The Offering As Worship In An Electronic Age
A lot has changed in worship since technology entered the scene. Some of it has been really overt whereas other changes have been more low-key, like in the case of offerings being received. Automatic contributions are becoming increasingly common among our congregations. This is a really cool thing - it encourages firstfruits giving, requires that we thoughtfully decide how much to give and can make church budget planning easier.
In our congregation we have PAR (Pre-Authorized Remittance, which Sheri Laninga does great at explaining here). A couple weeks ago as the offering plate was passing me by, I started wondering - is this a meaningful part of the service for those who are giving through electronic means?
I know that we, as deacons, realize that the offering is not a “collection” but rather an act of worship. For this reason I believe it’s important to be thinking about how this part of worship may need to be adjusted to intentionally include those giving through PAR.
One way might be to take advantage of the “giving cards” which the PAR program provides (upon request by e-mail at email@example.com). These “giving cards” allow folks who have already given electronically to symbolically participate in the act of giving in worship, as a model for others (ie. children and newcomers), and may mitigate the fear of judgement from others should we not put something in the plate.
Joy Engelsman (our Worship guide) had some great thoughts about this (see her comment on Sheri's blog). She suggested that the prayer of thanksgiving include specific thanks for those who gave during the week through an electronic transfer and that perhaps the deacons should encourage members to pray when they note the transfer in their accounts.
What do you think? How is your church including people who give electronically in the offering worship? What can we do to keep automatic giving from becoming thoughtless?