The Generosity Project is a collaborative effort between ABCUSA, regions, and local congregations. The Generosity Project aims to help pastors re-frame the conversation around stewardship and generosity in their congregations. Bi-monthly blogs help support new growth and understanding as we deepen our ministry and discipleship. The reflection below was provided by Rev. Stacy Emerson.
Many of our congregations practice the act of the offering as part of our worship services. We set aside time to take up a collection that supports the mission and ministry of the congregation. We may also add the dedication of our lives and gifts in service to God. The offering is a special time in worship.
But what are we saying when we make an offering? What is the theological significance of this moment in worship? It begins with the testimony that God is Creator, the One whose abundance blesses us with life, with family, with skills, and more. God is the source of life and every blessing. God provides and loves us abundantly. From there, the offering turns toward our own response to God’s abundance. It starts with gratitude to God and it moves us to give. Generosity, the act of giving through the offering, is how God’s people would make the love of God flow through us to help and heal the world.
So often, however, this moment is tied to our budgets and often the lack of resources we may feel. It is tempting to use this time to let people know just how tight things are and then ask them to give. But focusing on scarcity neither honors the purpose of the moment nor inspires giving.
Michael Ward states, “honestly, most donors don’t care about balanced budgets unless they serve on the finance committee. They care about impact.” In addition to honoring the blessing of God and expressing our gratitude to God, the offering time should focus on the impact our offerings make, the ways that our generosity channels the love of God and makes a difference. People want to know that the offerings they make will do something real in the world.
So what is it that we are saying when we make an offering? Is it the time to give information about the budget or financial challenges of the church? Or is it a time for story-telling and inspiring generous disciples? Is it a joyful proclamation of the generosity of our God? Does it inspire people to respond in ways that abundantly channel the love of God through their lives and through the ministry of the church?
These are important questions if the offering time is more than just a brief pause in worship to take a collection. What we say when we make an offering is a profound statement of what we believe about God and about how we should respond to God’s blessing.
Resource: Abundance: Creating a Culture of Generosity by Michael R. Ward
Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA. She is also the Coordinator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.