July 30 - Aug. 5, 2007




Planned Generosity

At church every week there's an interesting stirring in the pews right after I ask the ushers to come forward for the offering plates. Some folks actually look surprised, as if we were taking the offering for the very first time, instead of once a week. Next comes the scramble as they look through pockets, purses and wallets to see what money they have on hand.
Then they stare at the money in their hands (or wallet or purse) and have the blank espression of somoene making a decision: The $20 bill is too much, but the two $1 bills are too little.

So really, it doesn't surprise me a bit when the offering plates come back with lots of crumbled up one-dollar bills and pocket lint.

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of OTHER people in our congregation who, when I announce the offering, sit down and calmly draw out their offering envelope that they have filled ahead of time with a generous check.  Or who slip out of their wallet the two $20 bills they had brought for the occasion.

But the other givers are clearly caught by surprise. I witnessed this week after week, and at some point, the lightbulb went off: We have to teach our members to plan ahead for their giving, and train them for giving.  Otherwise, they may give whatever loose change they have on hand.

And wouldn't that be a shame for the church, but also for our members. They may never know the joy of sacrificial, planned giving. They will never know the blessings that flow from a generous heart. Without exception, every person I have met (or read about) who tithes to their church has said they get back in blessings much more than they give. Not in a "prosperity gospel" quid pro quo sense, but they feel God is watching over them, caring for them, blessing them. Many say the satisfaction came as a big surprise.

And as surprises go, it's much better than the "uh oh" moment when I invite the ushers forward to take the offering.
-Rob Blezard, Editor and Webmaster
Reprint rights gladly given for nonprofit use. Just include this notice: "Copyright (c) 2007 The Rev. Robert Blezard, archive.stewardshipoflife.org. Used by permission."
New This Week:

Catholic Archdiocese of St. LouisFAQs About Tithing
Most churches lift up tithing as an ideal goal for personal giving, but many congregational leaders do not understand the practice. Here’s a great resource for pastors and stewardship committees alike. Click here for “FAQs About Tithing,” from the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Surrender to the Flow of Generosity
Dana Reardon“Maybe God wants me to learn firsthand about the flow of giving and receiving. In the midst of illness, my medical bills are piling up, even with insurance. Someone offered to pay them. I was horrified, even though I had no idea how I would find the money.” Click here for “Surrender to the Flow of Generosity,” this week’s essay by Stewardship columnist The Rev. Dana Reardon. Click here to read archived columns.
(We are repeating this posting of several weeks ago to fix a bad link. –Editor. )

More Churches Saying ‘Amen’ to Credit Cards
Seattle TimesCall it a “win-win” situation. Churches receive regular tithes and offerings by way of their members’ credit cards, and the members receive bonus points. It’s an idea that is catching on, but is it morally suspect? This article explores the phenomenon and its implications. Click here for “More Churches Saying ‘Amen’ to Credit Cards,” from The Seattle Times.

Stewardship from the Lectionary
Your ChurchLooking for a way to put more stewardship into your preaching? Here is a great help -- a weekly commentary that highlights stewardship aspects in the weekly lectionary texts. Click here for "Stewardship from the Lectionary," from ELCA Stewardship Resources.