I remember growing up in the same church for almost 20 years and getting a bulletin every week. It’d show the sermon notes from the previous week along with this week’s notes and a few other things to put on your calendar. But there was one thing that always caught my attention – the offering amount. Maybe it was because I was always interested in finances, who knows? I’ve never given it much thought until this last week when I looked through the bulletin of our new church. It had been a while since I attended a church that showed the weekly offerings, so I had to pause and ask myself: why do churches show the offering amount in the following week’s bulletin?
- Is it meant to spur generosity through peer pressure?
- Are church members supposed to feel guilty if they don’t give enough?
- Is it simply meant to share the needs of the church with the members?
To be honest, I don’t think many churches know whether they should or should not include the offering amount in the bulletin. I’ve been to small churches that do and large churches that don’t; but I don’t think that it’s necessarily a matter of size for a church to show or hide the offering amount.
A Peer Pressure Giving Tactic?
This thought came to mind as I was thinking through the psychological reasons a church might put the offering in a bulletin. Some might look at it as a way to spur generosity through peer pressure. This, however, is clearly unscriptural. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul writes, “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”(NLT) I don’t think churches (in general) would show the offering amount to pressure people to give. I’ve never felt a pressure to give more or less because of looking at the previous week’s offering, because my giving is a personal matter.
A Responsible Way to Stay Accountable
I know some people absolutely do not like to hear this, but financially speaking, a church needs to manage its offerings and expenses much like a business would handle income and expenses. As a member of a church, you are financially supporting the church with your offerings and should take interest in how the church is doing financially. We can do this by attending business meetings and doing our part to help the church run more efficiently. One way that we can look at the bulletin’s ‘offering given / offering needed’ section is to think of it as a brief snapshot of the financial picture. If we want to continue supporting the ministries in the church, we need to understand that each one has costs! It makes sense then to see why a church might show the offering given/needed each week if you look at it this way.
I don’t think I can make a blanket statement on whether a church should or shouldn’t show the offering given/needed in each bulletin. There are good things in knowing that the church is being supported but there are also some negative thoughts that can come from knowing how much is being given (i.e. there will always be people who think offerings should be used in a different way.)
So what are your thoughts? Should a church show or not show the offering given/needed in the bulletins? Does your church show the offering amount in each week’s bulletin?