A Million Missed Opportunities

A pastor friend of mine said, “Don't get too negative by accusing others of wrongdoing. Just show them how if they'd done things differently, they could have expected a much more positive outcome.” 

How would you like it if your church could double, triple, or even quintuple the amount of money placed in the offering plate each Sabbath? What would that mean; how far would it go towards fulfilling your respective church's mission?  What if I could give you one little secret that could accomplish all that without the need for any gimmicks, tricks, or other contrivances?

Just one little secret that you could take back to your own church, implement it, and see amazing results, even from the very first Sabbath it is tried? 

When I stumbled upon this, more than a decade ago, I was astounded that it could be so simple. The setting was this: I had just returned to my home church after being away for many years as a missionary and denominational church worker. How good it was to be home!

And with my return came an acceptance back into my local fold and with it, numerous responsibilities in several church offices. One of these caused me to be placed upon the local church board.  

It was at this very time which I had come across this discovery of how to increase offerings. I shared it with the church board to gauge their response.

I told them,

“I have this great idea to increase offerings. Here's what we do. During the 11 o'clock hour, the Divine service, we don't do the regular offering call. We won't have the deacons come forward with offering plates, we won't make a formal appeal for the offering, there won't be any reverent music played while the offering is collected and there certainly won't be any prayer over the offering.

Instead, we will skip this altogether. In place of it, while the preacher is preaching, we will have an envelope and start passing it from one person to another, willy-nilly like, around the whole church.

No deacon will do this. It will just meander around from person to person. While the sermon is going on, people can rustle in their purses and wallets to find the money they need to donate. Again, we won't say what the offering is for, and of course, we won't pray over it.” 

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You could have heard a pin drop and the blank stares facing me were stone cold. “Had I gone out of my mind,” they probably thought? 

I continued, “Sounds crazy, right? And yet this is exactly what we do EVERY Sabbath during the adult Sabbath school lesson!”  Things got quiet..

I would venture to say that in 90% of the people reading this have it happen this way in their own Sabbath School. We know how it goes.

While the lesson is being taught, someone takes that yellow envelope and passes it around the circle. For most it's like a game of hot potato, not wanting to be caught holding it when the game is over.

People dig for change, or pass it on. Nobody knows what the offering is for. There never is a report given on its use. And there is never any prayer of blessing upon it. 

And as a college teacher, for years I know what happens when a class is interrupted for any reason. The focus on the instructor is lost, and the mind turns to the interruption. From the moment that person walks into the class with the yellow offering envelope, all eyes are on them. All thought is to money issues, not on the class subject matter. 

Now let's think about the kids divisions like a kindergarden class.

There is a big deal about offerings! There are stories told about supporting missions and a map to show where the money goes. It will be followed by a song while the money is given and then a special prayer is made. This is common in most children's divisions. Why don't we do it during the adult classes? 

Offering is a form of worship. The act of giving should be treated with reverence and respect. Again, why do we make an offering call during the divine service and make a big deal of it instead of just passing around an envelope? 

So, the very next week after that board meeting I thought I'd give my remedial idea a try. I was teaching one of the adult Sabbath School classes. Sure enough, halfway through the middle of the class, the Sabbath School treasurer came walking in with her yellow envelope. I stopped the class, took the envelope, and told her I'd bring it after the end of the class. We finished the lesson, then five minutes before the end of class time, I gave an appeal. I talked at length about where mission offerings go and their importance to spreading the gospel and, that a blessing will also fall upon the giver. That day we got just over $70 in offering which was many times more than usual!

Not a bad amount when you consider that there were less than twenty persons in the class. One of the elders (whose wife was the SS treasurer) came to me afterwards and said that it was highest Sabbath School offering that they'd ever had. 

 So, I dare you.

I dare you to prove God and see if He will not bless you in this regard as well. Make Sabbath School offerings prominent, not an afterthought. Take just a couple of dedicated minutes in your class for this. Or, will your Sabbath School continue to treat missions with indifference? Will you hold back the work by not giving due respect and reverence to the act of worshipful giving and continue to just pass along the yellow envelope like a hot potato?

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

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John Kannenberg is the Director of Great Western Health Foundation, in Fargo, ND