Friday, June 4, 2010


I attended services at a large congregation recently. In the section where I was seated, the collection plate was passed along by about 50 people before it reached me. When it did, the plate contained a lone one-dollar bill and some spare change.

This reflects very poorly on a congregation. As a visitor, it made me doubt whether I would want to be part of this church. I urge congregations of all faiths and all sizes to give away the Sunday offering to mission and outreach every Sunday. This is a powerful ministry. Do not let anyone claim your church can't afford it.


  1. The offering baskets at my UU church are often near-empty as well, but this is because the congregation has set up other ways for people to pay: pre-authorized withdrawals from bank accounts, monthly contributions, etc.

  2. Fair enough, but I suspect all the money goes into the operating budget. There is no substitute for cash in the plate. Plus, children should be present for the offering, as a generous congregation is a wonder to behold. In contrast, an empty offering basket is such a sad sight. So very sad.

  3. Mike writes: "There is no substitute for cash in the plate."

    Hear, hear. Lindsay Bates, the talented long-time minister at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva, Illinois, used to say something like this before the collection:

    "The financial support of this Society is the responsibility and the privilege of the men and women who call this our religious home. If you are a visitor at this service, you are our welcome guest, and you may ignore the collection baskets with a clear conscience. Our members and friends choose freely to support our church with our pledges and also with additional weekly contributions of a dollar or two (or five, or ten), a public witness and reminder of the importance of the free church in general and this religious community in particular in our own lives and in the world. And our offering for the work of this church will be received."

    In other words, anyone who wants to be a part of that church takes on the responsibility both to pledge and to put money in the collection plate. Not surprisingly, this congregation has a very positive attitude towards money. When they did a major maintenance project on their historic church some years ago, they raised the entire amount of money in a month, with a surplus towards future maintenance.