The electronic offering plate


Luther Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Stewardship for the 21st Century Newsletter explores the ramifications of a cashless society among younger generations in Generational Issues and Stewardship, 4/5. Pastor Scott Jacob writes:

These days in our culture and the church, there is a growing awareness and interest in generational studies. One of the important works in this area is The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe.

They examined the characteristics of generations as they move from one to the next over the past 500 years in Europe and North America. They recognized a pattern of turning that has been consistent over those years. Others, like Carl Eeman in “Generations of Faith” have applied these learnings to the work of the church. This has become for some in the church an area of study and reflection that informs the ways in which we organize and plan the ministries that God has called us to be about.

The four generations that we experience today are: The Builders (born before 1945); The Boomers (born between 1946 and 1965); The Net-Generation (born between 1966 and 1979) and The Millenials (born between 1980 and 2000). In the mainline churches today we generally see folks from the Builder and Boomer Generations engaged in the daily ministry and leadership of our congregations. And often we ask the question (of each other) “Where are the Net-Generation and Millenials?”

As I have wrestled with this question with congregational leaders (and with members of the Net and Millenial Generations) one significant reality has emerged. It has to do with stewardship practices. The Net and Millenial Generation members do not use cash and they do not write checks. They swipe a debit/credit card for almost all of their purchases and payments. In the church, how do we receive our offerings? We pass an offering plate that we hope gets filled with cash and checks. We do not use their currency! This is just one sign of the generational divide and it is one (of many) that we need to recognize, name and address.

There are tools available that can help with this question, like Simply Giving, and other electronic transfer tools.

This is one piece of the much larger reality of the generational gap that exists in our culture and in the church between the Builders/Boomers and the Nets/Millenials. And for those of us in leadership, the urgency must be about engaging one another in an open conversation about the ministries God has called us all to participate in, and how we can be the church in new ways together.

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2 Responses to "The electronic offering plate"
  1. What we really need to do is provide a number for them to "text" us a is often done for responses to "natural disasters" worldwide!

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  2. The change in how we handle our money (including our church and charitable contributions) is not just a generational thing. I am a Builder, and I rarely write checks any more. Most of my routine bills I pay either by automatic deduction or by online bill-payer. I used to pay my church pledge by check, and mailed in it once a month (right after payday!); I now pay by electronic funds transfer, as do many in our parish. The Sunday collection plate has long since ceased to be the major channel of parish income for us. However, it has been wisely pointed out that the offertory is still an important part of our liturgical worship, and in our parish most of us, in addition to our pledges however paid, place small offerings in the plate that go to special ministries, such as the discretionary fund or (in our parish) educational assistance for two students in Africa. "Passing the plate" may no longer be a major fundraiser, but some way of gathering our offerings for ministry and mission to present with gladness to the Lord is still important.

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