Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Bringing our offering, not taking a collection

A new way of giving
At its November meeting yesterday, St Paul's District Church Council decided to continue receiving the gifts of church members on an open plate, rather than by passing collection bags as we used to do. The DCC decided that we should do this at least until Easter 2010, and that we should make the offering plate more obvious and easy to find.

St Paul's has traditionally passed collection bags along the rows of worshippers during the service. With the introduction of swine 'flu precations we left an open plate for donations instead.

Our members give over £1000 each week to support the work of our church and the mission projects we resource. That represents a wonderful generosity and we are very grateful. We ask people to think about the gift they make rather than to find notes and coins as the collection bags approach. The 'stewardship' planned giving scheme is a great way to encourage this. People who give by cash or cheque place their gift in an envelope and place them in the offering. Of course, many people give by standing order, which is an excellent way of giving reliably and realistically. The opportunity to give by standing order will remain. To join the stewardship scheme, please see David Foulds.

What does the Bible say about the way Christians should give?
In the Bible, money was brought to the Temple treasury. Jesus condemned the abuses of the moneychangers, who received the people's gifts in ways that cheated them. In Mark 12.41-44 we read how he watched the wealthy bringing in substantial gifts to the treasury but he commended the giving of the widow who gave all that she had, even two small coins.

In Matthew 6.1-4, Jesus warns against giving as a way of showing off. "Whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet... so that you may be praised. ...But give in secret... and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Our hopes
We hope that inviting giving without passing bags along the rows of worshippers will remove some of the awkwardness, especially for visitors. We hope it will counter the idea of taking a collection (which to outsiders, can sometimes looks like a "whip-round for cash"!) Instead, in inviting an offering given generously from "first fruits" rather than spare change, brought before God in prayer and worship, without awkwardness or embarrassment, we hope it will glorify God and serve his church.