I don’t know Jason Richards, but I like him.

Jason serves on the Stewardship Committee of my home church, FBC Greenville, SC.  Like most churches today, they have been looking for ways to inspire members to commit to their mission and calling.  Jason challenged their members with his story, and he gave me permission to share it with you:

The offering plate evokes different reactions.  Some reach for it enthusiastically.  Others acknowledge the deacon with a nod, but do not take the plate. Others stare straight ahead avoiding eye contact with the deacon while placing their hands in their laps to make it clear they aren’t holding anything to put in the plate (we’ll assume they all make stock donations).

When I was young, the offering plate was the one time that I could actually participate during the service. With great anticipation, I would hold the dollar bill that my parents had given me until the plate (actually, it was a basket on a pole in my church) passed in front of me. I would drop it in each week with pride.

In my teen and college years my parents stopped handing me money, and the offertory actually became a bit more stressful. They didn’t even call it the “offering,” but rather “the collection,” insinuating that you’d better pay what you owed! The ushers were pretty aggressive with the poles, and the basket could hover awkwardly right in front of you for just a second too long if you had nothing to put in it.

Our arrival at First Baptist reintroduced me to a more “relaxed” offering, and for the first few years, we participated frequently. Soon, I realized that it was actually easier just to pay off our pledge once per year via the mail and not have to mess with envelopes, writing lots of checks, etc, and I can say that other than the annual missions offering, we probably went five years without ever putting anything in the plate during a service.

That all changed this year, though, when our oldest child started first grade.  Max joined us in “big church” this fall, and one of the highlights of the service for him is the chance to put an offering in the plate. Watching him do this every week took me back to my own childhood and made me realize the importance of that weekly ritual. It’s not about the amount of money, rather it’s about participating alongside fellow church members in this communal act and affirming our family’s ongoing commitment to the church.

So as we enter a new year together as a congregation, please consider putting something in the plate each week. Even if your primary method of giving is outside of the service, think about dropping in a dollar or two each Sunday, and if that’s not possible, put in a prayer request or just a written blessing. Going through that weekly ritual together will further bind us as a congregation and keep us mindful that First Baptist is our shared responsibility as a church family.