Thoughts On Church Giving: Part 3, Buying the Glitter and Paying the Bills

To recap, these posts are about rethinking church giving, trying to make the Sunday morning offering a spiritually formative practice. In the opening post I argued that I felt that spiritually formative giving wasn't going to happen if there was a psychological disconnect between the giver and the ministries the offering supports. So I suggested tightening up the association.

Here's another way to do that.

The most spiritually formative giving that my church does occurs around Thanksgiving when, on Sack Sunday, the church members take up to the front sacks of food for our food pantry. By the ending of the service the stage is packed with food. Then, after the service, we all grab the sacks and take them to a waiting truck. I expect lots of churches have giving times just like this.

The most spiritually formative aspect of this is the shopping during the week in preparation for the service. It's particularly meaningful for my boys who love to go up and down the aisles of the grocery store picking out food items. As we do so we get to talk about giving, poverty, gratitude, and what all this means for someone who follows Jesus of Nazareth.

Sack Sunday nicely illustrates how when there is a direct connection with the giving we have a better chance of creating a spiritually formative experience. So I wonder, might this idea work for other aspects of church life?

Let's think about three things that might not seem amenable to a Sack Sunday model: Glitter, office supplies, and the heating bill.

Let's start with glitter. Our children's ministry needs to buy a lot of art and craft supplies to support the various Sunday School classes. They need glitter and glue sticks, colored paper and pipe cleaners. And for the most part the children's ministry staff just goes to Walmart or Hobby Lobby with the church credit card to buy this stuff. But doing it this way disconnects me from that process. So why not have a few Glitter & Glue Sundays during the year? Like with Sack Sunday my boys and I could go shopping during the week and buy supplies on the children ministry's wish list. And how fun would it be to have the stage on Sunday covered up in art supplies?

I think the same thing could be done with office supplies. Churches use a lot of paper. And legal pads, pens, and dry erase markers. So lets have an Dunder Mifflin Sunday. Send me and my boys to Office Max/Depot to load the stage up with office supplies.

How about paying the bills? Now, I have no idea how much, on a month to month basis, our heating and air conditioning bills are at church. I expect that a Sack Sunday model can't keep up with those monthly payments. But I think we try, perhaps annually, to take up collections for those bills. When winter starts let's do a Heating Bill Sunday. When summer starts let's do an Air Conditioning Sunday. This offering would be one of money, but special penny jars or envelopes could be used to make the giving seem more direct, "marked" as it were.

Three observations about this direct giving model.

First, the more you have direct giving on Sundays the more money you take off the church budgets. The more you give directly the less the church needs to collect for its bank accounts to back up its credit card purchases. And I think a lot of people would like that outcome. The members directly respond to the church needs as they arise, even weekly and monthly. The church budget stays lean as the members do more and more of the purchasing.

Second, the giving starts to affect the lives of the members. I'm no longer dropping a check into the collection plate but heading to a store during the week. Rather than sending out the children's ministry staff to buy glitter I take up a bit of that work.

Third, is there a way to connect this giving to social justice? I think so. And here's why. When the giving becomes direct--when I'm buying the glitter, or paper, or setting money aside for our heating bill--I have an opportunity to reflect about how this purchase fits into a world where there is homelessness and food shortages. And this might affect how the church wants to spend its money. As the church takes up the task of purchasing they see, week by week, how they are spending their money. And they might, as a result, want to make adjustments.

That would be a great outcome. But to be clear, my take here isn't that we should forgo buying glitter. Again, the working assumption of these posts (a debatable one) is that the traditional church--with its glue sticks, Xerox machines, and heating bills--has a part to play in the Kingdom. So I'm assuming there is a place for glitter and dry erase markers. Still, when we purchase these items I expect we can't help but wonder about their value in the greater scheme of things.

So I suggest a matching model. When we buy glitter let's buy two. One for our kids and the other to be sent to children in inner cities or in Africa. Sometimes we get so focused on food that we forget about the transformative effects of color and beauty in the lives of children around the world. Every kid needs a box of crayons.

Let's also match with our heating bill offerings. For every dollar we give to our heating and air conditioning lets give a dollar to build affordable housing or buy mosquito nets. In short, let's use the focus on our building to think about the living conditions of others. Let's be both grateful for what we have while remembering that the onset of winter might be a good time for us to buy blankets for homeless shelters.

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One thought on “Thoughts On Church Giving: Part 3, Buying the Glitter and Paying the Bills”

  1. Sadly, most people do not realize that with every tax deduction receipt they get for their donations, that is the full recognition of their donation, in other words, their reward is in their tax write off at the end of the year. Christ stated that we are to give, not letting the left hand know what the right is giving, but to do so in secret, and your Father who sees your giving in secret will reward you openly. The same is true for prayers and why so many have so much trouble and few answers forthcoming. Of course, this is debatable! How else can those in charge be able to 'count' on those who give without some form to measure with, suppose they were to seek out loans for the new building plan etc.., how would they know what could be afforded if they did not know how many gave what percentile?

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