A growing number of congregations are dropping the tradition of church collections during services and adopting a soft-sell approach, reports the Christian Science Monitor (Aug. 23).
Changing generational attitudes and church scandals have compelled churches to adopt the new approach, though not without struggle. Some congregations, such as a Baptist church in Houston, Texas, provides a central collection basket, and no one is asked to give during the services and others are free to take from the offering if they are in need.
One Catholic church discontinued offerings after the sex abuse scandals in order to foster the feeling of giving without obligation. Although there may not be a direct link between the offering tradition and alienation with traditional religion, studies have shown that at some of the disaffiliated (such as uninvolved Jews) are turned off by appeals for money.
The clergy interviewed report no downturn in offerings and even an increase. But the trend worries some pastors and church leaders. Holding the offering during the services has become an important sign of commitment and self-sacrifice. Proponents counter that the sacrificial element of the collection should not apply to non-members and visitors.
Even where the offering tradition is retained, more and more of them are “taking pains to make clear that visitors ought not to feel obliged to contribute.,” reports G. Jefrey MacDonald.