Most pastors give offering talks and most churches take an offering at some point during their services. Churches looking to make an impact in their communities invite people to join their mission through giving back to God. How you deliver this part of your service is one of the pieces of the generosity puzzle: Do it poorly and the finances at your church will suffer. Do it well and you will see a rise in the giving to your church. Here are some common problems with offering talks—and how to fix them:
• Not Preparing—This is a strategically important part of your service and it needs to be planned well. It can’t “just happen” … too much is riding on these few moments. Your church needs people’s donations to fuel its God-given vision. Also, people need the opportunity to be generous for their own spiritual development. The same care given to the worship music and teaching needs to be given to this segment. Plan what is going to happen, practice what is going to be said and review it as a team to see if it’s effective.
• “Collect” vs. “Receive”—Sloppy language abounds during many offering talks. We need to choose our words wisely. We should “receive” the offering from people, not “collect” it. We’re not collection agents or tax collectors picking up what is owed to us … we’re receiving with honor what people are choosing to give! Another example of sloppy language is saying, “We don’t want anyone to feel pressured to give today.” It sounds good, but what we actually mean is, “If you’re new here, we don’t want you to feel pressure to give. This part of the service is for people who call our church home.” The former language lets everyone off the hook, while the latter articulates that long-term members should participate.
• No Vision—Good things happen when people give to your church. You run programs that help people in your community. Meals are served to the poor. Students are helped as they mature. Your vision is accomplished because people choose to invest in your ministry. Connect people’s giving to the vision of your church … every time you receive the offering. Literally show people how their giving makes a difference with a picture or two. Make the main thing the plain thing. Ensure people clearly understand that when they give to your church, good things happen.
• Thanklessness—People can invest in many different places in God’s kingdom. Your theology might lead you to conclude that people should give their “tithe” to their local church … but most people don’t think that way. They are deciding to give to your vision and you need to thank them. Make sure your thank you is heartfelt and honest. Let people know that the mission of your church couldn’t happen without them. Make it clear that you and your team are thankful for their generosity. Reinforce that they are some of the most generous people around … because they are. (People who attend churches and give still outpace all other “donors” by a wide margin.)
• Wooden Presenter—I’ve seen a fair share of church leaders get uncomfortable when they start talking about money. They become nervous about what people are going to think. These presenters are over thinking, which causes them to disconnect from their audiences and come across as detached. Practicing your content will help ensure you can connect with what you are saying. Take your hands out of your pockets and move them around a bit. Smile. Get someone to record you while you practice and then watch the video … you’ll be surprised what you look like! Start your talk on something that excites you so you’re emotionally engaged with the topic. (Tip: Don’t have the finance people present the offering talk … often they are good with spreadsheets but not with engaging audiences.)
• Moving Too Quickly—Some church leaders are so nervous about what people will think, they move through the offering quickly to get beyond the pain. Still others are too nonchalant about it because they don’t want to pressure people into giving. Slow down … this is going to take time to do well. Don’t spring it on people. Give them lots of heads up to prepare themselves to give. If you move too quickly, some people won’t be able to get their offering together (e.g., writing a check or getting the cash out) to give it to you. Invite your ushers to move forward to receive the offering and then while they stand at the front (showing people that you are about to receive the offering), insert your offering talk. This physical action in the room gives people time to prepare to give to the vision.