I had an interesting conversation with a great young pastor a couple of weeks ago. In his second Sunday at his new church they did their monthly special offering. A special container was passed through the congregation with no announcement about what was happening, why the offering was being taken or how it would be used.
When he inquired after the service, he was told, “Well, everyone knows.”
I think of this approach often at my own church. We do baptisms most months and, of course, the family sits in the first few rows. This means they are caught largely unaware when the smiling ushers pass the plate to them with little advance warning. We good, loyal, members sit in the back rows with our prepared envelopes handy, ready to drop them in the plate. But the visitors are left trying to figure out what to do with the plate as both hands are needed to dig through a purse.
It becomes painfully clear that most of those folks are not regular church attendees, but we expect them to just know what to do.
And it extends beyond the mechanics of the offering plate on Sunday mornings. No longer can we expect that our members were raised in a church and had an upbringing to know about giving, especially tithing or sacrificial giving. They have been raised knowing that a movie ticket costs $10. If you want to go to the show, it will cost you a little something. They know that if you want to support the PTA, you buy the horribly overpriced cookie dough or that a few boxes of Thin Mints will support a Girl Scout Troop.
Some will even understand that they should pledge $25 when their colleges’ annual fund calls and they weren’t smart enough to screen the call.
But I doubt that anyone has had a conversation with them about how giving to the church is different.
When someone is new to the church an entire welcoming congregation will help them find the restrooms, children’s sunday school classrooms, even know when the stand up or sit down.
But in an effort to make sure the church doesn’t appear to be greedy or overly money-oriented, we skip all conversation about giving.
I went online and quickly found the expecations of being a member of a local Rotary Club. While the vary club to club, I typically saw expectations around attendance, participation in fund raisers, and new member recruitment. Most even indicate expectations of becoming a Paul Harris Fellow, making a voluntary contribution to the Rotary Foundation.
Does your church have these expectations for its new members? Do you spend as much time talking about the spiritual discipline of giving as Rotary does in explaining what a Paul Harris Fellow is?
Or do you simply assume “Well everyone knows.”