1:00 P.M. EST May 17, 2010
Flickr photo by The Suss-Man (Mike)'s
I am calling for a ban on the following practice that I observe in
many of our churches: the freewill offering basket placed at the
refreshment table during coffee time.
At a stewardship seminar I recently attended, Nelson Searcy of the
Journey Church in New York City said that a theology of abundance
underlies everything his church does in terms of stewardship. If we
expect people to be generous in their giving to the church, he said,
then the church needs to model that generosity and sense of abundance.
He further chastised churches that serve day-old, halved doughnuts
during the coffee time. Churches need to treat people with the really
His church welcomes first-time guests by sending them a
public-transportation pass card and gives second-time guests a gift
card to a coffee shop—and offers all a Bible. To those who think all
the church does is ask people for money, he wants to communicate that
the church is a place of generosity and wants to bless people.
So many of the things we do as a church can communicate scarcity and quid pro quo: You pay for what you get.
Now, you need to understand that this church makes no
bones about asking people to give to the church—and, in fact, they urge
people toward tithing. They take seriously and have a system for
moving people from being first-time givers to tithers.
They also know that to help people grow into that kind of
generosity, they need to see and experience God’s abundance. So many of
the things we do as a church can communicate scarcity and quid pro
quo: You pay for what you get. All the small things we do can send
Welcome to the table
Here is a good practice from Rev. Amy Jo Bur, pastor of Good
Samaritan United Methodist Church, our new-church start in St. Peter.
Between worship services on Sunday, her church offers a catered
breakfast of egg bake and giant cinnamon rolls from a local restaurant.
One of her colleagues asked her if they put out an offering basket to
help defray the cost of what is not a cheap breakfast. Her reply was
instantaneous: No. In the first place, the donations would not cover
the cost. Second, that would send the wrong message. One of their core
values is hospitality, and this is one of the ways they live that out.
Everyone is welcome at the table.
Have we considered the irony of welcoming everyone freely to God’s
communion table and then asking them to pay for their doughnut and
coffee at the refreshment table afterward?
When I ask United Methodists what they value about
being United Methodist, they usually mention the open communion table
where everyone is welcome, no matter age, church membership or
background. Have we considered the irony of welcoming everyone freely to
God’s communion table and then asking them to pay for their doughnut
and coffee at the refreshment table afterward?
How much money do you get in that offering basket at the coffee hour
anyway? Not enough to offset the implicit message that we can’t afford
to be generous. And how much is that costing us in the development of
It is time to get rid of the coffee-hour donation basket—and bring
on some really good food. We have been blessed by the extravagant love
of God. It is time we showed it in the little things as well as the
*Gregorson is director of congregational development for the
Minnesota Annual (regional) Conference. This commentary originally
appeared on the conference’s website.
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