Responsive Prayer Celebrates the Stewardship of Life When Receiving the Offering
By Glenn Taibl
“Many congregations take the offering instead of receiving it. They use it as a commercial break instead of as a sacramental act. At best, it is an unthinking ritual to meet the church’s budget. We make a quick prayer over it, with churchy background music. At worst, the offering has no connection at all with why we gather to worship God.” With these words, Mark Vincent tweaks our conscience and imaginations as we take a look at the time of offering as a time to celebrate the Stewardship of life with Christ at the center.
The stewardship team of one congregation began to wrestle with the notion of expanding the time of offering to include the receiving of gifts as stewards of God’s daily out pouring of abundance. The team identified 35 areas of stewardship including ministry within the parish as well as life experienced in vocations, family and community. They decided to write a responsive offertory prayer each week lifting up one of these 35 areas of stewardship. The congregation launched this new “Receiving of the Offering” on the first Sunday of the new school year. As the offering was received a responsive prayer included the stewardship of all who worked with the children of the community in home and schools, Sunday schools and community programs. The work of the people for the children was offered up as gifts of stewardship. The next week, the congregation “offered” up prayers for those who work in the medical field and the next week all people who created community by being public servants. The message was to emphasize that we are receiving the offering of all of life with Christ at the Center.
One of the members of the stewardship team asked a great question as the weekly prayers were being created and we looked for ways to interpret these acts of stewardship as we identified each week’s focus at the beginning of the service. She said, “We end each Sunday’s worship with the statement, ‘Go in Peace and Serve the Lord!’ but we never ask people how it had gone since last Sunday’s blessing.” For her, this seemed to be a part of the stewardship offering we were receiving as we gathered for weekly worship. She wanted the offering we were receiving on Sunday to reflect the blessing that accompanied us into home, work place and community during the week. How has it gone for you since last Sunday? God is anxious to receive your offering of life’s gifts.
The congregation did not diminish the role that monetary offering plays in making many of the expanded areas of stewardship a reality in our daily lives. If anything the money was now more connected to being centered in all of life. How we receive the offering can make a difference in congregations that are interested in creating a culture of generosity.
About the Author – Glenn Taibl is a Co-Director for the Center for Stewardship Leaders.