For most Protestant churches, the offertory is the time of worship where church members make financial gifts to God through the church. It may be combined with special music or announcements, but the central theme is giving to God.
I am seeing seven major trends develop related to this aspect of worship services. The changes have been subtle but noticeable.
- More churches are moving the offertory to near the middle of the service, shortly before the preaching of the Word. This development is a change back to a practice that was most common before 1990. This approach has either an implicit or explicit theological belief that the offertory is a central facet of worship, and should be placed prominently in the service.
- The second most common practice is to have the offertory at the end of the service. The typical rationale for this practice is more related to the flow of the service. The offertory is still deemed important, but the service has a more continuous flow if it is placed at the end.
- Churches that provide the opportunity for online giving see an uptick in overall gifts. Obviously this type of offertory does not take place in a worship service, but it is deemed very important by leaders whose churches offer this option. I am not aware of any churches where online giving has replaced the worship offertory; it is simply another way to give.
- Churches that mail offering envelopes to members also see an uptick in overall gifts. I have heard numerous stories from church leaders of the importance of this church practice. One church leader told me his church eliminated the practice, and offerings declined almost 20 percent. The church reinstated the mailing of offering envelopes pretty quickly.
- Only a relatively few churches have offering boxes for member donations. Most of these churches do not have an offertory time in the service; members are asked to give as they leave the service.
- More churches have some type of testimony or statement about stewardship to accompany the offering. Typically, this statement is about how the funds are used. Members are able to see through videos or testimonies the missional impact of their gifts (See the blog post with Pastor Mike Glenn’s example).
- Relatively few churches receive gifts in their small groups or Sunday school classes. This practice was more common prior to 1990, especially in Sunday school based churches.
From my perspective, the most effective churches in stewardship make certain that items 3, 4, and 6 are common practices to accompany the church’s offertory. Let me hear from you about these seven trends, and let me hear what your church does as well.
Posted on February 2, 2015
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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I’m pretty late on this discussion but can somebody please talk about collection of offerings within small groups, in particular home groups, point #7, please? I’m a church elder and researching and praying for wisdom. The practice was started in a home bible study and it caused a stir between those who supported the idea and those who were uncomfortable with it.
Those who supported it claim it was a teaching moment and those who did not, were uncomfortable because they wanted to bring unsaved friends (Those people against it were also the ones who invested time, money and effort to open this home group with the vision of reaching to their unsaved friends and neighbors). There is hardly anything written about this issue on Christian sites and blogs. Thank you.
I haven’t been to church in a while, but I like to go with my family sometimes. One of the trends you mentioned that I noticed is that they now have envelopes with the offering tray. It makes me feel more comfortable when contributing, and plus I don’t want to seem nosy when other contribute. This was a smart decision for the church to make.
Regarding online giving opportunities: my church is located in New Jersey near Philadelphia. During the summer months, our attendance drops significantly as many spend their summer weekends on the other side of the state at the Jersey Shore. Originally our pastor had preached on the importance of the act of regular giving and I was concerned that he wouldn’t support my looking into electronic giving, but I was wrong and we are now starting to review our options.
I checked with my Mom’s church as a starting point and they use Vanco Services (vancoservices.com). Their Treasurer wrote me the following: “We have been happy with the service. Of course there is charge but it is outweighed by the convenience of knowing what will be coming in each month.” Her church also has a greatly reduced attendance in the summer for the same reason as mine.
In addition, in further research I found that many churches were concerned about congregants who use electronic giving feeling uncomfortable when the offering plate was passed because they wouldn’t be putting anything in. They resolved that concern by providing envelopes that have a box to check off that indicates electronic giving which the individual could put (empty) into the offering plate. I thought that was clever.
I am now evaluating several options and will present at our next Administrative Board meeting to see if I can get the support to move forward. I appreciate your article as I will refer to it during my presentation as another point of reference, even if your comments are anecdotal. Thank you.
Thank you, Laura. Your information is very helpful.