Stewardship Tips: Is it time to pass the plate again?
August 21, 2023 by John C. Williams
There’s an old saying – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, COVID and the multi-year pandemic “broke” the age-old Presbyterian tradition of passing the collection plate at each service. Too many germs, too many hands touching the same surface, and for a while, many churches canceled in-person services.
But with the pandemic over and COVID vaccines common, and with churches back to in-person services, is it time to pass the plate again?
Informal surveys show that 70 percent of churches no longer pass the offering plate. The numbers tend to be lower with older congregations but much higher in those with members in their 20s-30s who are at ease with online giving and donor apps and who probably don’t write checks but a few times a year.
Olanda Carr Jr., Senior Ministry Relations Officer serving the East Region for the Presbyterian Foundation, works with dozens of churches that have wrestled with the giving plate debate.
“Passing the offering plate during worship is no longer standard practice,” Carr said. When it comes to stewardship, the goal should be to make it easy for people to give regardless of their preferred method, he notes.
Passing the offering plate affirms that giving and generosity are key to worship. Many churches that ended the plate offering still take time in each service for the offering. Rather than pass the plate, information is shared in person and on-screen for streaming viewers about how to give online or through “giving boxes” located on the church property, and the overall goodness of generosity.
Here are some ideas for how different Presbyterian churches have tackled this dilemma. One of them – or more – might fit your needs.
- If you haven’t made the jump already, immediately find an online giving portal that fits your needs. The Presbyterian Foundation offers its easy-to-use portal – visit www.presbyterianfoundation.org/onlinegiving for details. Promote online giving as the most efficient, safe and convenient way to support the church and its missions. If possible, find an online application that allows users to set up monthly giving, one-time giving and other options.
- For special stewardship, including capital campaigns or mission support, promote generosity through bulletins, social media, emails and phone calls, and accept payments through the mail, online and in person, whether that is through an offering plate or drop-box. Make it easy to give.
- Ask your congregation what works best for them. Some older congregations may be reluctant to move to online giving, so keep open the option for in-person or mailing checks. For younger memberships, find phone-based apps that make giving even easier.
“We learned a lot during the (COVID) pandemic, and one of those things was the value of finding new ways for Presbyterian churches to reach out and connect with their communities,” Carr said.
For some churches, that connection remains through the weekly offering plate. For others, it is a new and largely online approach coupled with “giving drop-boxes” at various locations in the church.
The key is to make it easy to give. From 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
John C. Williams is a veteran writer living in coastal South Carolina and a lifelong Presbyterian.