A few years ago I was worshipping in a rural church in East Anglia with my husband, and when it came to the offertory, we appeared to be two of the only people in the church who gave anything. I was a new Christian and unfamiliar with the ways of the church, so it made us feel a bit uncomfortable and confused.

Years later I’d realise that the rest of that congregation probably contributed via Standing Order, and so when the plate came round, it went straight past them. Ah so that explains it. But even once I understood this, something still bothered me. It seemed a shame that so many of the congregation didn’t take part. It didn’t seem to fit with the spirit of the thing.

That’s technology for you I suppose. Giving via Standing Oder is so efficient that you don’t even have to stretch your arm out in church! But it does seem rather a shame.

So I was very pleased to find that some churches print off little tokens that could be placed on the plate by those who contribute by Standing Order. This means they can physically take part too.

I love this idea, but wondered if the cards could have a wider use. So, thinking hat firmly on, I developed the concept even further to address a much broader set of issues we seem to have with the offertory!

Because let’s face it, in a lot of churches we try to get this awkward money bit out of the way as quickly and as discreetly as possible. We avoid looking at the plate by reading the words in our hymn books and we avoid hearing the clatter of coins by singing those words loudly. The offertory hymn covers a multitude of… embarrassments!

But what if things were different? What if we properly celebrated this bit of the service that conjured up a sense of joyful giving, or prayerful gratitude?

The token idea that I’ve been adapting ( link to ready-to-use template at end of article) tries to help with this, and I’d love everyone to consider whether this idea could be for them, after reading my proposal, which is as follows:

The basic idea

The laminated token could say: “This card is placed on the collection plate as a symbol of my regular giving to the work of this church,” thus helping members to see the direct impact their contribution has on the church’s mission.

This is the most basic possible use of the idea. A simple token. Read on for the ever increasingly creative ways this idea can be developed to completely change attitudes to generosity in your church.

The super deluxe ideas

  1. Prayer. Make the card two-sided and on the reverse side have a prayer. This helps people to see the link between God and generosity.
  2. Mission. Have dozens of different prayers. I’ve written 40 or so prayers, some inspired by hymns. These prayers could highlight God’s vast generosity, the mission of the church, and might especially help those who don’t know how their money is spent, to see that is really does fund things like clergy and lay training, stipends, mission activities, youth events, Messy Church resources, etc.
  3. Inclusivity. Open it to the whole church, rather than it just being used by Standing Order contributors. Include everybody, even the vicar and the choir, who may not be able to keep their purse under their robes but could easily pick up this small card on their way into church. Every person, including visitors, could choose a prayer card from a basket near the entrance and regardless of how or what they give, when it comes to the offertory, they can place their prayer on the plate to be blessed at the altar. This helps everyone to understand that everyone gives something at some point and everyone is included in God’s generosity and God’s mission on earth. Those who can’t give (because they forgot, they weren’t aware or they’re too poor) get to take part in a church-wide act of public generosity.
  4. Generic Generosity. The sentence on the front doesn’t include the word financial. This is so that other type of gifts can be prayed about and blessed at the altar. An asylum seeker may not have cash to give, but they could give generously to the ongoing mission of the church in other ways. This card placed on the plate recognises all types of giving. It ties in nicely with the inclusivity idea above.
  5. Collaboration. you can use prayers I’ve written, or… the prayers on the back could be written by your PCC, or by your youth group. Or they could be written one week, by your whole church at the various services people attend, so that a collection is built of the prayers of the entire body of the parish.
  6. Participation. Instead of the vicar/rector/worship leader blessing the offering using the standard liturgy “Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory…” or their own prayer, they could pick a card at random each week and read that out. This could help whoever chose (or wrote) that prayer to feel very much part of the worship, strengthening bonds and participation.
  7. Pause. Why not consider using the offertory as an opportunity to pause… and think back on the previous week/month about all the ways God has shown generosity and all the ways you have given generously of yourself, including the gifts given today on the plate. As the plate comes around, and everyone is holding their prayer card, each could be reflecting on all the ways they are blessed and bless others. It could be done in silence or with an appropriate piece of music playing (possibly the organist, a CD, or our worship band). By not singing a hymn, the church could take time to pause and focus. And when it comes to the blessing, the music could end and everybody could hear the words of the minister/worship leader.

These suggestions could help your church to do so many things with just one small piece of card.

From creating a clear and obvious link between the mission of the church and the gifts that people contribute, to the participation and collaboration of every member, to the pressure it could take off visitors or others who can’t give much or give in other ways, by other methods or at different times. Wouldn’t a church that celebrated the offertory like this communicate to an outsider that it was a generous church? I think it really would.

Download ready-made templates to get you started by clicking these three links: one, two, three.

Just print (on both sides, flip along short end), laminate and cut up. Simple.

Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. More good stuff from Rachel. I particularly like the idea of using the offertory as an opportunity to pause and think back on the previous week/month about all the ways God has shown generosity to us.

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    • Thanks David.

      I’m glad you like the idea of pausing to think back. I think it’s so important for us to count our blessings.

      As per the comment below, I’ve added the link to the free templates so any church anywhere can now use them at the click of a button (laminator and guillotine also required!)

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  2. I like the idea of everyone having a card and also know that our younger people would enjoy writing a prayer on the back. An A4 card with 12 individual spaces on could be used to write on the prayers etc and then laminate and cut up for use.

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    • Thanks Rosemary. This has reminded me to point people to the three templates I’ve uploaded. I’ve provided the link at the bottom of the article. Users just have to print, laminate and cut them up. They’re ready to go.

      All the resources I provide are with busy people in mind so, I always make templates available. They can be adapted and changed if people have the desire or time, but at least this gets folks started.

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  3. […] like the other Generous Giving Project resources, is aimed at improving communication and getting the message across that God is generous and we as […]

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  4. […] via Practical Help: 7 Simple Steps to Symbols of Generosity — the generous giving project […]

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About frontlinefaithful

Running Diocese of Durham's 'Generous Giving Project'. Supporting local churches to communicate God's generosity and our response. Go to durhamdiocese.org for more information and resources for you and your church.

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Church life, Practical advice

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