Rev. Carness Vaughan
Senior Pastor of Central UMC, Fayetteville
The Biblical model for giving back to God through the church is the tithe, meaning the first 10% of all that God has blessed you with. But beyond the tithe, there are other types of offerings that are important and can be beneficial to the local congregation. This includes memorial and honorary gifts given either in memory of one who has passed away or in honor of one who one who is still alive.
These gifts, if left undesignated, are usually spent on items around the church that typically would not be funded through the regular operating budget – items like new pew Bibles, paraments for the altar, choir robes, technology improvements, etc. If there is a major project that a church is working on – a playground, for example – a church might encourage the congregation to make memorial or honorary gifts designated specifically for that project. People often will give toward a project before they’ll give toward a budget, so this gives them a chance to at least “dip their toe in the water” when it comes to giving. Too often pastors and Finance Committee Chairs have been afraid that if they mention this type of giving, it will take away from budgetary giving or building debt giving. The truth is that in most cases, the opposite is true. Once someone gives to a project and sees what God does for the Kingdom with their gift, it encourages them and spurs them on to further giving.
What are the challenges churches face in this area? Some people tend to think of this type of giving as just beneficial for small churches, but in reality, every church of every size can benefit from receiving these gifts, and every church member can benefit from giving them. Other people tend to think of this type of giving as just for when someone dies, but in reality, recognizing someone in the church by giving to God in their honor is a powerful witness.
If you have a person retire from teaching Sunday School after 30 years, for example, what better way to honor them than giving to the church in their name? Other people just don’t realize that this type of giving is an option. Efforts need to be made to put this in front of people: Highlight it in a newsletter, speak about it one Sunday just before the offering, extol its benefits in an All Saints Day sermon, or put together a testimonial video from people who have been honored or family members of one who has been memorialized. The more churches can talk about it, the more people will be aware of it and the more opportunities for ministry can be funded by it.
In Romans 12:10, Paul tells the church to “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” May you take delight in honoring each other through your giving, and may you take delight in lifting this opportunity up to your churches!