The Death of Offering Envelopes?
I read an article not long ago about 15 classic products that were on the brink of death, products such as land-line phones, bottled water, bar soap, CDs, iPods, newspapers and fax machines. It made me wonder whether offering envelopes might be about to suffer the same fate.
Weekly offering envelopes seem to go back to an industrial society when people were often paid on a weekly basis and did most of their transactions by cash or check. We encouraged the stewardship habit of making a weekly offering to the Lord using envelopes supplied for that purpose.
Now we live in a different time. My children, who are in their early thirties, don’t bring home a weekly pay check. It is deposited automatically in their bank account at whatever interval they are paid. They carry very little cash (They use ATMs when cash is needed.), write very few checks, pay for most things (including a hamburger at McDonalds) with a credit or debit card, and pay most of their bills either online or through automatic electronic transfers. They are used to paying bills, making gifts, and doing business 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but when it comes to making a gift to the church, they are limited to one hour on Sunday morning using the vehicle of a check placed in an offering envelope.
Understanding the differences among generations means that congregations may need to diversify the ways in which people can give. This involves rethinking our ideas of when people give and how they give. Most of our stewardship education has connected our giving with a weekly Sunday morning offering. Gen Xers and Millennials are connected with your congregation on a 24/7 basis and may very well want to make a gift or pledge on your church website (which requires accepting credit card gifts—and, generally, a transaction fee to the congregation). For a discussion of electronic giving methods, see “Online Giving: Why Churches Should Implement Electronic Giving”. Programs such as the Lutheran Church Extension Fund’s “Joyful Response” enable automatic electronic offerings to be made from one’s checking or savings account.
Electronic giving can still be connected to the Sunday morning worship experience by having a card that indicates the person’s attendance and the fact that they have contributed to the work of God’s mission during the week. Prayers might include offering up those gifts we bring in the offering plate together with those we have made to the Lord through other means during the week.
The offering envelope evolved during the time of the industrial revolution as a means of encouraging systematic giving. The offering envelope is not dead, but there may be new means of exercising stewardship for a new time and new ways of connecting it to the worship experience.
Art is President Emeritus of the Southeastern District, LCMS, and a Regional Consultant in stewardship and capital funding for LCEF. Dr. Scherer is developer of LCEF’s popular Consecrated Stewards series and author of the new Gift of Joy Bible studies.