Once convinced that this small change to the way you normally do things could have a seriously positive impact on how your congregation thinks and feels about generosity and faith, please read on to see how you and your church team can do it yourself this Sunday.
Print, laminate and cut up all the prayer cards*. Find a suitable basket or bowl to keep them in. Place this near the entrance to your church and brief the team of welcomers (whoever normally hands out notice sheets, hymn books and say hello) and your musicians on their roles as explained below.
When people walk through the door, the welcome team simply shows each and every person the basket of prayer cards, and asks them to pick one out as they’ll be using it later in the service. No more needs explaining at this stage. By the time the service starts, every person in the church should be in possession of a laminated prayer card.
When it gets to the offertory hymn the worship leader/vicar/ warden stands up and in their own words explains the following to the congregation:
We’re piloting a new way of doing the offertory to help us connect God’s abundant generosity and our response to that, which we all do in lots of different ways. So this Sunday will be slightly different.
We’ll now be using the cards that everyone picked up when they walked in, to think back over the previous few days or weeks, and bring to mind all the ways we’ve experienced God’s generosity or the generosity of others, and all the ways we’ve given generously ourselves. The prayer on the back of the cards can help with this or be used as a main focus.
So when the offertory hymn/piece of music begins, instead of singing, we’re going to use the time to read our prayer, pause and reflect.
(Make sure the organist/worship band is briefed ahead of time to just play as normal, but bear in mind that the music is there to assist people to pray and think, so music choice ahead of time might need some consideration. I’ve written some ideas at the end of the article. Remind the musicians that no-one will sing the words.)
After a couple of minutes of music, the sides people will come round with the plate as usual, and we’ll be invited to give as usual, and also to place our prayer card on the plate too, so that the plate will have on it both offerings in the form of envelopes and cash, and also all the prayer cards. Then these generosity prayers will be blessed at the altar along with our contributions.
If there are no questions, the musician(s) can now begin playing.
Then as the music starts, you/someone could lead the congregation in this peaceful reflection with a few words (and long pauses) asking them to think of their generosity, such as time given up to do chores for others, listening to someone, giving time to a charity, volunteering in a school, sponsoring someone, contributing time and money to church, giving a homeless person a sandwich etc. Also ask them to think of what God has given them recently. How have they been blessed?
Or you might just want to do the whole thing in silence. Maybe experiment with different ways in the first few weeks.
After a couple of minutes, the sides people can begin going round, as usual, and each person will put their cards on the plate along with their usual contribution.
The vicar will receive the plate and either bless the offering as they normally would, or give a signal to the musician(s) to bring the music to a close, and once everything is silent, the vicar may take a random prayer card and read it aloud so everyone can hear the blessing.
Simple as that.
*If you want the latest template which will get you going with several dozen different prayers, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Jesus, Remember Me” Taize
“Bless the Lord My Soul” Taize
“O Lord Hear My Prayer” Taize
“The Eternal Knot” Karl Jenkins
“The Armed Man” Karl Jenkins
“O Come to the Altar” Elevation Worship
“Pie Jesu” Andrew Lloyd Webber
“Spiegel im Spiegel” Arvo Part
“O Praise The Name” hillsong Worship
“Good Good Father” Soul Survivor
“Oceans (Where My Feet Fail” Hillsong United
“For the Beauty of The Earth”
“Be Still, For the Presence of the Lord”
“Piano Sonata No.8 in C Minor” Beethoven
“Were you there?”
“Here I am Lord”
“I Cannot Tell”