Rick Blunt on Connecting Church Offerings to Grateful Living
A conversation on the use of connection cards, cards that allow people to respond to the sermon with service.
Richard “Rick” Blunt is pastor of Lowell First United Methodist Church in Lowell, Michigan. He recounted highlights of 2011 in a year-end newsletter. For example, the congregation became more visible by holding outdoor summer worship on the downtown Riverwalk. Members met neighbors while volunteering more than 1,700 hours during a week-long mission trip to a local mobile home complex. The church stayed ahead of budget in 2011. It surpassed 2012 “More than Enough” stewardship campaign goals.
In the edited conversation below, Blunt explains how Lowell First makes the Sunday offering an act of worship. The church uses Connection Cards to help worshipers live in gratitude.
Your church website includes a form for automatically deducting pledges from a checking account. Did you start Connection Cards when fewer people put money in the offering plate (because of automatic withdrawal)?
While not a direct cause of electronic giving, Connection Cards do provide a way for everyone to have something to place in the plate. It likewise gives guests and visitors a means to participate in the offering without feeling obligated to give money. We also have many people who give on a monthly basis and only put money in the offering plate one Sunday a month.
How do the offering and Connection Cards fit into your order of worship?
My goal is to have a variety of ways to respond to the Word each week. In our order of service, the scripture and sermon are followed by:
- prayers of the people
- ministry announcements
- song of going forth
- invitation to Christian discipleship (sometimes called a charge)
I introduce ministry announcements by saying something like "Whenever God's Word is proclaimed, there are opportunities for God's people to respond. Some opportunities are listed in our bulletin..." Then I hold up the Connection Card (CC) and invite everyone to fill theirs out, reminding them, "Your presence here this morning is part of your offering to God." The CC has places for people to indicate willingness to participate in specific ministries, as well as to take Next Steps in their faith journey, based on the sermon. We see praying for others in our community and world as part of our response to the Word as well. Finally, baptism and communion take place after the Word, and are lifted up as responses to God's Word.
Where do worshipers find Connection Cards? Who fills them out?
There’s a CC in every bulletin handed to worshipers. Pens are available in pew racks. Children usually do not fill out cards, but many teens do. About 75 percent of worshipers fill them out. In some cases, one person fills out a CC for the whole family or couple.
Who follows through on connecting people with specific ministries, once they’ve noted their interest?
The United Methodist Women and other committees and teams use CCs to find volunteers. We have volunteers who review the cards on Mondays for responses and email the information to the appropriate persons for follow up, including welcome contacts to guests. We have a weekly meal on Wednesday, and we request people to estimate the number attending for the food preparers. People sign up to participate in a mission or service project, such as Kids' Club, vacation Bible school, or work bees. They use the cards to sign up for small group studies or offer to furnish items for meals or projects. CCs helped us discover someone with skills to reupholster some small chairs.
The CC is perforated. Worshipers put one part in the offering plate to say what they’ll do, donate, or participate in. They bring home the other part, which includes the Next Steps section and a place to note what they promised to do.
Regarding the Next Steps option, do your sermons give specific examples on how to respond to a sermon?
My goal as preacher and pastor is to help worshipers connect the proclaimed word with how they live the rest of week. When I preached from Luke on Mary's visitation to Elizabeth, I focused on Elizabeth's role as an encourager. I highlighted the example of having an older mentor to turn to for advice and support as well as our responsibility to encourage and mentor younger people. That week’s CC Next Step section asked worshipers to do two things. First, think of at least one person older than yourself who mentored you. Contact and thank that person. Second, find someone younger than yourself and do something to encourage them this week.
Many times the Next Steps section suggests faith actions that are internal, not outwardly visible, like praying, reflecting, or meditating. A next step might be studying a passage of scripture or reading it every day that week. We do not track who or how many committed to take a Next Step as a result of hearing the scripture and sermon.
- Learn how other congregations make church offerings acts of worship.
- Adapt a Connection Card to your church’s situation with these examples in Publisher and PDF formats.
- Church administrator Heidi Twig uses a perforated paper to make the tear off easier. She has a volunteer who does the perforating so the church doesn’t need to buy special paper.