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What is an offertory collection?

The bread and butter fundraising in most Parishes is the weekly offertory collection. After the Liturgy of the Word, the ushers circulate baskets through the congregation to give people an opportunity to give. People reach into their wallets and pull out a few bills. Sometimes children are given singles or change to encourage them to participate. Then the gifts are put into a basket and brought to the altar with the bread and wine that will be consecrated during the liturgy of the Eucharist.

Some Parishes encourage gifts during the Weekly Offertory by sending out a month’s worth of weekly envelopes that can be stuffed with a parishioner’s donation. These envelopes can serve multiple purposes, having the parishioner’s address and donor ID pre-printed on the label to make data entry easier; including extra envelopes with special designations like “maintenance fund” or “Peter’s Pence”; and having seasonally appropriate images on the outside that encourage giving.

The Offertory Collection includes, for good and ill, a powerful component of social pressure to give. Surveys have shown that people feel an obligation to give because they don’t want people to think that they are not giving. This is certainly not the best reason to give, but it does have a great amount of power. Faithful donors who would like to move to online giving will often hesitate in making the transition because they don’t want the stigma of letting the basket pass them by without their contribution.

Think of the bigger picture.

The Offertory also provides an opportunity (often missed) for a moment of conversion. A brief examination of the first five books of the bible will show how important the ‘Offering unto the Lord’ was in to worship in the Old Testament. The New Covenant did not come to abolish, but fulfill the Law, meaning that our offerings are still important. They are still an act of worship and an act of faith.

This carried over to the New Covenant, and supporting the ministry of the Church is one an obligation that all faithful Catholics must fulfill.

On an interesting side note, not all Catholic Churches have an offertory. In countries like Italy and Germany, the tithes to the Church are collected by the government alongside income taxes and distributed directly to the various churches. I’m personally very opposed to this structure, because it takes what should be a free gift and an act of worship, and corrupts it into lifeless ecclesial taxes.

Almsgiving is lifegiving. When people give to the offertory, this is an act of worship and an act of faith. Encouraging your parish to be generous to the offertory is helping them to act virtuously. When you humbly correct them for not giving, you are helping them to avoid vice, because failing to give to the Church and the poor is sinful.

Do more than pass the basket.

Passing the basket doesn’t have to be the beginning and end of your weekly offertory. You can use different strategies to help encourage giving generously, even sacrificially, to the parish.

Ask regularly

We assume that people who currently give are going to keep giving forever. Or that they have nothing more to give. So we stop asking because it’s easier. You can ask more frequently than you might think, as long as you are doing other important things like thanking your parishioners and reporting back on what good things are happening.

Find new donors

The percentage of Catholics that are actually giving each week is staggeringly low. That means that you have plenty of opportunities to find new donors, already sitting in the pews. You just need to be intentional about how and how often you are asking them to give.

Online Giving

It may seem strange, but emphasizing online giving in your parish can make a huge difference. You can use monthly recurring gifts to make giving regularly convenient.

Tithing

The “tithe” is the traditional practice of giving 1/10th of your income to the Church and the poor. A focus on tithing in a parish will often help to increase the weekly offertory. This has to be handled appropriately, through something like an annual stewardship campaign, or stewardship committee. You encourage tithing by showing how tithing is a part of how a disciple manages their finances.


Looking for more articles on the weekly offertory? Try these:

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Image courtesy of Marketing the Change, via Creative Commons License, some rights reserved.
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