Over the last few years I have been challenged by what it means to talk about money as a church in our culture. Many of us grew up in churches where money was used as an object of power, coercion and it was generally abused. As a result I wonder how many of us have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

For the last few years in an effort to not be offensive to others we have not taken an offering at church. It’s not that we didn’t invite people to give (we have done that every week) but we have gone away from the set aside time for offering and passing the offering plate. I think this has some inherent problems with it and it finally struck me as to why when we were down in Louisiana.

We visited a Hispanic church and they did the normal offering thing (announce it, pray for it, pass the plate). I have been in church after church that practices the same thing but i was immediately struck with a thought in this instance. These people had just lost all they had and it was still beautiful to me that they were still desiring to set aside a specific time to have an communal act of giving. This church of 25 people has been so generous to each other and to their neighbors in their act of giving (i won’t say specifics but they are giving more than you would expect from a group of 75 people).

So this week we decided to pass the offering basket. Of course, we did it a little differently. After i introduced to our community why we were beginning this new practice (you can read the content of this at our church website) we quietly passed baskets down each row while we had some scriptures, prayers and thoughts on the projector. I believe it’s a true counter-cultural act to take time out of our gathering and invite people to give because they have first received (in their finances, their time, their spiritual gifts, etc).

In my thoughts to the church I stated four main reasons why we decided to set aside a special time for offering:

– We stop to do this each week because it reminds us to always be in remembrance of what we have been given by a gracious God.

– We give out of compassion for those who are in need in our church and in our world

– We give because we have a hope in the fact that God has called us to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in Feasterville, Bucks County, Philadelphia and the world. Our giving helps us come together to do this more and more and ensures that we can continue to do so.

– We give out of a love for each other and love for being a community.

While the baskets are being passed we will have a few minutes of quiet reflection and prayer. We will encourage our community to:

– Ask God how he is calling you to be generous in the ways that He has first been generous to you. Be specific and pray to God, “God, what practical thing can I do this week to share with others the grace which you have first shared with me?”

– During this time there will be some Scriptures and prayers displayed on the screen that you can reflect upon.

What do you think? What does your church do for offering? Is it meaningful? Is it “missional?”