How to Use the Offering to Build a Culture of Generosity, Part 1

By Chris Willard with Warren Bird

There was a time in American church life when conventional wisdom said to downplay the role of “passing the plate.”

Scandals involving prominent television evangelists back then had shined a spotlight on the practice of asking people to give money to religious causes. As a result, many pastors chose to eliminate the regular practice in favor of a less-prominent offering box in the back or a low-key invitation to give.

“Evangelists on TV were doing crazy stuff with money, so I understand that reaction,” says Chad Moore, lead pastor of Sun Valley Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona.

But the pendulum is swinging back. Many influential churches around the country are leading a trend in seizing the offering time in weekly church services to consistently teach giving principles and build a culture of generosity in their congregations.

Every single week we have an opportunity during our services to inspire people, to teach people, to encourage people, and to thank people in the areas of generosity, stewardship, and giving. We’re seeing more and more churches take advantage of those few minutes every week to do some good in the lives of people.

Moore pastors a multisite church with 5,000 in attendance that is growing in generosity toward its community and beyond. He offers some practical insights on making the offering an important part of leading people to follow Christ.

Don’t skip it

For starters, include an offering time in every church service. Moore says Sun Valley has chosen to never shy away from talking about giving and encourages people to do it through their regular offerings.

“We believe it’s a really important part of worship, and it’s part of what it means to follow Jesus,” he says. “To acknowledge it in every service is important because you’re saying that giving is important. It’s important in what it means to worship God.”

Moore explains that Sun Valley leads people to meet, know, and follow Jesus. Leaders there break down following Jesus this way: “You give, you serve, and you share your faith.”

“So giving is an important part of who we are as a church,” he says. “We want to be known for giving, so of course, we’re going to give you an opportunity to give in all of our services.”

Don’t “take” it, “receive” it

It’s a very subtle nuance of the language used when launching into the weekly offering—but a very important one, he says. At Sun Valley and other churches that strive to make the most of weekly offerings, leaders “receive” an offering—they don’t “take” it.

“That sounds so nitpicky when it comes to language,” Moore says. “But it’s really important in the context of what you’re teaching people about giving.

“At Sun Valley, we don’t take anything. What we’re doing is receiving an offering from you to be used for kingdom purposes. So we’re helping facilitate that part of worship in your life, and we’re receiving it on behalf of God and what he’s doing in and through the local church.”

Raising the temperature

I believe that as church leaders take these few strategic minutes in weekly services to focus on giving back to God, they impact the generosity culture in churches. We’re absolutely seeing an increase in people’s enthusiasm for generosity, stewardship, and giving when churches are more intentional about leveraging the weekend services.

In the past, the trend might have been for leaders to downplay giving to the church and the weekly offering. But I affirm that pastors are starting to see the impact on their congregations—and more importantly, on the hearts of people in their churches—when they capitalize on this key part of a weekly worship service.

Pastors need to emphasize the offering because it’s a way to teach an essential part of spiritual formation. When we do so, we see a corresponding increase in giving to the church. So you get a good result because you’re doing the right thing for the people of your church.

Read part 2 of this article, where we explore two more practical ideas for getting the most out of weekend offerings. Both part 1 and part 2 are also covered in our podcast.

Generosity Strategies & Tactics is an ongoing series brought to you by Leadership Network thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment. Learn more or listen to the Generosity Strategies & Tactics podcast.