre-Covid numbers is the lack of discipleship of our members.
- We have failed to see the offering as worship, treating it as an interruption to worship. “Just as we get going in worship, we have to stop and take up the offering.” That infamous quote came from a staff member at a top 100 church. In my experience of working with pastors and church staff, this is exactly the feeling I encounter most. What baffles me is that nowhere do you see announcements in the Bible and yet we regularly stop worship for our advertisements. The typical church spends more time planning and executing their announcements than they do positioning the offering. The results speak for themselves.
- We believe we are taking from people rather than giving to people. The core of the problem lies with our misplaced view of giving. We give because God commands us to give. Yet the command also carries a promise, the blessings of God. We must teach that the road to financial solvency and independence begins by honoring God with our offering. The discipline Christians maintain to tithe gives your members a better chance of being financially sound throughout their lives.
The above are the real reasons why offerings and giving are declining. Covid didn’t cause your giving decline. It revealed how devaluing the offering led to the decline in giving. How do we fix this? Here are my 5 E’s for improving the offering time at your church.
- Elevate every offering to a place of prominence in your services! We give time to what we believe is important.
- Engage your staff in offering planning. Pastors and staff must see the need and then do something about it.
- Energize your offerings. The best way to accomplish this is by telling the stories of life-change giving helps produce.
- Electrify your offerings. Americans have moved away from checks and cash to electronic commerce.
- Expand your offerings. Providing multiple options makes it easier for people to give, which in turn increases giving.
If you follow these practical steps each week, you will have a much better job of being fully funded. And you will be training up the next generation of faithful stewards. The work you do today on the offering will produce results in the future.
Let’s start by planning out the 15 Offerings of Summer. See the Bonus Section for more information.
Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach
- Smith, Christian, and Michael Emerson. Passing the Plate. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2008. 83.